designlobby
DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA is a platform that helps creatives from various disciplines and agencies connect with individuals, other agencies, corporations and super brands in Asia. DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA is based in Berlin,Germany at the betahaus.

We source creative talent from Europe in Asia. We are Match Makers and Guardian Angels for Creatives helping them to communicate and promote their work and at the same time we assist companies get the best talents for their projects without losing time and money. We can guarantee that we can match the right professional or agency for your project and deliver award winning and top level results.


Disciplines represented: MOTION & SOUND DESIGN / BRANDING & COMMUNICATION / PRODUCT DESIGN / INTERIOR DESIGN / ARCHITECTURE / TREND FORECASTING / WEB & DIGITAL DESIGN & APPS / EVENT MANAGEMENT / PHOTOGRAPHY / ART & DESIGN CURATORS / LIGHTING DESIGN / LANDSCAPE DESIGN / RETAIL & BOOTH DESIGN / PACKAGING

If you are interested to book any of our members feel free to contact us through mail at designlobby.cn[at]gmail.com
or give us a call at +49 176 2 772 3 662
skype: vpbartz
Adress: We are based at the betahaus www.betahaus.de

机构:Designlobby.cn
国家:希腊
设计领域:产品设计、平面设计、建筑设计、室内设计、网页应用程序、品牌、艺术与设计管理、食品包装设计、摄影、趋势预测、项目管理等
简介:
Designlobby 是一个由CARTECO前任总裁Vassilios P. Bartzokas与一群建筑和设计行业的企业家共同成立的一个新项目,主要负责在亚洲地区推广希腊设计创意产业,为其会员在亚洲地区寻找合作客户。Vassilios说过:“我们是设计师的月老和守护天使,为他们和潜在客户牵桥搭线,促成双方的合作。”


Tel. +49 176 2772 3662
email: designlobby.cn@gmail.com
designlobby
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Designlobby.asia will organize a matchmaking event in collaboration with the interior Designers Association of Shenzhen and operators of one of the leading on line creative platforms. The event will take place on Monday the 14th of April in a Design Hotel in the heart of Athens. More than 40 designers from China will have the opportunity to meet with architects and interior designers members of Designlobby.asia platform who will present for 2 minutes what they do. The event will have the support of the Greek-Chinese Centre of entrepreneurship.
Designlobby.asia will organize a matchmaking event in collaboration with the interior Designers Association of Shenzhen and operators of one of the leading on line creative platforms. The event will take place on Monday the 14th of April in a Design Hotel in the heart of Athens. More than 40 designers from China will have the opportunity to meet with architects and interior designers members of Designlobby.asia platform who will present for 2 minutes what they do. The event will have the support of the Greek-Chinese Centre of entrepreneurship.
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EXCLUSIVE: REDESIGN OF THE ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTER ENTRANCE AND LOBBY SPACES BY DIVERCITY ARCHITECTS
Stavros Martinos

Nikolas Travasaros of Divercity Architectstalks to Stavros Martinos on the ideas and challenges behind the redesign of the Onassis Cultural Center entrance and lobby spaces; Divercity elaborate on a bold and sophisticated proposal that will completely change the face of Athens’ undisputed leader in cultural innovation.

 
 
 
 photography @george fakaros
 
 
Hello Nikolas; we are absolutely thrilled and very grateful that Divercity chose Archisearch.gr for the first detailed presentation of the OCC redesign. The space already looks very stimulating, to say the least. The first thing anyone familiar with the building will notice is this new array of folded black solids all around the entrance and lobby. What was the idea in the first place?
It all started with a brief asking for very specific things; the OCC begun with two requests. The first one was to accommodate a number of functional requirements, such as rearranging the counters and better channeling the flow of visitors. At the same time, there were needs for an enhanced program that would transform the OCC reception areas into a living space rather than the typical “art venue” – those turned out to be a pop-up store that will be handed over to different retailers every month or so, one main info point, as well as a number of other supplementary uses that will support the proper function of the reception area; none of this was there. So, first and foremost, this functional aspect had to be taken care of. However, there was another request; the OCC were explicitly asking for a more urbane, rough-cut and ‘crumpled’ image, on the upside of being untouchable. What they meant was that there was a perceived discrepancy between what had started to consolidate as the OCC audience and the actual building. This is perfectly understandable; when the OCC was first launched as a new cultural institution in Athens, nobody could really tell which direction things would take and this naturally made it difficult for design to be relevant from the start. However, as the OCC matured on its identity and begun to get identified with an actual audience, the character of the lobby was clearly not getting the message through. This had to be ‘crumpled’; and we took it at face value.

photography @george fakaros 
First, there was already this facade carried out in marble louvers that we really liked – the pristine geometry of that “box”. Then, the “crumple effect” had to infiltrate the space; all those geometries originate in the idea of the louvered facade. So, the crumpling begins with literally crumpling the louvers – which is tongue-in-cheek, of course, this could be no serious architectural argument; what is serious, however, is that crumpling created backdrops, which could indeed accommodate all those things that we wanted. By crumpling we actually begun to fold space – to throw in some more conventional jargon here – and those folds were receptive to programmatic additions. A dynamic debate took off right after the first phase of the project was complete and this is all but the beginning of a number of interventions that will take place here.

Materiality was a key consideration: The choice of dark-coated steel plates comes to counterbalance, if we may say so, the shine of the materials already applied here – the marble, for example, on the ceiling or the floor… Now, the steel plates, with all their rusty ends and natural blemishes, immediately become more inviting; it’ s a rough-cut material that wrinkles and soils and does not deter one from coming closer. That was the idea of how the space should feel.
To get into more detail, one parallel consideration that kept informing our decisions was the explicit desire of the OCC to “open up to the city”: All those “found objects” inside the entrance and the lobby were considered as snapshots or instances of what one might actually come across in the city outside; in that respect, the contribution by our collaborators at the Double Decker creative agency has been invaluable. They came up with a lot of fantastic ideas on what the use of those solids could be, in fact. As a whole, all of this deals with an aggregation of things that constitute a spatial narrative and contribute into making the whole place more inviting and informal, while evoking a sensation upon one’s entry to the lobby – because the lobby did have to deal with that issue indeed. By now, the OCC has begun to get deeply grafted into the collective memory of the city; it is a very active presence and always provides an exceptionally high-quality, cutting edge schedule of events; as a consequence, the perceived disjunction between the actual audience and the awkward feeling one got upon entering the building could be no more.

photography @george fakaros 
Moveable furniture is another interesting aspect and the idea behind its new arrangement is not clearly visible yet; for instance, a number of informal sitting areas will be at close proximity with an open display of hard to find magazines from around the world – the lobby will be the place to sit and skim those through. Right beside, there will be the “wall of talent”: The OCC will invite a number of young creatives - recent graduates or postgraduate students in the arts and design – to showcase their portfolios, which will be openly available to the visiting public. What we design is the infrastructure for the OCC to accomplish its mission, which is none other than opening up to the city on all different levels. Even further beside, the pop-up store will not be a mere shop selling OCC memorabilia but will be handed over every number of months to very different people, under the curatorial supervision of Yatzer's Costas Voyatzis; for instance, one time there might be someone selling their new book on a particular topic, then there might be young designers without their own sales network which could be provided with the opportunity to set up shop inside the OCC and showcase their work… Across the lobby, by the entrance, there will be a blackboard for kids to draw with chalk and play around. As a whole, the OCC has initiated a procedure that will completely transform the spaces in the building.

 
photography @george fakaros 
The redesign of the OCC was the result of an invite-only competition organized with the assistance and consultancy of theDesignlobbycreative agency, and you were the competition winners. How was the competition experience to you?
I believe this initiative was of the utmost importance and it clearly demonstrates the leadership of the OCC among cultural institutions in Athens. To redesign their lobby spaces, the OCC held a competition among selected Greek architectural firms and this was invaluable, just on its own. We would be delighted if that happened more often! The OCC took the risk of inviting people whose work they had noticed somewhere, somehow – and it was through this process that we were selected to take up the project and elaborate on this specific proposal. I also feel compelled to say that the OCC displayed a great deal of courage in backing up a proposal which was apparently challenging. What I mean is that, now, when everything seems to be in place and working according to the plan, one might think it was all easy; this is absolutely not the case. Having their full support on such a project from the very beginning was anything but self-evident; listening to us architects say that “we will do those objects in black steel” required a lot of stomach on the client’s behalf – which it turns out that they had. The OCC clearly showed they were fully aware of the role they had to play in the city: Pushing things forward. It was not an “aesthetic” matter; the OCC showed how deeply they understood that their own mission was to define a whole new sensibility. They had the resources to pursue this - and they did. From my point of view, that was the most exhilarating aspect of the whole process. One other extremely happy occurrence for us was when we saw the audience openly embrace the change in the OCC; it is clear by now this can be deemed a big success and it immediately led us into talks on expanding the project in a number of other areas. For example, the first addition we aspire to make involves the space of the bar, which is a difficult one. It clearly needs better intertwining with the rest of the lobby. Additionally, the upper levels have already started to display a number of structures in the new vocabulary; gradually, this will become viral and will remodel the whole building. The lobby itself was no easy task, it’s not just about ticketing: First and foremost, a lobby needs a program. In the end, all those things we suggested together with Double Decker (who are a London-based curating agency directed by Melita Skamnaki and William Finger and are frequent collaborators of the Design Museum) will find their rightful place. Our collaboration with Double Decker was based upon a programmatic agreement; far from giving in to the impulse of doing “architecture and design”, we needed to lay out the program that would, as a matter of fact, “crumple the image”.

 
photography @george fakaros 
This is very interesting and raises very high hopes: More often than not, architects are merely expected to provide an “image”, while that is but one aspect of the job; perhaps the most visible one, but it can barely endure if it does not rely upon a solidly laid-out programmatic scheme. How did you, as architects, sustain your own argument against the already stated programmatic requirements of the OCC? It goes without saying, in order to win a competition, one has got to be convincing, even when the image has not been consolidated yet. Communicating through the dazzle of images sometimes helps, but in some other cases it all but misses the point; was there a particular strategy of communication you developed as an architectural practice in this project?
I believe that we won the competition when, talking over the first ideas, we pointed out that certain things would simply had to be forgotten. In the beginning the OCC thought there was a number of “hard” programmatic needs to be accommodated – for instance, the perpetual problem of queuing up at the counter. We told them that we understand the OCC as something bigger and more significant. We were able to convince that the stakes went further than merely resolving the problem of the ticket queue – which is crucial, of course – or “making the space look warmer”. The OCC needed to take things one step beyond and open up to events and activities that would invite people in. Furthermore, we told that we are architects and that from our experience in London (because our practice is based there and we have the opportunity to observe a number of such buildings already in operation) we could locate and collaborate with competent professionals in the field of curating with the necessary know-how for such an enterprise. Double Decker, to be precise, mostly work with wrap-around programs in Museums – which means that a Museum, beyond its formal statement, branches out into a number of different activities. We said that we will open up the debate and elaborate on a broader vision of what could take place here; and it was precisely then that the fantastic idea of the “talent wall” came up, together with a number of others. So we circumvented the restrictions of a “typical” programmatic scheme and managed to avoid the mere “accommodating of functional requirements” that was being asked of us; instead, we opened up a broader debate with the audience and invited people in. I believe that was the kind of argument that worked. Suddenly it becomes less important whether this is all carried out in black steel or in pink plastic; what counts is that something new and unexpected is taking place here, and this invites people to participate. Take for example the pop-up store: Say you are a young entrepreneur, you have an idea to start up with and you get invited by the OCC to distribute your product at their premises for one month or three consecutive ones; or you are a young graduate from a University in Greece under the present situation, you feel the urge to display your work somewhere and then you are provided with this substantial little stage together with unexpected visibility… I honestly believe this is the major success of the project and this is way above and beyond design – which, at the end of the day, remains there for anyone to see and judge according to their own individual tastes.

