Com-pan-inoship Structures: The case of the Old Electricity Complex in Karditsa city

Project

The project aims to establish a structure in the city centre of Karditsa in terms of collective use, which will host functions relevant to food and nutrition, in order to highlight the identity of this city and to develop its special characteristics. This proposal focuses on the agriculture in the heart of a contemporary Greek provincial city as an extended process in the field.  Specifically, when referring here to agriculture, the meaning should not simply be the agricultural production, but the production of ideas, behaviors and experiences that derive from this procedure. Nutrition and seed bear a political and social identity beyond their literal one. Nowadays, in the developed world, most farmers do not use their existing seeds for next year’s sowing. They have to buy them every year from multinational firms. However, the seed should be treated as a living organism, not as a mechanized process, since it evolves according to the environmental conditions and humans’ influence.

The whole proposal can be divided into three parts: the reuse of the inactive building of the Old Electricity Complex in the city center of Karditsa, the relationship between this building, its existing built environment and the new proposed construction, as well as the redefining of the inbetween public space.

The establishment of a Municipal Bank of Traditional and Unmodified Seeds accompanied with a Municipal Processor of fruit and vegetables in the Old Electricity Complex is an effort inextricably linked with the physiognomy of the site and its people, serving the collective imaginary and reconstituting the Municipal Market Square. This open-source structure aims to have a strong impact on making citizens of Karditsa  more environmentally aware, while strengthening their interpersonal relations.

The way of intervening and constructing the final proposal derives from the initial understanding of the peculiar characteristics of the site, in the Thessalian plain and, by extension, the square of the Municipal Market and the building of the Old Electricity Complex. The recognition of the physiognomy of the place contains heterogeneous elements, derived from the ground morphology, the habits of the society as a whole, the establishment of the city to the present day situation, the institutionalized land uses of the city and the architectural and constructive status of the immediate environment at the site of the intervention.

Interview

Who influences you graphically?


Living in the image era, I would say that is a difficult question to be answered. And I have to admit that before being acquainted with KoozA/rch over the past three years, I had not thought about that consciously. I would say that the artists and illustrators who I am thinking of when I draw or create an image are the expressionist Georg Grosz, David Hockney, Nijideka Akundi Crosby, Rebecca Dautremer, Eugenia Loli. Although they come from different eras, cultures and styles, their common feature is the human-beings representations. By that I don’t mean that they have a common attitude on how they illustrate people, but that they focus on human forms.

What defined the various drawing mediums through which you reveal your project? Both the research and the final architectural artefact?


The project affects a variety of city scales and types of design and adopts a kaleidoscopic perspective. It can be verified by the final proposal, since it consists of a new building proposal, the restoration of an old monumental building for the city of Karditsa and the revitalization of a central public space. Trying to conceive the complexity of the city, its landscape, its architectural physiognomy, as well as the social one, resulted in the use of a variety of tools. Elaborating maps and photos, old and new ones, gave me a broad perception of this city as a project. Two dimensional drawings and three dimensional representations are considered as an architectural must-have. However, the collages tend to be my personal must-have. Using mix-and-match elements, that were sometimes closer to realism and other times to surrealism, expressed my way of thinking towards the urban multi-layers that I discovered in this project.

What is your take on color? What defined the use of Burgundy? What role does it play?


Warm colors and especially the palette of red define my projects throughout my studies. Burgundy appeals to me in this case because it is a dark “dirty” red tending towards brown. It reminds of wet soil, whilst it can be the color of cherry-fruit. According to the site altitude and microclimate, cherries were the only possibility for a fruitful plant in this public space. In general, the selected colors derived from the colors of the ground, due to the agricultural aspect of the topic.

What prompted the research?

The thesis was decided to be conducted in the small provincial city in the mainland of Greece, named Karditsa, mainly because it is my hometown. The experiential feature plays here a significant role. The characteristics of this city, its rural physiognomy from its establishment till nowadays and the strong interpersonal relationships among the inhabitants, indicated the type of the proposal to a great extent. Taking into consideration the food crisis of our era, a problem that has shown up all over the world in various ways, even to the developed countries, the starting point of the proposal resulted of the current policies towards agriculture, crops and seeds. Thinking of all these parameters, the aim was to implement and expand the prism of symbiosis and co-nutrition in this city.

How important were the photographs as means to document and understand the condition on site?

What is worth mentioning in this point, is that the tool of photographing is used for a specific purpose, to highlight and present an ephemeral monument, the weekly food flea market. The Greek painter Panagiotis Tetsis, who had dived deeply to the topic of Greek food flea markets, had mentioned about them, that there was no need to find a topic to paint, since they were the topic themselves, because of the multi-layering  spatial events that used to take place and have extensions in  socio-political and economic aspects.

Having wandered through the city during the food flea market for six months in a row, I observed and pointed out ambiances that I wanted somehow to integrate to my proposal. Photographs helped me to focus on different acts taking place in the market. The relationship between the sender and the receiver was of paramount importance, as well as the use of the public space and the usual amateur equipment. The connection of these shots could narrate the story of Wednesday for the city of Karditsa, a story that seemed to be mainly untouched since 19th century. Although some media had changed, the way of acting was the same. This feature characterizes from my point of view this food flea market as an ephemeral monument.

What tools did you use when translating the research into an architectural proposal? How important is the drawing as a process rather than outcome?


At the beginning of the designing process, the transition from the research to the architectural proposals was made by diagrams and concept models. The first attempt was to find out the relations between the old structure and the new one, the formal and permanent monuments and the informal and ephemeral one. During this first stages, drawings of the existing buildings and the urban environment, as well as the mapping attributed accuracy to the diagrams and acquainted me with the scale of the proposal. From my point of view, the ratio is significant, no matter the type of the proposal. The drawing as a process outweighs the outcome in all cases, as it underlines a critical methodology towards the design procedure and demands a multi-tasking understanding. It is more common to attribute a style in the outcome, since what it comes out over the process period bears spontaneity and multi-interpretation.

About

Elli Papachristopoulou graduated from the School of Architecture of National Technical University of Athens in October 2017. During her studies she dived deeply into matters of perception and representations of public space, urban and spatial design and conducted her research project and her thesis in the Department of Architectural Language, Communication and Design, having as mutual characteristics the experimental and experiential feature. Also, her Erasmus semester in the city of Hamburg formed in great extent her perspective towards the city as project.
She is currently working in an architectural office in Athens, while she is planning to move to Granada for her internship.

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