ENIGMATIC AND TRANSPARENT
TEXT ERO PARTSAKOULAKI PHOTOGRAPHY MARIANA BISTI
THIS RESIDENTIAL BUILDING IN A SUBURB OF ATHENS
(GREECE) REINVENTS THE CITY’S TYPICAL BLOCK OF FLATS,
INSPIRED BY THE ARCHITECTURAL STRUCTURE OF THE
GREEK CLASSICAL HOUSE.
About the Project
NIKOS KTENÀS ARCHITECTURE
MIPECO ADVANCED BUILDINGS SOLUTIONS LTD
INVISIBLE (CONCEALED) FIXING WITH ADHESIVE ON AN ALUMINIUM SUBFRAME
In the urban landscape of Athens, ‘polykatoia’ -the typical, space-efficient Athenian block of flats- has predominated the urban landscape of the city since the 50s and it’s mostly characterized by an intense horizontal component of balconies.
In an attempt to defy common building codes, Inside Out’s architect Nikos Ktenàs focused on the reinvention of ‘polykatoia’ by proposing the transformation of the unoccupied, residual space of the lot into an open-air central entry-hall and a transitional space between the city and the living quarters. Winner of the first prize of the 2017 Greek Institute of Architecture, the building is seen by the architect as a path from the public to the private, from the city to the residence.
By suggesting a physical opening of major parts of the façade, Inside Out succeeds to maximize the living spaces by enabling the transformation of parts of the residential
interiors into covered outdoor spaces. “I proposed living on the whole plot by designing and giving a destination even to the areas which, according to the code, must remain building free,” said Ktenàs.
REINVENTING URBAN LIFE
Inspired by 20th century’s Modernism and the ancient Greek dwelling, Inside Out goes beyond the references of the past. Apart from adding horizontal properties, as in the typical collective building layout, Ktenàs had a strong desire to come up with a new way of urban living. “Inside Out’s design is the result of my own research of living in the city, but also an answer to the questions posed by an architect regarding the geographical morphology of the city, its climate and its history,” he said. As the elements that are incorporated in the building already exist in history and in the city of Athens, the creative concept is rather a reinvention.
Instead of utilizing the elevated ground floor as a parking space, this level along with the surrounding garden, is used as an elevation and a penetration in the center of the building. The unoccupied space also serves the building as a central access point for the dwellings; a central patio, while the roof functions as a hanging garden.
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FAÇADE
Ktenàs wanted the building to present itself as a residential ‘mansion’ in the classical sense. In other words, a sculptured monolithic volume without the intense horizontal component of balconies. “I wanted to set a new standard, an open a dialogue with the Athenian sun using a material that has never been used in this building typology,” he said.
The cover, the skin of the building as he calls it, needed to have a depth, “to be more than just a screen with openings.”
I wanted to set a new standard, an
open dialogue with the Athenian
sun using a material that has never
been used in this building typology.
Nikos Ktenàs, architect
The exterior’s depth and rhythm give the impression of a compact volume, while multiple openings at different heights on the inside, create an almost transparent proximity to the urban environment.At the same time submerged glass panes can turn enclosed volumes into covered terraces, while the interior spaces remain protected from the sun offering a bioclimatic element to all living areas.
TRESPA, NOTHING LESS
Inside Out’s structural model, derived from the spatial conception on a new way of urban existence, required a freedom of expression regarding the street façades of the building. As a corner building the need for a formally free and self-supporting façade became even more urgent.
Architect and distributor Irene Tsiakkas believed in Trespa® Meteon® and, in a depressed economy, kept fighting to maintain the material in the specification despite facing numerous competitors. Therefore, Ktenàs himself found in Trespa® Meteon® the wooden element he needed for the exterior’s décor. “It was the most adequate material with respect to the building type,” he said. “Considering this construction’s requirements, the use of Trespa® Meteon® gave me infinite and maintenance-free cladding possibilities as a material for ventilated façades, in addition to its decorative aspect.”
DEFYING THE URBAN SURROUNDINGS
Located at a residential suburb in the north of Athens, not far from the city-center, Inside Out stands out among the buildings of the neighborhood. Although the initial response of the people who live in the area was negative with respect to the lower existing buildings in the vicinities due to its size, neighbors and visitors gradually showed great curiosity and appreciation.
Size-wise it happens to be the first building in the neighborhood setting new rules of development according to new building-code coefficients. “I consider it a great opportunity to promote a new and contemporary interpretation of living in this district,” said Ktenàs. Overall, Inside Out embraces an infiltration into the center of a building and, at the same time, an exit from it, as the residents’ private space is again projected towards the city.
I see it as the piece of land that the footprint of each building displaces on earth.Nikos Ktenàs, architect
THE SKY ROOM
Inspired by Le Corbusier’s five rules as an expression of modernity in architecture, the architect has always perceived the roof as an integral part of the living spaces. “I see it as the piece of land that the footprint of each building displaces on earth,” said Ktenàs.
The top floor of Inside Out is proposed as a ‘sky room’, with trees and a pool surrounded on the inside by a continuous wall of reinforced concrete. The roof is bounded externally from the city by the upper-end of the skin of the Trespa® Meteon® street-façade that covers Inside Out. This dialectic relationship of the concrete and the wood allows to the visitors of this open room to comprehend the position of the building in relation to its the urban setting.
The impact for which Nikos Ktenàs wishes for is that this innovative interpretation of the ‘polykatoikia’ typology will not be limited to this district of Athens but will expand in the entirety of the urban landscape.
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