photography @george fakaros 
I am very happy to hear this because not many people think that way. The fact still remains that design in this case is anything but secondary; those “found objects” all around the lobby have a very strong visual presence in this space – yet they are interactive. What kind of technology did you use? Take, for example, this new video wall you suggested; this communicates with the city in a dynamic way, possibly through the web; and all those metal structures that look wrinkled do create spaces for informal events indeed, however they look quite simple to execute; or are they not?
Do you mean simple to build? Now that is a very interesting question. What is simple today and what is not, in the light of current technology… Let me say just one thing: We have carried out a lot of very complex and demanding projects at the office and we are very familiar with much larger scales – from the Doxiadis building which is one of the large scale projects, to very large hotels. Well, this is one of the most complicated things we have ever done. Ever. Behind this perceived simplicity, there is enormous complexity and a lot of overlapping or contradicting requirements that all needed to be met. To be able to design such a project in order for it to perform as it should, one needs to carry out work in a bewildering number of different levels. First, all those seemingly fragmented and “simple” structures needed to create space. To be able to resolve that, we needed to return to absolutely fundamental tools. We had a scale model built inside the office in 1:20 – try to imagine that, it was taking up half of our available room – because on the one hand all those objects needed to be placed in the right configuration for them to create space; if you look at it from here, it’s an enclosure. How each individual item twists and turns and faces all the rest though creates a very complex network of relations. It was impossible to conceive that by design means, unless we literally put ourselves inside there! So the first tool was a 1:20 scale model where those items were placed and tested – and there were 20 or 30 alternatives to each one of them. The objective was to have space created by the way they were put in there, to have this “container” which now looks perfectly clear, while on the other hand each structure had to meet up with rigid functional standards: For instance, the counter had to be that tall and be protected for a number of reasons, screens had to be at a specific height and angle and be of a given size etc. So, on the one hand there were “sculptural” requirements and on the other one, strict functionality and precision. That part of the problem once resolved, there still needed to be absolutely exact construction drawings made, and that was one long and painstaking process. Each item was drawn in 3d simulation where all of the minute construction details had to be provided, in a number of different stages of development and implementation. How those things in such geometries would come together had to be reviewed in the greatest detail and the end result would have to meet the quality standards of furniture. To have those oblique lines converging upon very specific points, in very specific ways, had us compelled to visualize the whole scenario of construction. In doing that, I couldn’t stress enough on how much we profited from the expertise of Manos Vardonarakis, an industrial designer specializing in metal – probably the best one we are aware of in this country. It is largely thanks to him that everything is so well-detailed.

This is evident to the naked eye at close inspection. However, those structures are not exactly modular neither do they seem standardized at first glance – though there are clearly rules at work here. What were they? I understand that this whole geometry stems out directly from the original idea that “the OCC crumples its image” and this is manifest in a very direct and successful manner. Still, all of this had to be rationalized somehow in order for it to be drawn with precision and from there, to find its way into construction; there had to be rules devised in order to make possible all those absolutely specific decisions.
How we folded those surfaces is the result of how one sees, at the moment one enters the space and also, of how one sees from the inside out. Upon the moment of entry, one should be provided with a comprehensive overview. At the same time, there is a conversation established between inside and outside – previously that relationship was rather awkward, one felt either inside or outside and those structures came to provide a connection, by leading the gaze in specific directions. They facilitate an effective communication between spaces by subtle manipulations of vision.

photography @george fakaros 
… You have designed all the folds as if your solids were cut through by viewing angles.
Exactly, fields of view and vanishing points were the first thing to consider systematically. The second one was the whole relation between the objects that were required to form an enclosure. There were functional aspects involved here; for instance, the optimal position of the screen or the views from inside the bar, as well as the movement of a rather large crowd inside the space – this had to be guided and channeled somehow because, previously, everything was rather disorienting and resulted in awkwardness. Another huge imposition was that we couldn’t really touch upon anything inside the building! All those objects had to be entirely self-bearing and, at the same time, they had to create space without charging the building’s structural system or interfering with any of the technical installations. That was very challenging. Furthermore, as soon as we had the geometry consolidated, we had to figure out a way of having everything prefabricated off-site, because the OCC could not interrupt its function for us to occupy the whole area of the lobby with construction work. Prefabrication prescribed a way of standardization. While each object is indeed unique, they all do follow the same typical system. There are always two sides bearing the structural frame while the rest hatch out as trap doors: Those had to be assembled separately and then they had to be brought here, pieced together and sealed on site; at the same time, they had to remain able to be opened when necessary, because, on the inside, there are installations running. Therefore, each structure has one face that can open every time anything needs to be fixed. That was a problem very difficult to solve.

photography @george fakaros
 
While deciding upon the final layout of the whole space, did you take under consideration any existing design method that has to do with human behavior and vision – space syntax, for instance?
Not quite; at least, not “formally”. The more we worked with the space, the more its very own parameters sprung up and became clear. What was important in the end was that, by way of connecting all those things, on the one hand there was a spatial narrative established inside the lobby – namely, an enclosure – while on the other one, we found a great number and variety of backdrops and intimate niches, like the one we’re sitting in at the moment, having this quiet conversation. The space has enormous potential. All this evolves as a very dynamic situation and, as a result, the OCC discovers a new identity; quite literally, as we say, the OCC “reinvents” itself. That is the major success. Each step led to the next, new potential was activated and, as a result, now we find ourselves in the position of having talks about expanding to the rest of the floors. This is what I consider to be successful design: Whatever pushes things forward, takes the brief one step beyond and brings to the surface new possibilities, allows for ideas to emerge.

photography @george fakaros 
Clearly; one assumes that the success of this design will be put to the final test when a large number of people find themselves inside here and begin to “dance” - all of this stages a particular choreography by means of the objects; the eye gets attracted and then people begin to perform.
Indeed, we had the chance to witness this very recently, when the TED event was held here and there were a lot of participants. It was very interesting to observe how the crowd at the TED actually behaved; how people started to move in here, or how they stood still, how they made groups and how they positioned themselves in relation to the screen… They seemed to welcome the new lobby and to like it very much. As about ourselves, of course, we were truly happy, it was a major first test and we were left with the impression that it all went very well. Certainly, this new situation could be expanded with more “episodes”, there is a perpetual flow of new potential. It’s very interesting to observe how such buildings operate in other cities, things always seem to “keep happening”. They become incubators, inside which things keep happening far beyond their formal statement; that was the major stake for the OCC as well. The OCC undoubtedly has a spectacular schedule of events, but the question remains, what happens the rest of the time? For instance, in London, at the South Bank, there is a number of such cultural facilities where things “keep happening” - the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theater… Their biggest success is that, beyond the stage events, on weekdays, they remain full of people - parents with their children, professionals who come with a laptop because they like to sit in there and work or use them as a meeting point… This is the stake for the OCC: To place a number of catalysts that will expand the program and attract people at all times; to become a true hub for the whole city. Because if you go once and you like it, and then you come again and bring your friends along, it all becomes inscribed in the life of the city. The OCC is a shelter – this is actually what its name in Greek, ‘Stegi’, stands for: Shelter – that was our point of departure in the first place. The OCC should be able to shelter informal, unexpected activities beyond the schedule, inside an accommodating environment that will feel nice precisely because it keeps sparking up new ideas. We merely set the grounds for a debate we are sure the OCC will take much further, because they have just the right people to do so. To conclude, perhaps, this is the way we understand our own participation in any project.
Thank you!

Credits:

Design: Divercity (www.divercityarchitects.com)
Curatorial concept & signage: Double Decker(www.double-decker.org.uk)Industrial design consultant: Manos Vordonarakis
Competition Consultant: DESIGNLOBBY (Vassilios P Bartzokas)
 
Photography George Fakaros
The project calls for the redesign of the entrance and lobby spaces of the Onassis Cultural Center (www.sgt.gr), a new cultural hub in Athens designed by Architecture Studio.
The Center hosts events and actions across the whole spectrum of the arts from theater, dance, music and the visual arts to the written word, with an emphasis on contemporary cultural expression, on supporting Greek artists, on cultivating international collaborations and on educating children and people of all ages through life-long learning.Our design strategy transforms the lobby space into a ‘shelter' (a 'stegi' In Greek) in the city: a space that can work in addition to the formal program of the Cultural Center A series of bespoke installations wrap around the building’s existing structural elements and spark a dynamic relationship between the three key characteristics of the shelter; the physical space, the digital experience and a series of specially curated wrap-around events.
One is dedicated to showcase portfolios of young creatives, another becomes a pop-up store, curated by Yatzer's chief editor Costas Voyatzis while a third takes the more humble role of providing a meeting corner. The aim is to create a vibrant all day hub that will appeal to the Onassis Cultural Center’s ever increasing dynamic and diverse crowd.
The design of these new installations is inspired by the distinct language of the existing facade. The white marble louvers on the exterior (by Architecture Studio) are kinked to form the structures that wrap around the lobby’s existing elements. They are carefully choreographed in response to the existing building and to the flow of people to provide areas of rest and pause as well as cater for their main functions, which include the ticket desks, info points, signage, video walls, etc.
EXCLUSIVE: REDESIGN OF THE ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTER ENTRANCE AND LOBBY SPACES BY DIVERCITY ARCHITECTS
Stavros Martinos

Nikolas Travasaros of Divercity Architectstalks to Stavros Martinos on the ideas and challenges behind the redesign of the Onassis Cultural Center entrance and lobby spaces; Divercity elaborate on a bold and sophisticated proposal that will completely change the face of Athens’ undisputed leader in cultural innovation.

 
 
 
 photography @george fakaros
 
 
Hello Nikolas; we are absolutely thrilled and very grateful that Divercity chose Archisearch.gr for the first detailed presentation of the OCC redesign. The space already looks very stimulating, to say the least. The first thing anyone familiar with the building will notice is this new array of folded black solids all around the entrance and lobby. What was the idea in the first place?
It all started with a brief asking for very specific things; the OCC begun with two requests. The first one was to accommodate a number of functional requirements, such as rearranging the counters and better channeling the flow of visitors. At the same time, there were needs for an enhanced program that would transform the OCC reception areas into a living space rather than the typical “art venue” – those turned out to be a pop-up store that will be handed over to different retailers every month or so, one main info point, as well as a number of other supplementary uses that will support the proper function of the reception area; none of this was there. So, first and foremost, this functional aspect had to be taken care of. However, there was another request; the OCC were explicitly asking for a more urbane, rough-cut and ‘crumpled’ image, on the upside of being untouchable. What they meant was that there was a perceived discrepancy between what had started to consolidate as the OCC audience and the actual building. This is perfectly understandable; when the OCC was first launched as a new cultural institution in Athens, nobody could really tell which direction things would take and this naturally made it difficult for design to be relevant from the start. However, as the OCC matured on its identity and begun to get identified with an actual audience, the character of the lobby was clearly not getting the message through. This had to be ‘crumpled’; and we took it at face value.

photography @george fakaros 
First, there was already this facade carried out in marble louvers that we really liked – the pristine geometry of that “box”. Then, the “crumple effect” had to infiltrate the space; all those geometries originate in the idea of the louvered facade. So, the crumpling begins with literally crumpling the louvers – which is tongue-in-cheek, of course, this could be no serious architectural argument; what is serious, however, is that crumpling created backdrops, which could indeed accommodate all those things that we wanted. By crumpling we actually begun to fold space – to throw in some more conventional jargon here – and those folds were receptive to programmatic additions. A dynamic debate took off right after the first phase of the project was complete and this is all but the beginning of a number of interventions that will take place here.

