An Obituary for the Greek City of Repetition
Essay by Panos Dragonas published in MAS Context 21, Spring ’14, pp. 83-97
Athens Spread. © Yorgis Yerolymbos.
THE BIRTH OF THE POLYKATOIKIA 1929-1940
Athen’s population exploded, from 453,000 in 1920 to 802,000 in 1928, following the arrival of refugees from Asia Minor.1 This rapid population growth generated an urban expansion in the Greek cities through the creation of informal refugee settlements. During the interwar period, social polarization was evident in Athens. The most important axes of polarization were those between natives and refugees, the rich and the poor.2 The refugee settlements were separated into working class districts, while the bourgeois communities still lived at the nineteenth century neoclassical city center.
A decisive model in the development of Athens was the adoption of the law of horizontal property in 1929, which enabled the invention of the antiparochi system. According to the Greek legislation, the owner of a plot is to be compensated by the contractor who builds on his land with apartments. This unique property-swap system received tax privileges and soon became the principal method of real estate transactions in Greece.
The first multistoried apartment buildings were built in the 1910s, shortly after the introduction of the reinforced concrete technology in Greece. But the Greek apartment building known as the polykatoikia was born in the 1930s.