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ATHENS The City Rises

Updated: Jan 11, 2019

By Aigli Andritsopoulou

Ferocious Urbanites Athens Greece Art City Guide Alternative Contemporary

The soul of the city is in its people.

Athens has been making headlines lately not only due to the economic and political austerity that Greece has been facing since 2008, but also because the city in crisis is being re-established as an emerging centre of contemporary cultural production.

Athens is a place of inconsistencies and antinomies caused by abrupt socio-economic and political transitions throughout its modern history that led to the uneven development and rapid urbanisation of the city, which until this very moment experiences a profound dilemma between East and West.

It is commonly believed that technology, economic growth, social cohesion and spatial conditions drive regional growth and create conditions for human action and the successful outcome of it. Consequently, economic growth and community cohesiveness stimulate urban growth and thriving human activity within its context.

However, in Athens’ case the most vibrant areas, which have the greatest potential to speed the city’s development, are working-class neighbourhoods as Metaksourgio, Keramikos, Petralona, and Kolonos around the city’s historic centre. But also areas like Kypseli, an upper-middle-class neighbourhood inhabited mainly by the bourgeois, who in the 1980’s started moving to the city’s suburbs while newcomers from around the globe started renting small apartments in the area as low-price residences.

Areas in transition, but not yet gentrified, still offer the availability of low rent housing which attracts immigrants and refugees carrying significant cultural baggage. They form networks while trying to create their vital space. But also low-paid workers, among them artists, musicians, and other cultural workers who are facing instability and uncertainty move to those neighbourhoods for the same reason, low rent. They form an emerging artistic community while running groundbreaking art spaces, creating independent art galleries and thus helping a city in crisis being revitalised.

Athens has emerged as an upcoming art milieu attracting talented people from around the world who want to engage with the local scene. The vibrant city life, the dynamic and diverse artistic community and the city’s growing cutting-edge music scene, along with the current social geography of Athens constitute the main components of a flourishing cultural environment that generates creative outcomes.

Finally, according to Richard Florida 1, the new economic geography of creativity has a crucial effect on the holistic view of a city’s development. In other words, it is the human presence and creative activity that makes the city grow. The unconventional beauty of Athens does not lie in its antiquities, its glorified past and its “exoticised” present.

The soul of the city is in its people.

1. Florida, R.(2002).The Rise of the creative class. New York: Basic Books

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