Materiality was a key consideration: The choice of dark-coated steel plates comes to counterbalance, if we may say so, the shine of the materials already applied here – the marble, for example, on the ceiling or the floor… Now, the steel plates, with all their rusty ends and natural blemishes, immediately become more inviting; it’ s a rough-cut material that wrinkles and soils and does not deter one from coming closer. That was the idea of how the space should feel.
To get into more detail, one parallel consideration that kept informing our decisions was the explicit desire of the OCC to “open up to the city”: All those “found objects” inside the entrance and the lobby were considered as snapshots or instances of what one might actually come across in the city outside; in that respect, the contribution by our collaborators at the Double Decker creative agency has been invaluable. They came up with a lot of fantastic ideas on what the use of those solids could be, in fact. As a whole, all of this deals with an aggregation of things that constitute a spatial narrative and contribute into making the whole place more inviting and informal, while evoking a sensation upon one’s entry to the lobby – because the lobby did have to deal with that issue indeed. By now, the OCC has begun to get deeply grafted into the collective memory of the city; it is a very active presence and always provides an exceptionally high-quality, cutting edge schedule of events; as a consequence, the perceived disjunction between the actual audience and the awkward feeling one got upon entering the building could be no more.

photography @george fakaros 
Moveable furniture is another interesting aspect and the idea behind its new arrangement is not clearly visible yet; for instance, a number of informal sitting areas will be at close proximity with an open display of hard to find magazines from around the world – the lobby will be the place to sit and skim those through. Right beside, there will be the “wall of talent”: The OCC will invite a number of young creatives - recent graduates or postgraduate students in the arts and design – to showcase their portfolios, which will be openly available to the visiting public. What we design is the infrastructure for the OCC to accomplish its mission, which is none other than opening up to the city on all different levels. Even further beside, the pop-up store will not be a mere shop selling OCC memorabilia but will be handed over every number of months to very different people, under the curatorial supervision of Yatzer's Costas Voyatzis; for instance, one time there might be someone selling their new book on a particular topic, then there might be young designers without their own sales network which could be provided with the opportunity to set up shop inside the OCC and showcase their work… Across the lobby, by the entrance, there will be a blackboard for kids to draw with chalk and play around. As a whole, the OCC has initiated a procedure that will completely transform the spaces in the building.

 
photography @george fakaros 
The redesign of the OCC was the result of an invite-only competition organized with the assistance and consultancy of theDesignlobbycreative agency, and you were the competition winners. How was the competition experience to you?
I believe this initiative was of the utmost importance and it clearly demonstrates the leadership of the OCC among cultural institutions in Athens. To redesign their lobby spaces, the OCC held a competition among selected Greek architectural firms and this was invaluable, just on its own. We would be delighted if that happened more often! The OCC took the risk of inviting people whose work they had noticed somewhere, somehow – and it was through this process that we were selected to take up the project and elaborate on this specific proposal. I also feel compelled to say that the OCC displayed a great deal of courage in backing up a proposal which was apparently challenging. What I mean is that, now, when everything seems to be in place and working according to the plan, one might think it was all easy; this is absolutely not the case. Having their full support on such a project from the very beginning was anything but self-evident; listening to us architects say that “we will do those objects in black steel” required a lot of stomach on the client’s behalf – which it turns out that they had. The OCC clearly showed they were fully aware of the role they had to play in the city: Pushing things forward. It was not an “aesthetic” matter; the OCC showed how deeply they understood that their own mission was to define a whole new sensibility. They had the resources to pursue this - and they did. From my point of view, that was the most exhilarating aspect of the whole process. One other extremely happy occurrence for us was when we saw the audience openly embrace the change in the OCC; it is clear by now this can be deemed a big success and it immediately led us into talks on expanding the project in a number of other areas. For example, the first addition we aspire to make involves the space of the bar, which is a difficult one. It clearly needs better intertwining with the rest of the lobby. Additionally, the upper levels have already started to display a number of structures in the new vocabulary; gradually, this will become viral and will remodel the whole building. The lobby itself was no easy task, it’s not just about ticketing: First and foremost, a lobby needs a program. In the end, all those things we suggested together with Double Decker (who are a London-based curating agency directed by Melita Skamnaki and William Finger and are frequent collaborators of the Design Museum) will find their rightful place. Our collaboration with Double Decker was based upon a programmatic agreement; far from giving in to the impulse of doing “architecture and design”, we needed to lay out the program that would, as a matter of fact, “crumple the image”.

 
photography @george fakaros 
This is very interesting and raises very high hopes: More often than not, architects are merely expected to provide an “image”, while that is but one aspect of the job; perhaps the most visible one, but it can barely endure if it does not rely upon a solidly laid-out programmatic scheme. How did you, as architects, sustain your own argument against the already stated programmatic requirements of the OCC? It goes without saying, in order to win a competition, one has got to be convincing, even when the image has not been consolidated yet. Communicating through the dazzle of images sometimes helps, but in some other cases it all but misses the point; was there a particular strategy of communication you developed as an architectural practice in this project?
I believe that we won the competition when, talking over the first ideas, we pointed out that certain things would simply had to be forgotten. In the beginning the OCC thought there was a number of “hard” programmatic needs to be accommodated – for instance, the perpetual problem of queuing up at the counter. We told them that we understand the OCC as something bigger and more significant. We were able to convince that the stakes went further than merely resolving the problem of the ticket queue – which is crucial, of course – or “making the space look warmer”. The OCC needed to take things one step beyond and open up to events and activities that would invite people in. Furthermore, we told that we are architects and that from our experience in London (because our practice is based there and we have the opportunity to observe a number of such buildings already in operation) we could locate and collaborate with competent professionals in the field of curating with the necessary know-how for such an enterprise. Double Decker, to be precise, mostly work with wrap-around programs in Museums – which means that a Museum, beyond its formal statement, branches out into a number of different activities. We said that we will open up the debate and elaborate on a broader vision of what could take place here; and it was precisely then that the fantastic idea of the “talent wall” came up, together with a number of others. So we circumvented the restrictions of a “typical” programmatic scheme and managed to avoid the mere “accommodating of functional requirements” that was being asked of us; instead, we opened up a broader debate with the audience and invited people in. I believe that was the kind of argument that worked. Suddenly it becomes less important whether this is all carried out in black steel or in pink plastic; what counts is that something new and unexpected is taking place here, and this invites people to participate. Take for example the pop-up store: Say you are a young entrepreneur, you have an idea to start up with and you get invited by the OCC to distribute your product at their premises for one month or three consecutive ones; or you are a young graduate from a University in Greece under the present situation, you feel the urge to display your work somewhere and then you are provided with this substantial little stage together with unexpected visibility… I honestly believe this is the major success of the project and this is way above and beyond design – which, at the end of the day, remains there for anyone to see and judge according to their own individual tastes.

photography @george fakaros 
I am very happy to hear this because not many people think that way. The fact still remains that design in this case is anything but secondary; those “found objects” all around the lobby have a very strong visual presence in this space – yet they are interactive. What kind of technology did you use? Take, for example, this new video wall you suggested; this communicates with the city in a dynamic way, possibly through the web; and all those metal structures that look wrinkled do create spaces for informal events indeed, however they look quite simple to execute; or are they not?
Do you mean simple to build? Now that is a very interesting question. What is simple today and what is not, in the light of current technology… Let me say just one thing: We have carried out a lot of very complex and demanding projects at the office and we are very familiar with much larger scales – from the Doxiadis building which is one of the large scale projects, to very large hotels. Well, this is one of the most complicated things we have ever done. Ever. Behind this perceived simplicity, there is enormous complexity and a lot of overlapping or contradicting requirements that all needed to be met. To be able to design such a project in order for it to perform as it should, one needs to carry out work in a bewildering number of different levels. First, all those seemingly fragmented and “simple” structures needed to create space. To be able to resolve that, we needed to return to absolutely fundamental tools. We had a scale model built inside the office in 1:20 – try to imagine that, it was taking up half of our available room – because on the one hand all those objects needed to be placed in the right configuration for them to create space; if you look at it from here, it’s an enclosure. How each individual item twists and turns and faces all the rest though creates a very complex network of relations. It was impossible to conceive that by design means, unless we literally put ourselves inside there! So the first tool was a 1:20 scale model where those items were placed and tested – and there were 20 or 30 alternatives to each one of them. The objective was to have space created by the way they were put in there, to have this “container” which now looks perfectly clear, while on the other hand each structure had to meet up with rigid functional standards: For instance, the counter had to be that tall and be protected for a number of reasons, screens had to be at a specific height and angle and be of a given size etc. So, on the one hand there were “sculptural” requirements and on the other one, strict functionality and precision. That part of the problem once resolved, there still needed to be absolutely exact construction drawings made, and that was one long and painstaking process. Each item was drawn in 3d simulation where all of the minute construction details had to be provided, in a number of different stages of development and implementation. How those things in such geometries would come together had to be reviewed in the greatest detail and the end result would have to meet the quality standards of furniture. To have those oblique lines converging upon very specific points, in very specific ways, had us compelled to visualize the whole scenario of construction. In doing that, I couldn’t stress enough on how much we profited from the expertise of Manos Vardonarakis, an industrial designer specializing in metal – probably the best one we are aware of in this country. It is largely thanks to him that everything is so well-detailed.

