It is very difficult for us to announce that Communitism is leaving the building at 28 Kerameikou Street, at Metaxourgeio, central Athens.
Since March 2017 we met, recognized each other and evolved together at Kerameikou 28. We broke the borders defined by our different languages and identities, and learned how to function as a community. We watched an idea evolve into everyday practice and created our own vocabulary to describe a life based on coexistence. We felt the power that can be created when many people work together. Gradually, we developed our values and an innovative collaborative practice. We kept the building alive with care and attention, and opened it up as a shared cultural asset for the city and its creative people. And how many, after all, these people were: enough to keep the building of Kerameikou 28 busy as a beehive for 6 years!
According to the survey of Monumenta NGO, Athens had 11,300 abandoned historical buildings in 2016, while Metaxourgeio had 163, of which at least ten have now collapsed. It would not be an exaggeration to suggest that the historical buildings of Athens are experiencing a second wave of destruction, after the period of antiparohi in the 60’s, when the were massively demolished to be replaced by new concrete buildings; only this time they’re collapsing due to disuse, giving their place to ruins and vacant plots.
Communitism was from its beginnings (2015) an exploratory proposal envisioned to save the historical physiognomy of the neighbourhood of Metaxourgeio, which attracts so many creative individuals every day. Our concept exalts both : the abundance of abandoned buildings and the abundance of young creative professionals without career prospects. It is based on a basic principle of the theory of monument restorations: conservation is the utmost preservation principle (Petzet, 2004) which explains how buildings collapse from disuse and therefore lack of maintenance. Isn't it a shame in a city that suffers from constant social crises, that buildings with historical value fall down due to disuse? The idea of Communitism aspired to cure this absurdity by inviting the people of Metaxourgeio to enter into dialogue with the historical buildings of the area.
Communitism will have to leave 28 Kerameikou but our vision stays, sharply and strongly responding to an urgent need: as the city is being transformed by tourism, residents are losing access to vital spaces for cultural and civic expression.
As a sociocultural center, Communitism embodies the Athenians' need for third spaces, spaces that are not predetermined in terms of their use and thus allow a continuous process of re-creation. Spaces that while constantly evolving are always including "the other", thus allowing constant renegotiations of boundaries and cultural identity, as described by urbanist Edward Soja. The six-year investigation at Kerameikou 28 bore great fruit in terms of the ways in which the third spaces in the city could be developed within these buildings.
May 2023 will be the last month of Communitism at Kerameikou 28. We leave feeling grateful for the opportunity we had to create and experience a parallel Athenian reality. Braced with courage and vision,our community is preparing for a new chapter which foresees the design and implementation of a new sociocultural center, sustaining our ecosystem in the long term while taking care of Metaxourgeio heritage.
But before we leave, we want to celebrate this transition by making room for memories, sadness, grief, but also hope and imagination. During May, we will have many opportunities to meet in the building.
You are all welcome and invited to experience togetherness for the last time in Kerameikou 28. To sow the seeds of a new beginning we call on many of you:
We call on the state to recognize the need for the existence of third spaces in Athens: this is a dialogue that has not yet started. The need to preserve the relatively recent cultural heritage is also an ever-stale dialogue. The state must recognize and support the values produced by the contemporary autonomous culture.
We invite the owners of listed buildings of Athens who do not want to sell and are able to trust the new, to contact us and discuss the prospects we can open together.
We invite artists and creative professionals who are motivated by our purpose to work with us to raise awareness to as many people as possible about the cultural heritage that is being lost from Metaxourgeio - but also throughout Athens - day by day.
We invite anyone who has participated in an event within Kerameikou 28 or has worked on any essay concerning our practice, to share with us photos, stories, texts or any other archive element, in order to have as complete and multi-aspected documentation of our work as possible.
We call for the social & creative spaces we have been in collaboration with in the past years, to open space for the communities hosted in Kerameikou 28 ; a wave of creativity is about to burst in the city!
Lastly, we invite our collaborators, long-time friends, and anyone else inspired by our vision to subscribe in our association, entitled “Union of Citizens for the preservation of newer cultural heritage, with the descriptive title Communitism” and contribute as a member of a global, multi-collective community to an innovative creative exploration through which an urban fabric can reclaim its consistency.
Our networks must remain strong and consistent!
Perhaps in this way we can keep some spaces open and accessible to all, where communities can act independently, cooperate and produce for the city its next cultural identity!
“Many little people, in little places, doing little things, can change the world.”
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