Builders, Housewives and the Construction of Modern Athens by Ionna Theocharopoulou

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Sprawling beneath the Acropolis, modern Athens is commonly viewed in negative terms: congested, ugly and monotonous. A Mediterranean version of ‘informal’ urbanism prevalent throughout the so-called developing world, Builders, Housewives and the Construction of Modern Athens reassesses the explosive growth of postwar Athens through its most distinctive building type, the polykatoikia, a small-scale multi-storey apartment block (from poly meaning ‘multiple’ and oikos meaning ‘house’. Theocharopoulou re-evaluates the polykatoikia as a low-tech, easily constructible innovation that stimulated the post-war urban economy, triggering the city’s social mid-twentieth century transformation, enabling the migrants who poured into Athens to become urban citizens, aspiring to a modern life. The interiors of the polykatoikia apartments reflect a desire for modernity as marketed to housewives through film and magazines. Regular builders became unlikely allies in designing these polykatoikia interiors, enabling inhabitants to exert agency over their daily lives― and the shape of the post-war city.

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