This is evident to the naked eye at close inspection. However, those structures are not exactly modular neither do they seem standardized at first glance – though there are clearly rules at work here. What were they? I understand that this whole geometry stems out directly from the original idea that “the OCC crumples its image” and this is manifest in a very direct and successful manner. Still, all of this had to be rationalized somehow in order for it to be drawn with precision and from there, to find its way into construction; there had to be rules devised in order to make possible all those absolutely specific decisions.
How we folded those surfaces is the result of how one sees, at the moment one enters the space and also, of how one sees from the inside out. Upon the moment of entry, one should be provided with a comprehensive overview. At the same time, there is a conversation established between inside and outside – previously that relationship was rather awkward, one felt either inside or outside and those structures came to provide a connection, by leading the gaze in specific directions. They facilitate an effective communication between spaces by subtle manipulations of vision.

photography @george fakaros 
… You have designed all the folds as if your solids were cut through by viewing angles.
Exactly, fields of view and vanishing points were the first thing to consider systematically. The second one was the whole relation between the objects that were required to form an enclosure. There were functional aspects involved here; for instance, the optimal position of the screen or the views from inside the bar, as well as the movement of a rather large crowd inside the space – this had to be guided and channeled somehow because, previously, everything was rather disorienting and resulted in awkwardness. Another huge imposition was that we couldn’t really touch upon anything inside the building! All those objects had to be entirely self-bearing and, at the same time, they had to create space without charging the building’s structural system or interfering with any of the technical installations. That was very challenging. Furthermore, as soon as we had the geometry consolidated, we had to figure out a way of having everything prefabricated off-site, because the OCC could not interrupt its function for us to occupy the whole area of the lobby with construction work. Prefabrication prescribed a way of standardization. While each object is indeed unique, they all do follow the same typical system. There are always two sides bearing the structural frame while the rest hatch out as trap doors: Those had to be assembled separately and then they had to be brought here, pieced together and sealed on site; at the same time, they had to remain able to be opened when necessary, because, on the inside, there are installations running. Therefore, each structure has one face that can open every time anything needs to be fixed. That was a problem very difficult to solve.

photography @george fakaros
 
While deciding upon the final layout of the whole space, did you take under consideration any existing design method that has to do with human behavior and vision – space syntax, for instance?
Not quite; at least, not “formally”. The more we worked with the space, the more its very own parameters sprung up and became clear. What was important in the end was that, by way of connecting all those things, on the one hand there was a spatial narrative established inside the lobby – namely, an enclosure – while on the other one, we found a great number and variety of backdrops and intimate niches, like the one we’re sitting in at the moment, having this quiet conversation. The space has enormous potential. All this evolves as a very dynamic situation and, as a result, the OCC discovers a new identity; quite literally, as we say, the OCC “reinvents” itself. That is the major success. Each step led to the next, new potential was activated and, as a result, now we find ourselves in the position of having talks about expanding to the rest of the floors. This is what I consider to be successful design: Whatever pushes things forward, takes the brief one step beyond and brings to the surface new possibilities, allows for ideas to emerge.

photography @george fakaros 
Clearly; one assumes that the success of this design will be put to the final test when a large number of people find themselves inside here and begin to “dance” - all of this stages a particular choreography by means of the objects; the eye gets attracted and then people begin to perform.
Indeed, we had the chance to witness this very recently, when the TED event was held here and there were a lot of participants. It was very interesting to observe how the crowd at the TED actually behaved; how people started to move in here, or how they stood still, how they made groups and how they positioned themselves in relation to the screen… They seemed to welcome the new lobby and to like it very much. As about ourselves, of course, we were truly happy, it was a major first test and we were left with the impression that it all went very well. Certainly, this new situation could be expanded with more “episodes”, there is a perpetual flow of new potential. It’s very interesting to observe how such buildings operate in other cities, things always seem to “keep happening”. They become incubators, inside which things keep happening far beyond their formal statement; that was the major stake for the OCC as well. The OCC undoubtedly has a spectacular schedule of events, but the question remains, what happens the rest of the time? For instance, in London, at the South Bank, there is a number of such cultural facilities where things “keep happening” - the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theater… Their biggest success is that, beyond the stage events, on weekdays, they remain full of people - parents with their children, professionals who come with a laptop because they like to sit in there and work or use them as a meeting point… This is the stake for the OCC: To place a number of catalysts that will expand the program and attract people at all times; to become a true hub for the whole city. Because if you go once and you like it, and then you come again and bring your friends along, it all becomes inscribed in the life of the city. The OCC is a shelter – this is actually what its name in Greek, ‘Stegi’, stands for: Shelter – that was our point of departure in the first place. The OCC should be able to shelter informal, unexpected activities beyond the schedule, inside an accommodating environment that will feel nice precisely because it keeps sparking up new ideas. We merely set the grounds for a debate we are sure the OCC will take much further, because they have just the right people to do so. To conclude, perhaps, this is the way we understand our own participation in any project.
Thank you!

Credits:

Design: Divercity (www.divercityarchitects.com)
Curatorial concept & signage: Double Decker(www.double-decker.org.uk)Industrial design consultant: Manos Vordonarakis
Competition Consultant: DESIGNLOBBY (Vassilios P Bartzokas)
 
Photography George Fakaros
The project calls for the redesign of the entrance and lobby spaces of the Onassis Cultural Center (www.sgt.gr), a new cultural hub in Athens designed by Architecture Studio.
The Center hosts events and actions across the whole spectrum of the arts from theater, dance, music and the visual arts to the written word, with an emphasis on contemporary cultural expression, on supporting Greek artists, on cultivating international collaborations and on educating children and people of all ages through life-long learning.Our design strategy transforms the lobby space into a ‘shelter' (a 'stegi' In Greek) in the city: a space that can work in addition to the formal program of the Cultural Center A series of bespoke installations wrap around the building’s existing structural elements and spark a dynamic relationship between the three key characteristics of the shelter; the physical space, the digital experience and a series of specially curated wrap-around events.
One is dedicated to showcase portfolios of young creatives, another becomes a pop-up store, curated by Yatzer's chief editor Costas Voyatzis while a third takes the more humble role of providing a meeting corner. The aim is to create a vibrant all day hub that will appeal to the Onassis Cultural Center’s ever increasing dynamic and diverse crowd.
The design of these new installations is inspired by the distinct language of the existing facade. The white marble louvers on the exterior (by Architecture Studio) are kinked to form the structures that wrap around the lobby’s existing elements. They are carefully choreographed in response to the existing building and to the flow of people to provide areas of rest and pause as well as cater for their main functions, which include the ticket desks, info points, signage, video walls, etc.
EXCLUSIVE: REDESIGN OF THE ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTER ENTRANCE AND LOBBY SPACES BY DIVERCITY ARCHITECTS
Stavros Martinos

Nikolas Travasaros of Divercity Architectstalks to Stavros Martinos on the ideas and challenges behind the redesign of the Onassis Cultural Center entrance and lobby spaces; Divercity elaborate on a bold and sophisticated proposal that will completely change the face of Athens’ undisputed leader in cultural innovation.

 
 
 
 photography @george fakaros
 
 
Hello Nikolas; we are absolutely thrilled and very grateful that Divercity chose Archisearch.gr for the first detailed presentation of the OCC redesign. The space already looks very stimulating, to say the least. The first thing anyone familiar with the building will notice is this new array of folded black solids all around the entrance and lobby. What was the idea in the first place?
It all started with a brief asking for very specific things; the OCC begun with two requests. The first one was to accommodate a number of functional requirements, such as rearranging the counters and better channeling the flow of visitors. At the same time, there were needs for an enhanced program that would transform the OCC reception areas into a living space rather than the typical “art venue” – those turned out to be a pop-up store that will be handed over to different retailers every month or so, one main info point, as well as a number of other supplementary uses that will support the proper function of the reception area; none of this was there. So, first and foremost, this functional aspect had to be taken care of. However, there was another request; the OCC were explicitly asking for a more urbane, rough-cut and ‘crumpled’ image, on the upside of being untouchable. What they meant was that there was a perceived discrepancy between what had started to consolidate as the OCC audience and the actual building. This is perfectly understandable; when the OCC was first launched as a new cultural institution in Athens, nobody could really tell which direction things would take and this naturally made it difficult for design to be relevant from the start. However, as the OCC matured on its identity and begun to get identified with an actual audience, the character of the lobby was clearly not getting the message through. This had to be ‘crumpled’; and we took it at face value.

photography @george fakaros 
First, there was already this facade carried out in marble louvers that we really liked – the pristine geometry of that “box”. Then, the “crumple effect” had to infiltrate the space; all those geometries originate in the idea of the louvered facade. So, the crumpling begins with literally crumpling the louvers – which is tongue-in-cheek, of course, this could be no serious architectural argument; what is serious, however, is that crumpling created backdrops, which could indeed accommodate all those things that we wanted. By crumpling we actually begun to fold space – to throw in some more conventional jargon here – and those folds were receptive to programmatic additions. A dynamic debate took off right after the first phase of the project was complete and this is all but the beginning of a number of interventions that will take place here.

Materiality was a key consideration: The choice of dark-coated steel plates comes to counterbalance, if we may say so, the shine of the materials already applied here – the marble, for example, on the ceiling or the floor… Now, the steel plates, with all their rusty ends and natural blemishes, immediately become more inviting; it’ s a rough-cut material that wrinkles and soils and does not deter one from coming closer. That was the idea of how the space should feel.
To get into more detail, one parallel consideration that kept informing our decisions was the explicit desire of the OCC to “open up to the city”: All those “found objects” inside the entrance and the lobby were considered as snapshots or instances of what one might actually come across in the city outside; in that respect, the contribution by our collaborators at the Double Decker creative agency has been invaluable. They came up with a lot of fantastic ideas on what the use of those solids could be, in fact. As a whole, all of this deals with an aggregation of things that constitute a spatial narrative and contribute into making the whole place more inviting and informal, while evoking a sensation upon one’s entry to the lobby – because the lobby did have to deal with that issue indeed. By now, the OCC has begun to get deeply grafted into the collective memory of the city; it is a very active presence and always provides an exceptionally high-quality, cutting edge schedule of events; as a consequence, the perceived disjunction between the actual audience and the awkward feeling one got upon entering the building could be no more.

photography @george fakaros 
Moveable furniture is another interesting aspect and the idea behind its new arrangement is not clearly visible yet; for instance, a number of informal sitting areas will be at close proximity with an open display of hard to find magazines from around the world – the lobby will be the place to sit and skim those through. Right beside, there will be the “wall of talent”: The OCC will invite a number of young creatives - recent graduates or postgraduate students in the arts and design – to showcase their portfolios, which will be openly available to the visiting public. What we design is the infrastructure for the OCC to accomplish its mission, which is none other than opening up to the city on all different levels. Even further beside, the pop-up store will not be a mere shop selling OCC memorabilia but will be handed over every number of months to very different people, under the curatorial supervision of Yatzer's Costas Voyatzis; for instance, one time there might be someone selling their new book on a particular topic, then there might be young designers without their own sales network which could be provided with the opportunity to set up shop inside the OCC and showcase their work… Across the lobby, by the entrance, there will be a blackboard for kids to draw with chalk and play around. As a whole, the OCC has initiated a procedure that will completely transform the spaces in the building.

 
photography @george fakaros 
The redesign of the OCC was the result of an invite-only competition organized with the assistance and consultancy of theDesignlobbycreative agency, and you were the competition winners. How was the competition experience to you?
I believe this initiative was of the utmost importance and it clearly demonstrates the leadership of the OCC among cultural institutions in Athens. To redesign their lobby spaces, the OCC held a competition among selected Greek architectural firms and this was invaluable, just on its own. We would be delighted if that happened more often! The OCC took the risk of inviting people whose work they had noticed somewhere, somehow – and it was through this process that we were selected to take up the project and elaborate on this specific proposal. I also feel compelled to say that the OCC displayed a great deal of courage in backing up a proposal which was apparently challenging. What I mean is that, now, when everything seems to be in place and working according to the plan, one might think it was all easy; this is absolutely not the case. Having their full support on such a project from the very beginning was anything but self-evident; listening to us architects say that “we will do those objects in black steel” required a lot of stomach on the client’s behalf – which it turns out that they had. The OCC clearly showed they were fully aware of the role they had to play in the city: Pushing things forward. It was not an “aesthetic” matter; the OCC showed how deeply they understood that their own mission was to define a whole new sensibility. They had the resources to pursue this - and they did. From my point of view, that was the most exhilarating aspect of the whole process. One other extremely happy occurrence for us was when we saw the audience openly embrace the change in the OCC; it is clear by now this can be deemed a big success and it immediately led us into talks on expanding the project in a number of other areas. For example, the first addition we aspire to make involves the space of the bar, which is a difficult one. It clearly needs better intertwining with the rest of the lobby. Additionally, the upper levels have already started to display a number of structures in the new vocabulary; gradually, this will become viral and will remodel the whole building. The lobby itself was no easy task, it’s not just about ticketing: First and foremost, a lobby needs a program. In the end, all those things we suggested together with Double Decker (who are a London-based curating agency directed by Melita Skamnaki and William Finger and are frequent collaborators of the Design Museum) will find their rightful place. Our collaboration with Double Decker was based upon a programmatic agreement; far from giving in to the impulse of doing “architecture and design”, we needed to lay out the program that would, as a matter of fact, “crumple the image”.

