Documentary Film Screening | Builders, Housewives and the Construction of Modern Athens

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Buildings in the modern Athens area

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Sprawling beneath the Acropolis, modern Athens is commonly viewed in negative terms: congested, ugly, and monotonous. Both the book Builders, Housewives and the Construction of Modern Athens and the film of the same title question this stereotype in different ways, reassessing the explosive growth of postwar Athens through its most distinctive building type: the polykatoikía (a small-scale multistory apartment block). Architecture Visiting Lecturer Ioanna Theocharopoulou's book (London: Artifice, 2017 and Athens: Onassis Foundation, 2022) and the documentary film based upon it by Tassos Langis and Yiannis Gaitanidis (Onassis Foundation 2021) re-evaluate the polykatoikía as a low-tech, easily constructible innovation that stimulated the postwar urban economy, triggering the city's social mid-twentieth-century transformation. The interiors of the polykatoikía apartments reflect a desire for modernity as marketed to housewives through the then-emerging print and film media. Regular builders became unlikely allies in designing the polykatoikía interiors, enabling inhabitants to exert agency over their daily lives and the shape of the postwar city.

Builders, Housewives and the Construction of Modern Athens has been shown at several festivals in Europe and the U.S., including the Architecture and Design Film Festival. It will be screening in D.C. on January 17, in Chicago on February 3, and then will be available online for a week in February. It won "Best Documentary" at the Cinema Urbana, Architecture Film Festival, Brazilia (2022).

Theocharopoulou will host this exclusive screening with an introduction as well as a Q&A to follow the film.

Ioanna Theocharopoulou is an architect and architectural historian whose research focuses on cities and on the histories, theories, and evolving concepts of post-carbon architecture and society. She trained at the Architectural Association in London (AA Diploma) and holds a master's degree in Advanced Architectural Design (M.S. AAD), and a Ph.D. in Architectural History from Columbia University. Theocharopoulou has participated in multiple academic conferences, most recently in the Athens Urban Age Forum organized by the London School of Economics Cities Program and the City of Athens (June 2022). Her writing has appeared in numerous books and journals. She is the author of Builders, Housewives and the Construction of Modern Athens (London: Artifice, 2017 and Athens, Onassis Foundation, 2022). She has taught at Columbia University, the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, and at the New School. She is a Visiting Lecturer teaching History and Theory at Cornell's College of Architecture, Art, and Planning.

Tassos Langis studied cinema at Long Island University in New York and the Stavrakos Film School in Athens. In 2008 he participated in the Berlinale Talent Campus in Berlin. His research focuses on the symbiotic forms of narration through different media. He is currently preparing another documentary about Athens, this time exploring the question of how we can inhabit it today.

Yiannis Gaitanidis is a graduate student of the Stavrakos Film School in Athens. He has directed a number of short films, documentaries for television, as well as videos for theater performances and museums. With his work, he has participated and won awards in festivals in Greece and abroad, including the Best Short Film at the second Los Angeles Greek Film Festival's Orpheus Awards, Special Jury Mention at the Sarajevo Film Festival, and the Kassel Dokfest. He is currently completing the editing of an independent documentary and is working on developing the script for his debut feature film.


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