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Gemma Copeland

Tag “architecture”

 — The path to the Acropolis

We were in Athens last week, so naturally we visited the Acropolis. What surprised me was that the pathway to the Acropolis is a masterpiece in its own right. (Thanks to my dad for sharing this.)

One of Pikionis' sketches of the pathway, in plan view.

Designed in the mid-50s by Dimitris Pikionis, it’s a collage of historical references, regionalism and modernism. They build it with reclaimed stones from demolished buildings nearby, celebrating their imperfections and making a direction connection to the local history.

Throughout the path, there are bold, gestural forms made from concrete, inspired by the artwork of Paul Klee. By choosing a modernist material like concrete, Pikionis created a dialogue with the International Style of architecture that was spreading throughout Athens at the time.

A photo of the gestural concrete forms amongst the stone pathway.

What I loved most was that he worked with local craftsmen and let the design emerge from the bottom up:

Pikionis enlisted a crew of skilled local Greek artisans and craftsmen to work the stones and materials. At the outset of the construction, Pikionis eschewed typical dogmatic plans and chose to set the tone for the design through few drawings. He encouraged the local workers to the find the path within the landscape and imbue the materials with their own particular spirit and design through shapes, textures, and patterns. Pikionis was employing the traditional method of the master builder, constructing the site through the hands of the craftsmen and generating a pluralistic design.

Detail sketches by Pikionis showing permutations of the stone patterns.

 — Centre for Alternative Technology

Wales is absolutely beautiful at the moment (and always). The autumn leaves and soft sunlight turn the whole landscape golden and warm.

A photo of the Centre for Alternative Technology taken from the hill above. There are a number of usual building structures poking out from amongst the trees, as well as a windmill and a large wind turbine blade on its side. In the background there are hills covered in forest.

We visited the Centre for Alternative Technology last weekend. It’s an amazing place, built on top of a mountain of waste slate from a nearby disused quarry. The Centre was started by a group of people who moved there in the mid-70s. Their goal was to provide a space where people could test things out and learn how to live more lightly on the earth.

The conservatory of the "Whole House" building. It was constructed in the mid-70s to demonstrate insulation techniques like super thick walls and small windows, which are a bit outdated now.

It has examples of different renewable energy technologies, a collection of buildings demonstrating innovative architectural/construction techniques and a few different gardens. It’s all completely off grid, including running its own water and sewage systems.

It was so inspiring to spend time somewhere like this. You can feel how many different people will have contributed towards building the centre and its vision over the years. It really gave us the sense that most of the ideas we need to transition to a zero carbon economy are already there, tried and tested…

A geodesic dome greenhouse next to a tree-lined pathway. In the background is another windmill.