 
photography @george fakaros 
This is very interesting and raises very high hopes: More often than not, architects are merely expected to provide an “image”, while that is but one aspect of the job; perhaps the most visible one, but it can barely endure if it does not rely upon a solidly laid-out programmatic scheme. How did you, as architects, sustain your own argument against the already stated programmatic requirements of the OCC? It goes without saying, in order to win a competition, one has got to be convincing, even when the image has not been consolidated yet. Communicating through the dazzle of images sometimes helps, but in some other cases it all but misses the point; was there a particular strategy of communication you developed as an architectural practice in this project?
I believe that we won the competition when, talking over the first ideas, we pointed out that certain things would simply had to be forgotten. In the beginning the OCC thought there was a number of “hard” programmatic needs to be accommodated – for instance, the perpetual problem of queuing up at the counter. We told them that we understand the OCC as something bigger and more significant. We were able to convince that the stakes went further than merely resolving the problem of the ticket queue – which is crucial, of course – or “making the space look warmer”. The OCC needed to take things one step beyond and open up to events and activities that would invite people in. Furthermore, we told that we are architects and that from our experience in London (because our practice is based there and we have the opportunity to observe a number of such buildings already in operation) we could locate and collaborate with competent professionals in the field of curating with the necessary know-how for such an enterprise. Double Decker, to be precise, mostly work with wrap-around programs in Museums – which means that a Museum, beyond its formal statement, branches out into a number of different activities. We said that we will open up the debate and elaborate on a broader vision of what could take place here; and it was precisely then that the fantastic idea of the “talent wall” came up, together with a number of others. So we circumvented the restrictions of a “typical” programmatic scheme and managed to avoid the mere “accommodating of functional requirements” that was being asked of us; instead, we opened up a broader debate with the audience and invited people in. I believe that was the kind of argument that worked. Suddenly it becomes less important whether this is all carried out in black steel or in pink plastic; what counts is that something new and unexpected is taking place here, and this invites people to participate. Take for example the pop-up store: Say you are a young entrepreneur, you have an idea to start up with and you get invited by the OCC to distribute your product at their premises for one month or three consecutive ones; or you are a young graduate from a University in Greece under the present situation, you feel the urge to display your work somewhere and then you are provided with this substantial little stage together with unexpected visibility… I honestly believe this is the major success of the project and this is way above and beyond design – which, at the end of the day, remains there for anyone to see and judge according to their own individual tastes.

photography @george fakaros 
I am very happy to hear this because not many people think that way. The fact still remains that design in this case is anything but secondary; those “found objects” all around the lobby have a very strong visual presence in this space – yet they are interactive. What kind of technology did you use? Take, for example, this new video wall you suggested; this communicates with the city in a dynamic way, possibly through the web; and all those metal structures that look wrinkled do create spaces for informal events indeed, however they look quite simple to execute; or are they not?
Do you mean simple to build? Now that is a very interesting question. What is simple today and what is not, in the light of current technology… Let me say just one thing: We have carried out a lot of very complex and demanding projects at the office and we are very familiar with much larger scales – from the Doxiadis building which is one of the large scale projects, to very large hotels. Well, this is one of the most complicated things we have ever done. Ever. Behind this perceived simplicity, there is enormous complexity and a lot of overlapping or contradicting requirements that all needed to be met. To be able to design such a project in order for it to perform as it should, one needs to carry out work in a bewildering number of different levels. First, all those seemingly fragmented and “simple” structures needed to create space. To be able to resolve that, we needed to return to absolutely fundamental tools. We had a scale model built inside the office in 1:20 – try to imagine that, it was taking up half of our available room – because on the one hand all those objects needed to be placed in the right configuration for them to create space; if you look at it from here, it’s an enclosure. How each individual item twists and turns and faces all the rest though creates a very complex network of relations. It was impossible to conceive that by design means, unless we literally put ourselves inside there! So the first tool was a 1:20 scale model where those items were placed and tested – and there were 20 or 30 alternatives to each one of them. The objective was to have space created by the way they were put in there, to have this “container” which now looks perfectly clear, while on the other hand each structure had to meet up with rigid functional standards: For instance, the counter had to be that tall and be protected for a number of reasons, screens had to be at a specific height and angle and be of a given size etc. So, on the one hand there were “sculptural” requirements and on the other one, strict functionality and precision. That part of the problem once resolved, there still needed to be absolutely exact construction drawings made, and that was one long and painstaking process. Each item was drawn in 3d simulation where all of the minute construction details had to be provided, in a number of different stages of development and implementation. How those things in such geometries would come together had to be reviewed in the greatest detail and the end result would have to meet the quality standards of furniture. To have those oblique lines converging upon very specific points, in very specific ways, had us compelled to visualize the whole scenario of construction. In doing that, I couldn’t stress enough on how much we profited from the expertise of Manos Vardonarakis, an industrial designer specializing in metal – probably the best one we are aware of in this country. It is largely thanks to him that everything is so well-detailed.

This is evident to the naked eye at close inspection. However, those structures are not exactly modular neither do they seem standardized at first glance – though there are clearly rules at work here. What were they? I understand that this whole geometry stems out directly from the original idea that “the OCC crumples its image” and this is manifest in a very direct and successful manner. Still, all of this had to be rationalized somehow in order for it to be drawn with precision and from there, to find its way into construction; there had to be rules devised in order to make possible all those absolutely specific decisions.
How we folded those surfaces is the result of how one sees, at the moment one enters the space and also, of how one sees from the inside out. Upon the moment of entry, one should be provided with a comprehensive overview. At the same time, there is a conversation established between inside and outside – previously that relationship was rather awkward, one felt either inside or outside and those structures came to provide a connection, by leading the gaze in specific directions. They facilitate an effective communication between spaces by subtle manipulations of vision.

photography @george fakaros 
… You have designed all the folds as if your solids were cut through by viewing angles.
Exactly, fields of view and vanishing points were the first thing to consider systematically. The second one was the whole relation between the objects that were required to form an enclosure. There were functional aspects involved here; for instance, the optimal position of the screen or the views from inside the bar, as well as the movement of a rather large crowd inside the space – this had to be guided and channeled somehow because, previously, everything was rather disorienting and resulted in awkwardness. Another huge imposition was that we couldn’t really touch upon anything inside the building! All those objects had to be entirely self-bearing and, at the same time, they had to create space without charging the building’s structural system or interfering with any of the technical installations. That was very challenging. Furthermore, as soon as we had the geometry consolidated, we had to figure out a way of having everything prefabricated off-site, because the OCC could not interrupt its function for us to occupy the whole area of the lobby with construction work. Prefabrication prescribed a way of standardization. While each object is indeed unique, they all do follow the same typical system. There are always two sides bearing the structural frame while the rest hatch out as trap doors: Those had to be assembled separately and then they had to be brought here, pieced together and sealed on site; at the same time, they had to remain able to be opened when necessary, because, on the inside, there are installations running. Therefore, each structure has one face that can open every time anything needs to be fixed. That was a problem very difficult to solve.

photography @george fakaros
 
While deciding upon the final layout of the whole space, did you take under consideration any existing design method that has to do with human behavior and vision – space syntax, for instance?
Not quite; at least, not “formally”. The more we worked with the space, the more its very own parameters sprung up and became clear. What was important in the end was that, by way of connecting all those things, on the one hand there was a spatial narrative established inside the lobby – namely, an enclosure – while on the other one, we found a great number and variety of backdrops and intimate niches, like the one we’re sitting in at the moment, having this quiet conversation. The space has enormous potential. All this evolves as a very dynamic situation and, as a result, the OCC discovers a new identity; quite literally, as we say, the OCC “reinvents” itself. That is the major success. Each step led to the next, new potential was activated and, as a result, now we find ourselves in the position of having talks about expanding to the rest of the floors. This is what I consider to be successful design: Whatever pushes things forward, takes the brief one step beyond and brings to the surface new possibilities, allows for ideas to emerge.

photography @george fakaros 
Clearly; one assumes that the success of this design will be put to the final test when a large number of people find themselves inside here and begin to “dance” - all of this stages a particular choreography by means of the objects; the eye gets attracted and then people begin to perform.
Indeed, we had the chance to witness this very recently, when the TED event was held here and there were a lot of participants. It was very interesting to observe how the crowd at the TED actually behaved; how people started to move in here, or how they stood still, how they made groups and how they positioned themselves in relation to the screen… They seemed to welcome the new lobby and to like it very much. As about ourselves, of course, we were truly happy, it was a major first test and we were left with the impression that it all went very well. Certainly, this new situation could be expanded with more “episodes”, there is a perpetual flow of new potential. It’s very interesting to observe how such buildings operate in other cities, things always seem to “keep happening”. They become incubators, inside which things keep happening far beyond their formal statement; that was the major stake for the OCC as well. The OCC undoubtedly has a spectacular schedule of events, but the question remains, what happens the rest of the time? For instance, in London, at the South Bank, there is a number of such cultural facilities where things “keep happening” - the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theater… Their biggest success is that, beyond the stage events, on weekdays, they remain full of people - parents with their children, professionals who come with a laptop because they like to sit in there and work or use them as a meeting point… This is the stake for the OCC: To place a number of catalysts that will expand the program and attract people at all times; to become a true hub for the whole city. Because if you go once and you like it, and then you come again and bring your friends along, it all becomes inscribed in the life of the city. The OCC is a shelter – this is actually what its name in Greek, ‘Stegi’, stands for: Shelter – that was our point of departure in the first place. The OCC should be able to shelter informal, unexpected activities beyond the schedule, inside an accommodating environment that will feel nice precisely because it keeps sparking up new ideas. We merely set the grounds for a debate we are sure the OCC will take much further, because they have just the right people to do so. To conclude, perhaps, this is the way we understand our own participation in any project.
Thank you!

