Metaxourgheio is an area in the north East of the Parthenon in Athens, protected by Greek legislation as a neighborhood of particular historical importance; it was the epicenter of industrial life during the late 19th to 20th century. Now it is hosting a plethora of abandoned buildings, the majority of which are neoclassical of mixed industrial and residential use. There is an abundance of urban myths around the communities and artists that have lived here, which brand Metaxourgeio its intangible and rich cultural heritage.
The neighborhood has been left to decay and its full potential undervalued due to the long term economic and political crisis, however we believe that this particular environment has fostered strong community as well as interpersonal bonds through a form of creative activism. A multitude of active community organisations and cultural centers are necessary to control the impending forces of gentrification and ensure that real estate speculation doesn’t disperse our community.
Metaxourgeio has its own character, much like a small village, both charming and desperate. It is a vibrant neighborhood and the epicenter of Greek experimental art spaces and theater and has adopted a Do it Ourselves (DIO) system. On our block alone, we coexist with heavy substance users, a red light district, recent refugees mainly from the Middle East, long term economic migrants from Asia and Africa and some of the trendiest eateries, cafes and bars of the Athenian nightlife. We know we live in a unique environment; at the cross-section between tension and possibility of divergent economic, political and cultural forces.
In a city of 132.000 abandoned buildings*, one would expect that the willingness of social groups to use them would be welcomed and supported by private and public authorities. In Metaxourgeio alone, almost 50% of the area consists of abandoned buildings, testimonies of the cultural, political, social and economic layers shaping Athens. half of them being neoclassical buildings from 1830 to early 1900s, classified as cultural heritage, . However, these buildings are under threat since their owners cannot maintain them. If they disappear, how is this example of urban history going to be preserved? Cultural heritage buildings should be incorporated into the life of the communities surrounding them, as a living example of our social identity. Survivors of earthquakes, real estate frenzy should not fall prey to the epidemic of the hotel business.
Technically, the only way to maintain them, is to keep them in use and away from water damage and further degradation. communities were offered all this space, they could become reservoirs of hope in a very congested city, allowing forimaginative solutions to local challenges, such as affordable housing, processes of commoning and exercise of civil autonomy..
*according to Athens Social Atlas
Our mission and goals have been hosted in the eclecticist building of Kerameikou 28, since March 2017. It is a 1928 building of 1200 sqm, originally hosting a weaving factory until World War II. Following that, it has been home to the printing, epigraphic and welding industry, as well as a school and the offices of a political party.
The neighborhood hosted a variety of industrial uses, which were gradually dismantled as Athens grew in size and industry shifted outside city limits. Municipality would no longer granted permissions for industrial usage, therefore the neighborhood stagnated and buildings such as ours were abandoned. Recently, it hosted events from Dokumenta, until its management passed over to the team of Communitism in 2016.
Kerameikou 28 is now a rare example of neoclassical architecture and has been listed under cultural heritage protection since 2004; it features an internal courtyard as the typical meditteranean typology of its era dictated.
Communitism did not only manage the building and facilitate several cultural events but also gave room for communities to coexist and develop themselves in synchronicity with the revival of the physical space. Each community adopted and took care of a space, according to their proposed usage. We hope to extend and share our empirical lessons of this idea in as many buildings such as Kerameikou 28.