Credits:

Design: Divercity (www.divercityarchitects.com)
Curatorial concept & signage: Double Decker(www.double-decker.org.uk)Industrial design consultant: Manos Vordonarakis
Competition Consultant: DESIGNLOBBY (Vassilios P Bartzokas)
 
Photography George Fakaros
The project calls for the redesign of the entrance and lobby spaces of the Onassis Cultural Center (www.sgt.gr), a new cultural hub in Athens designed by Architecture Studio.
The Center hosts events and actions across the whole spectrum of the arts from theater, dance, music and the visual arts to the written word, with an emphasis on contemporary cultural expression, on supporting Greek artists, on cultivating international collaborations and on educating children and people of all ages through life-long learning.Our design strategy transforms the lobby space into a ‘shelter' (a 'stegi' In Greek) in the city: a space that can work in addition to the formal program of the Cultural Center A series of bespoke installations wrap around the building’s existing structural elements and spark a dynamic relationship between the three key characteristics of the shelter; the physical space, the digital experience and a series of specially curated wrap-around events.
One is dedicated to showcase portfolios of young creatives, another becomes a pop-up store, curated by Yatzer's chief editor Costas Voyatzis while a third takes the more humble role of providing a meeting corner. The aim is to create a vibrant all day hub that will appeal to the Onassis Cultural Center’s ever increasing dynamic and diverse crowd.
The design of these new installations is inspired by the distinct language of the existing facade. The white marble louvers on the exterior (by Architecture Studio) are kinked to form the structures that wrap around the lobby’s existing elements. They are carefully choreographed in response to the existing building and to the flow of people to provide areas of rest and pause as well as cater for their main functions, which include the ticket desks, info points, signage, video walls, etc.
EXCLUSIVE: REDESIGN OF THE ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTER ENTRANCE AND LOBBY SPACES BY DIVERCITY ARCHITECTS
Stavros Martinos

Nikolas Travasaros of Divercity Architectstalks to Stavros Martinos on the ideas and challenges behind the redesign of the Onassis Cultural Center entrance and lobby spaces; Divercity elaborate on a bold and sophisticated proposal that will completely change the face of Athens’ undisputed leader in cultural innovation.

 
 
 
 photography @george fakaros
 
 
Hello Nikolas; we are absolutely thrilled and very grateful that Divercity chose Archisearch.gr for the first detailed presentation of the OCC redesign. The space already looks very stimulating, to say the least. The first thing anyone familiar with the building will notice is this new array of folded black solids all around the entrance and lobby. What was the idea in the first place?
It all started with a brief asking for very specific things; the OCC begun with two requests. The first one was to accommodate a number of functional requirements, such as rearranging the counters and better channeling the flow of visitors. At the same time, there were needs for an enhanced program that would transform the OCC reception areas into a living space rather than the typical “art venue” – those turned out to be a pop-up store that will be handed over to different retailers every month or so, one main info point, as well as a number of other supplementary uses that will support the proper function of the reception area; none of this was there. So, first and foremost, this functional aspect had to be taken care of. However, there was another request; the OCC were explicitly asking for a more urbane, rough-cut and ‘crumpled’ image, on the upside of being untouchable. What they meant was that there was a perceived discrepancy between what had started to consolidate as the OCC audience and the actual building. This is perfectly understandable; when the OCC was first launched as a new cultural institution in Athens, nobody could really tell which direction things would take and this naturally made it difficult for design to be relevant from the start. However, as the OCC matured on its identity and begun to get identified with an actual audience, the character of the lobby was clearly not getting the message through. This had to be ‘crumpled’; and we took it at face value.

photography @george fakaros 
First, there was already this facade carried out in marble louvers that we really liked – the pristine geometry of that “box”. Then, the “crumple effect” had to infiltrate the space; all those geometries originate in the idea of the louvered facade. So, the crumpling begins with literally crumpling the louvers – which is tongue-in-cheek, of course, this could be no serious architectural argument; what is serious, however, is that crumpling created backdrops, which could indeed accommodate all those things that we wanted. By crumpling we actually begun to fold space – to throw in some more conventional jargon here – and those folds were receptive to programmatic additions. A dynamic debate took off right after the first phase of the project was complete and this is all but the beginning of a number of interventions that will take place here.

Materiality was a key consideration: The choice of dark-coated steel plates comes to counterbalance, if we may say so, the shine of the materials already applied here – the marble, for example, on the ceiling or the floor… Now, the steel plates, with all their rusty ends and natural blemishes, immediately become more inviting; it’ s a rough-cut material that wrinkles and soils and does not deter one from coming closer. That was the idea of how the space should feel.
To get into more detail, one parallel consideration that kept informing our decisions was the explicit desire of the OCC to “open up to the city”: All those “found objects” inside the entrance and the lobby were considered as snapshots or instances of what one might actually come across in the city outside; in that respect, the contribution by our collaborators at the Double Decker creative agency has been invaluable. They came up with a lot of fantastic ideas on what the use of those solids could be, in fact. As a whole, all of this deals with an aggregation of things that constitute a spatial narrative and contribute into making the whole place more inviting and informal, while evoking a sensation upon one’s entry to the lobby – because the lobby did have to deal with that issue indeed. By now, the OCC has begun to get deeply grafted into the collective memory of the city; it is a very active presence and always provides an exceptionally high-quality, cutting edge schedule of events; as a consequence, the perceived disjunction between the actual audience and the awkward feeling one got upon entering the building could be no more.

photography @george fakaros 
Moveable furniture is another interesting aspect and the idea behind its new arrangement is not clearly visible yet; for instance, a number of informal sitting areas will be at close proximity with an open display of hard to find magazines from around the world – the lobby will be the place to sit and skim those through. Right beside, there will be the “wall of talent”: The OCC will invite a number of young creatives - recent graduates or postgraduate students in the arts and design – to showcase their portfolios, which will be openly available to the visiting public. What we design is the infrastructure for the OCC to accomplish its mission, which is none other than opening up to the city on all different levels. Even further beside, the pop-up store will not be a mere shop selling OCC memorabilia but will be handed over every number of months to very different people, under the curatorial supervision of Yatzer's Costas Voyatzis; for instance, one time there might be someone selling their new book on a particular topic, then there might be young designers without their own sales network which could be provided with the opportunity to set up shop inside the OCC and showcase their work… Across the lobby, by the entrance, there will be a blackboard for kids to draw with chalk and play around. As a whole, the OCC has initiated a procedure that will completely transform the spaces in the building.

 
photography @george fakaros 
The redesign of the OCC was the result of an invite-only competition organized with the assistance and consultancy of theDesignlobbycreative agency, and you were the competition winners. How was the competition experience to you?
I believe this initiative was of the utmost importance and it clearly demonstrates the leadership of the OCC among cultural institutions in Athens. To redesign their lobby spaces, the OCC held a competition among selected Greek architectural firms and this was invaluable, just on its own. We would be delighted if that happened more often! The OCC took the risk of inviting people whose work they had noticed somewhere, somehow – and it was through this process that we were selected to take up the project and elaborate on this specific proposal. I also feel compelled to say that the OCC displayed a great deal of courage in backing up a proposal which was apparently challenging. What I mean is that, now, when everything seems to be in place and working according to the plan, one might think it was all easy; this is absolutely not the case. Having their full support on such a project from the very beginning was anything but self-evident; listening to us architects say that “we will do those objects in black steel” required a lot of stomach on the client’s behalf – which it turns out that they had. The OCC clearly showed they were fully aware of the role they had to play in the city: Pushing things forward. It was not an “aesthetic” matter; the OCC showed how deeply they understood that their own mission was to define a whole new sensibility. They had the resources to pursue this - and they did. From my point of view, that was the most exhilarating aspect of the whole process. One other extremely happy occurrence for us was when we saw the audience openly embrace the change in the OCC; it is clear by now this can be deemed a big success and it immediately led us into talks on expanding the project in a number of other areas. For example, the first addition we aspire to make involves the space of the bar, which is a difficult one. It clearly needs better intertwining with the rest of the lobby. Additionally, the upper levels have already started to display a number of structures in the new vocabulary; gradually, this will become viral and will remodel the whole building. The lobby itself was no easy task, it’s not just about ticketing: First and foremost, a lobby needs a program. In the end, all those things we suggested together with Double Decker (who are a London-based curating agency directed by Melita Skamnaki and William Finger and are frequent collaborators of the Design Museum) will find their rightful place. Our collaboration with Double Decker was based upon a programmatic agreement; far from giving in to the impulse of doing “architecture and design”, we needed to lay out the program that would, as a matter of fact, “crumple the image”.

 
photography @george fakaros 
This is very interesting and raises very high hopes: More often than not, architects are merely expected to provide an “image”, while that is but one aspect of the job; perhaps the most visible one, but it can barely endure if it does not rely upon a solidly laid-out programmatic scheme. How did you, as architects, sustain your own argument against the already stated programmatic requirements of the OCC? It goes without saying, in order to win a competition, one has got to be convincing, even when the image has not been consolidated yet. Communicating through the dazzle of images sometimes helps, but in some other cases it all but misses the point; was there a particular strategy of communication you developed as an architectural practice in this project?
I believe that we won the competition when, talking over the first ideas, we pointed out that certain things would simply had to be forgotten. In the beginning the OCC thought there was a number of “hard” programmatic needs to be accommodated – for instance, the perpetual problem of queuing up at the counter. We told them that we understand the OCC as something bigger and more significant. We were able to convince that the stakes went further than merely resolving the problem of the ticket queue – which is crucial, of course – or “making the space look warmer”. The OCC needed to take things one step beyond and open up to events and activities that would invite people in. Furthermore, we told that we are architects and that from our experience in London (because our practice is based there and we have the opportunity to observe a number of such buildings already in operation) we could locate and collaborate with competent professionals in the field of curating with the necessary know-how for such an enterprise. Double Decker, to be precise, mostly work with wrap-around programs in Museums – which means that a Museum, beyond its formal statement, branches out into a number of different activities. We said that we will open up the debate and elaborate on a broader vision of what could take place here; and it was precisely then that the fantastic idea of the “talent wall” came up, together with a number of others. So we circumvented the restrictions of a “typical” programmatic scheme and managed to avoid the mere “accommodating of functional requirements” that was being asked of us; instead, we opened up a broader debate with the audience and invited people in. I believe that was the kind of argument that worked. Suddenly it becomes less important whether this is all carried out in black steel or in pink plastic; what counts is that something new and unexpected is taking place here, and this invites people to participate. Take for example the pop-up store: Say you are a young entrepreneur, you have an idea to start up with and you get invited by the OCC to distribute your product at their premises for one month or three consecutive ones; or you are a young graduate from a University in Greece under the present situation, you feel the urge to display your work somewhere and then you are provided with this substantial little stage together with unexpected visibility… I honestly believe this is the major success of the project and this is way above and beyond design – which, at the end of the day, remains there for anyone to see and judge according to their own individual tastes.

photography @george fakaros 
I am very happy to hear this because not many people think that way. The fact still remains that design in this case is anything but secondary; those “found objects” all around the lobby have a very strong visual presence in this space – yet they are interactive. What kind of technology did you use? Take, for example, this new video wall you suggested; this communicates with the city in a dynamic way, possibly through the web; and all those metal structures that look wrinkled do create spaces for informal events indeed, however they look quite simple to execute; or are they not?
Do you mean simple to build? Now that is a very interesting question. What is simple today and what is not, in the light of current technology… Let me say just one thing: We have carried out a lot of very complex and demanding projects at the office and we are very familiar with much larger scales – from the Doxiadis building which is one of the large scale projects, to very large hotels. Well, this is one of the most complicated things we have ever done. Ever. Behind this perceived simplicity, there is enormous complexity and a lot of overlapping or contradicting requirements that all needed to be met. To be able to design such a project in order for it to perform as it should, one needs to carry out work in a bewildering number of different levels. First, all those seemingly fragmented and “simple” structures needed to create space. To be able to resolve that, we needed to return to absolutely fundamental tools. We had a scale model built inside the office in 1:20 – try to imagine that, it was taking up half of our available room – because on the one hand all those objects needed to be placed in the right configuration for them to create space; if you look at it from here, it’s an enclosure. How each individual item twists and turns and faces all the rest though creates a very complex network of relations. It was impossible to conceive that by design means, unless we literally put ourselves inside there! So the first tool was a 1:20 scale model where those items were placed and tested – and there were 20 or 30 alternatives to each one of them. The objective was to have space created by the way they were put in there, to have this “container” which now looks perfectly clear, while on the other hand each structure had to meet up with rigid functional standards: For instance, the counter had to be that tall and be protected for a number of reasons, screens had to be at a specific height and angle and be of a given size etc. So, on the one hand there were “sculptural” requirements and on the other one, strict functionality and precision. That part of the problem once resolved, there still needed to be absolutely exact construction drawings made, and that was one long and painstaking process. Each item was drawn in 3d simulation where all of the minute construction details had to be provided, in a number of different stages of development and implementation. How those things in such geometries would come together had to be reviewed in the greatest detail and the end result would have to meet the quality standards of furniture. To have those oblique lines converging upon very specific points, in very specific ways, had us compelled to visualize the whole scenario of construction. In doing that, I couldn’t stress enough on how much we profited from the expertise of Manos Vardonarakis, an industrial designer specializing in metal – probably the best one we are aware of in this country. It is largely thanks to him that everything is so well-detailed.

This is evident to the naked eye at close inspection. However, those structures are not exactly modular neither do they seem standardized at first glance – though there are clearly rules at work here. What were they? I understand that this whole geometry stems out directly from the original idea that “the OCC crumples its image” and this is manifest in a very direct and successful manner. Still, all of this had to be rationalized somehow in order for it to be drawn with precision and from there, to find its way into construction; there had to be rules devised in order to make possible all those absolutely specific decisions.
How we folded those surfaces is the result of how one sees, at the moment one enters the space and also, of how one sees from the inside out. Upon the moment of entry, one should be provided with a comprehensive overview. At the same time, there is a conversation established between inside and outside – previously that relationship was rather awkward, one felt either inside or outside and those structures came to provide a connection, by leading the gaze in specific directions. They facilitate an effective communication between spaces by subtle manipulations of vision.

photography @george fakaros 
… You have designed all the folds as if your solids were cut through by viewing angles.
Exactly, fields of view and vanishing points were the first thing to consider systematically. The second one was the whole relation between the objects that were required to form an enclosure. There were functional aspects involved here; for instance, the optimal position of the screen or the views from inside the bar, as well as the movement of a rather large crowd inside the space – this had to be guided and channeled somehow because, previously, everything was rather disorienting and resulted in awkwardness. Another huge imposition was that we couldn’t really touch upon anything inside the building! All those objects had to be entirely self-bearing and, at the same time, they had to create space without charging the building’s structural system or interfering with any of the technical installations. That was very challenging. Furthermore, as soon as we had the geometry consolidated, we had to figure out a way of having everything prefabricated off-site, because the OCC could not interrupt its function for us to occupy the whole area of the lobby with construction work. Prefabrication prescribed a way of standardization. While each object is indeed unique, they all do follow the same typical system. There are always two sides bearing the structural frame while the rest hatch out as trap doors: Those had to be assembled separately and then they had to be brought here, pieced together and sealed on site; at the same time, they had to remain able to be opened when necessary, because, on the inside, there are installations running. Therefore, each structure has one face that can open every time anything needs to be fixed. That was a problem very difficult to solve.

photography @george fakaros
 
While deciding upon the final layout of the whole space, did you take under consideration any existing design method that has to do with human behavior and vision – space syntax, for instance?
Not quite; at least, not “formally”. The more we worked with the space, the more its very own parameters sprung up and became clear. What was important in the end was that, by way of connecting all those things, on the one hand there was a spatial narrative established inside the lobby – namely, an enclosure – while on the other one, we found a great number and variety of backdrops and intimate niches, like the one we’re sitting in at the moment, having this quiet conversation. The space has enormous potential. All this evolves as a very dynamic situation and, as a result, the OCC discovers a new identity; quite literally, as we say, the OCC “reinvents” itself. That is the major success. Each step led to the next, new potential was activated and, as a result, now we find ourselves in the position of having talks about expanding to the rest of the floors. This is what I consider to be successful design: Whatever pushes things forward, takes the brief one step beyond and brings to the surface new possibilities, allows for ideas to emerge.

photography @george fakaros 
Clearly; one assumes that the success of this design will be put to the final test when a large number of people find themselves inside here and begin to “dance” - all of this stages a particular choreography by means of the objects; the eye gets attracted and then people begin to perform.
Indeed, we had the chance to witness this very recently, when the TED event was held here and there were a lot of participants. It was very interesting to observe how the crowd at the TED actually behaved; how people started to move in here, or how they stood still, how they made groups and how they positioned themselves in relation to the screen… They seemed to welcome the new lobby and to like it very much. As about ourselves, of course, we were truly happy, it was a major first test and we were left with the impression that it all went very well. Certainly, this new situation could be expanded with more “episodes”, there is a perpetual flow of new potential. It’s very interesting to observe how such buildings operate in other cities, things always seem to “keep happening”. They become incubators, inside which things keep happening far beyond their formal statement; that was the major stake for the OCC as well. The OCC undoubtedly has a spectacular schedule of events, but the question remains, what happens the rest of the time? For instance, in London, at the South Bank, there is a number of such cultural facilities where things “keep happening” - the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theater… Their biggest success is that, beyond the stage events, on weekdays, they remain full of people - parents with their children, professionals who come with a laptop because they like to sit in there and work or use them as a meeting point… This is the stake for the OCC: To place a number of catalysts that will expand the program and attract people at all times; to become a true hub for the whole city. Because if you go once and you like it, and then you come again and bring your friends along, it all becomes inscribed in the life of the city. The OCC is a shelter – this is actually what its name in Greek, ‘Stegi’, stands for: Shelter – that was our point of departure in the first place. The OCC should be able to shelter informal, unexpected activities beyond the schedule, inside an accommodating environment that will feel nice precisely because it keeps sparking up new ideas. We merely set the grounds for a debate we are sure the OCC will take much further, because they have just the right people to do so. To conclude, perhaps, this is the way we understand our own participation in any project.
Thank you!

Credits:

Design: Divercity (www.divercityarchitects.com)
Curatorial concept & signage: Double Decker(www.double-decker.org.uk)Industrial design consultant: Manos Vordonarakis
Competition Consultant: DESIGNLOBBY (Vassilios P Bartzokas)
 
Photography George Fakaros
The project calls for the redesign of the entrance and lobby spaces of the Onassis Cultural Center (www.sgt.gr), a new cultural hub in Athens designed by Architecture Studio.
The Center hosts events and actions across the whole spectrum of the arts from theater, dance, music and the visual arts to the written word, with an emphasis on contemporary cultural expression, on supporting Greek artists, on cultivating international collaborations and on educating children and people of all ages through life-long learning.Our design strategy transforms the lobby space into a ‘shelter' (a 'stegi' In Greek) in the city: a space that can work in addition to the formal program of the Cultural Center A series of bespoke installations wrap around the building’s existing structural elements and spark a dynamic relationship between the three key characteristics of the shelter; the physical space, the digital experience and a series of specially curated wrap-around events.
One is dedicated to showcase portfolios of young creatives, another becomes a pop-up store, curated by Yatzer's chief editor Costas Voyatzis while a third takes the more humble role of providing a meeting corner. The aim is to create a vibrant all day hub that will appeal to the Onassis Cultural Center’s ever increasing dynamic and diverse crowd.
The design of these new installations is inspired by the distinct language of the existing facade. The white marble louvers on the exterior (by Architecture Studio) are kinked to form the structures that wrap around the lobby’s existing elements. They are carefully choreographed in response to the existing building and to the flow of people to provide areas of rest and pause as well as cater for their main functions, which include the ticket desks, info points, signage, video walls, etc.
EXCLUSIVE: REDESIGN OF THE ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTER ENTRANCE AND LOBBY SPACES BY DIVERCITY ARCHITECTS
Stavros Martinos

Nikolas Travasaros of Divercity Architectstalks to Stavros Martinos on the ideas and challenges behind the redesign of the Onassis Cultural Center entrance and lobby spaces; Divercity elaborate on a bold and sophisticated proposal that will completely change the face of Athens’ undisputed leader in cultural innovation.

 
 
 
 photography @george fakaros
 
 
Hello Nikolas; we are absolutely thrilled and very grateful that Divercity chose Archisearch.gr for the first detailed presentation of the OCC redesign. The space already looks very stimulating, to say the least. The first thing anyone familiar with the building will notice is this new array of folded black solids all around the entrance and lobby. What was the idea in the first place?
It all started with a brief asking for very specific things; the OCC begun with two requests. The first one was to accommodate a number of functional requirements, such as rearranging the counters and better channeling the flow of visitors. At the same time, there were needs for an enhanced program that would transform the OCC reception areas into a living space rather than the typical “art venue” – those turned out to be a pop-up store that will be handed over to different retailers every month or so, one main info point, as well as a number of other supplementary uses that will support the proper function of the reception area; none of this was there. So, first and foremost, this functional aspect had to be taken care of. However, there was another request; the OCC were explicitly asking for a more urbane, rough-cut and ‘crumpled’ image, on the upside of being untouchable. What they meant was that there was a perceived discrepancy between what had started to consolidate as the OCC audience and the actual building. This is perfectly understandable; when the OCC was first launched as a new cultural institution in Athens, nobody could really tell which direction things would take and this naturally made it difficult for design to be relevant from the start. However, as the OCC matured on its identity and begun to get identified with an actual audience, the character of the lobby was clearly not getting the message through. This had to be ‘crumpled’; and we took it at face value.

photography @george fakaros 
First, there was already this facade carried out in marble louvers that we really liked – the pristine geometry of that “box”. Then, the “crumple effect” had to infiltrate the space; all those geometries originate in the idea of the louvered facade. So, the crumpling begins with literally crumpling the louvers – which is tongue-in-cheek, of course, this could be no serious architectural argument; what is serious, however, is that crumpling created backdrops, which could indeed accommodate all those things that we wanted. By crumpling we actually begun to fold space – to throw in some more conventional jargon here – and those folds were receptive to programmatic additions. A dynamic debate took off right after the first phase of the project was complete and this is all but the beginning of a number of interventions that will take place here.

Materiality was a key consideration: The choice of dark-coated steel plates comes to counterbalance, if we may say so, the shine of the materials already applied here – the marble, for example, on the ceiling or the floor… Now, the steel plates, with all their rusty ends and natural blemishes, immediately become more inviting; it’ s a rough-cut material that wrinkles and soils and does not deter one from coming closer. That was the idea of how the space should feel.
To get into more detail, one parallel consideration that kept informing our decisions was the explicit desire of the OCC to “open up to the city”: All those “found objects” inside the entrance and the lobby were considered as snapshots or instances of what one might actually come across in the city outside; in that respect, the contribution by our collaborators at the Double Decker creative agency has been invaluable. They came up with a lot of fantastic ideas on what the use of those solids could be, in fact. As a whole, all of this deals with an aggregation of things that constitute a spatial narrative and contribute into making the whole place more inviting and informal, while evoking a sensation upon one’s entry to the lobby – because the lobby did have to deal with that issue indeed. By now, the OCC has begun to get deeply grafted into the collective memory of the city; it is a very active presence and always provides an exceptionally high-quality, cutting edge schedule of events; as a consequence, the perceived disjunction between the actual audience and the awkward feeling one got upon entering the building could be no more.

photography @george fakaros 
Moveable furniture is another interesting aspect and the idea behind its new arrangement is not clearly visible yet; for instance, a number of informal sitting areas will be at close proximity with an open display of hard to find magazines from around the world – the lobby will be the place to sit and skim those through. Right beside, there will be the “wall of talent”: The OCC will invite a number of young creatives - recent graduates or postgraduate students in the arts and design – to showcase their portfolios, which will be openly available to the visiting public. What we design is the infrastructure for the OCC to accomplish its mission, which is none other than opening up to the city on all different levels. Even further beside, the pop-up store will not be a mere shop selling OCC memorabilia but will be handed over every number of months to very different people, under the curatorial supervision of Yatzer's Costas Voyatzis; for instance, one time there might be someone selling their new book on a particular topic, then there might be young designers without their own sales network which could be provided with the opportunity to set up shop inside the OCC and showcase their work… Across the lobby, by the entrance, there will be a blackboard for kids to draw with chalk and play around. As a whole, the OCC has initiated a procedure that will completely transform the spaces in the building.

 
photography @george fakaros 
The redesign of the OCC was the result of an invite-only competition organized with the assistance and consultancy of theDesignlobbycreative agency, and you were the competition winners. How was the competition experience to you?
I believe this initiative was of the utmost importance and it clearly demonstrates the leadership of the OCC among cultural institutions in Athens. To redesign their lobby spaces, the OCC held a competition among selected Greek architectural firms and this was invaluable, just on its own. We would be delighted if that happened more often! The OCC took the risk of inviting people whose work they had noticed somewhere, somehow – and it was through this process that we were selected to take up the project and elaborate on this specific proposal. I also feel compelled to say that the OCC displayed a great deal of courage in backing up a proposal which was apparently challenging. What I mean is that, now, when everything seems to be in place and working according to the plan, one might think it was all easy; this is absolutely not the case. Having their full support on such a project from the very beginning was anything but self-evident; listening to us architects say that “we will do those objects in black steel” required a lot of stomach on the client’s behalf – which it turns out that they had. The OCC clearly showed they were fully aware of the role they had to play in the city: Pushing things forward. It was not an “aesthetic” matter; the OCC showed how deeply they understood that their own mission was to define a whole new sensibility. They had the resources to pursue this - and they did. From my point of view, that was the most exhilarating aspect of the whole process. One other extremely happy occurrence for us was when we saw the audience openly embrace the change in the OCC; it is clear by now this can be deemed a big success and it immediately led us into talks on expanding the project in a number of other areas. For example, the first addition we aspire to make involves the space of the bar, which is a difficult one. It clearly needs better intertwining with the rest of the lobby. Additionally, the upper levels have already started to display a number of structures in the new vocabulary; gradually, this will become viral and will remodel the whole building. The lobby itself was no easy task, it’s not just about ticketing: First and foremost, a lobby needs a program. In the end, all those things we suggested together with Double Decker (who are a London-based curating agency directed by Melita Skamnaki and William Finger and are frequent collaborators of the Design Museum) will find their rightful place. Our collaboration with Double Decker was based upon a programmatic agreement; far from giving in to the impulse of doing “architecture and design”, we needed to lay out the program that would, as a matter of fact, “crumple the image”.

 
photography @george fakaros 
This is very interesting and raises very high hopes: More often than not, architects are merely expected to provide an “image”, while that is but one aspect of the job; perhaps the most visible one, but it can barely endure if it does not rely upon a solidly laid-out programmatic scheme. How did you, as architects, sustain your own argument against the already stated programmatic requirements of the OCC? It goes without saying, in order to win a competition, one has got to be convincing, even when the image has not been consolidated yet. Communicating through the dazzle of images sometimes helps, but in some other cases it all but misses the point; was there a particular strategy of communication you developed as an architectural practice in this project?
I believe that we won the competition when, talking over the first ideas, we pointed out that certain things would simply had to be forgotten. In the beginning the OCC thought there was a number of “hard” programmatic needs to be accommodated – for instance, the perpetual problem of queuing up at the counter. We told them that we understand the OCC as something bigger and more significant. We were able to convince that the stakes went further than merely resolving the problem of the ticket queue – which is crucial, of course – or “making the space look warmer”. The OCC needed to take things one step beyond and open up to events and activities that would invite people in. Furthermore, we told that we are architects and that from our experience in London (because our practice is based there and we have the opportunity to observe a number of such buildings already in operation) we could locate and collaborate with competent professionals in the field of curating with the necessary know-how for such an enterprise. Double Decker, to be precise, mostly work with wrap-around programs in Museums – which means that a Museum, beyond its formal statement, branches out into a number of different activities. We said that we will open up the debate and elaborate on a broader vision of what could take place here; and it was precisely then that the fantastic idea of the “talent wall” came up, together with a number of others. So we circumvented the restrictions of a “typical” programmatic scheme and managed to avoid the mere “accommodating of functional requirements” that was being asked of us; instead, we opened up a broader debate with the audience and invited people in. I believe that was the kind of argument that worked. Suddenly it becomes less important whether this is all carried out in black steel or in pink plastic; what counts is that something new and unexpected is taking place here, and this invites people to participate. Take for example the pop-up store: Say you are a young entrepreneur, you have an idea to start up with and you get invited by the OCC to distribute your product at their premises for one month or three consecutive ones; or you are a young graduate from a University in Greece under the present situation, you feel the urge to display your work somewhere and then you are provided with this substantial little stage together with unexpected visibility… I honestly believe this is the major success of the project and this is way above and beyond design – which, at the end of the day, remains there for anyone to see and judge according to their own individual tastes.

photography @george fakaros 
I am very happy to hear this because not many people think that way. The fact still remains that design in this case is anything but secondary; those “found objects” all around the lobby have a very strong visual presence in this space – yet they are interactive. What kind of technology did you use? Take, for example, this new video wall you suggested; this communicates with the city in a dynamic way, possibly through the web; and all those metal structures that look wrinkled do create spaces for informal events indeed, however they look quite simple to execute; or are they not?
Do you mean simple to build? Now that is a very interesting question. What is simple today and what is not, in the light of current technology… Let me say just one thing: We have carried out a lot of very complex and demanding projects at the office and we are very familiar with much larger scales – from the Doxiadis building which is one of the large scale projects, to very large hotels. Well, this is one of the most complicated things we have ever done. Ever. Behind this perceived simplicity, there is enormous complexity and a lot of overlapping or contradicting requirements that all needed to be met. To be able to design such a project in order for it to perform as it should, one needs to carry out work in a bewildering number of different levels. First, all those seemingly fragmented and “simple” structures needed to create space. To be able to resolve that, we needed to return to absolutely fundamental tools. We had a scale model built inside the office in 1:20 – try to imagine that, it was taking up half of our available room – because on the one hand all those objects needed to be placed in the right configuration for them to create space; if you look at it from here, it’s an enclosure. How each individual item twists and turns and faces all the rest though creates a very complex network of relations. It was impossible to conceive that by design means, unless we literally put ourselves inside there! So the first tool was a 1:20 scale model where those items were placed and tested – and there were 20 or 30 alternatives to each one of them. The objective was to have space created by the way they were put in there, to have this “container” which now looks perfectly clear, while on the other hand each structure had to meet up with rigid functional standards: For instance, the counter had to be that tall and be protected for a number of reasons, screens had to be at a specific height and angle and be of a given size etc. So, on the one hand there were “sculptural” requirements and on the other one, strict functionality and precision. That part of the problem once resolved, there still needed to be absolutely exact construction drawings made, and that was one long and painstaking process. Each item was drawn in 3d simulation where all of the minute construction details had to be provided, in a number of different stages of development and implementation. How those things in such geometries would come together had to be reviewed in the greatest detail and the end result would have to meet the quality standards of furniture. To have those oblique lines converging upon very specific points, in very specific ways, had us compelled to visualize the whole scenario of construction. In doing that, I couldn’t stress enough on how much we profited from the expertise of Manos Vardonarakis, an industrial designer specializing in metal – probably the best one we are aware of in this country. It is largely thanks to him that everything is so well-detailed.

This is evident to the naked eye at close inspection. However, those structures are not exactly modular neither do they seem standardized at first glance – though there are clearly rules at work here. What were they? I understand that this whole geometry stems out directly from the original idea that “the OCC crumples its image” and this is manifest in a very direct and successful manner. Still, all of this had to be rationalized somehow in order for it to be drawn with precision and from there, to find its way into construction; there had to be rules devised in order to make possible all those absolutely specific decisions.
How we folded those surfaces is the result of how one sees, at the moment one enters the space and also, of how one sees from the inside out. Upon the moment of entry, one should be provided with a comprehensive overview. At the same time, there is a conversation established between inside and outside – previously that relationship was rather awkward, one felt either inside or outside and those structures came to provide a connection, by leading the gaze in specific directions. They facilitate an effective communication between spaces by subtle manipulations of vision.

photography @george fakaros 
… You have designed all the folds as if your solids were cut through by viewing angles.
Exactly, fields of view and vanishing points were the first thing to consider systematically. The second one was the whole relation between the objects that were required to form an enclosure. There were functional aspects involved here; for instance, the optimal position of the screen or the views from inside the bar, as well as the movement of a rather large crowd inside the space – this had to be guided and channeled somehow because, previously, everything was rather disorienting and resulted in awkwardness. Another huge imposition was that we couldn’t really touch upon anything inside the building! All those objects had to be entirely self-bearing and, at the same time, they had to create space without charging the building’s structural system or interfering with any of the technical installations. That was very challenging. Furthermore, as soon as we had the geometry consolidated, we had to figure out a way of having everything prefabricated off-site, because the OCC could not interrupt its function for us to occupy the whole area of the lobby with construction work. Prefabrication prescribed a way of standardization. While each object is indeed unique, they all do follow the same typical system. There are always two sides bearing the structural frame while the rest hatch out as trap doors: Those had to be assembled separately and then they had to be brought here, pieced together and sealed on site; at the same time, they had to remain able to be opened when necessary, because, on the inside, there are installations running. Therefore, each structure has one face that can open every time anything needs to be fixed. That was a problem very difficult to solve.

photography @george fakaros
 
While deciding upon the final layout of the whole space, did you take under consideration any existing design method that has to do with human behavior and vision – space syntax, for instance?
Not quite; at least, not “formally”. The more we worked with the space, the more its very own parameters sprung up and became clear. What was important in the end was that, by way of connecting all those things, on the one hand there was a spatial narrative established inside the lobby – namely, an enclosure – while on the other one, we found a great number and variety of backdrops and intimate niches, like the one we’re sitting in at the moment, having this quiet conversation. The space has enormous potential. All this evolves as a very dynamic situation and, as a result, the OCC discovers a new identity; quite literally, as we say, the OCC “reinvents” itself. That is the major success. Each step led to the next, new potential was activated and, as a result, now we find ourselves in the position of having talks about expanding to the rest of the floors. This is what I consider to be successful design: Whatever pushes things forward, takes the brief one step beyond and brings to the surface new possibilities, allows for ideas to emerge.

photography @george fakaros 
Clearly; one assumes that the success of this design will be put to the final test when a large number of people find themselves inside here and begin to “dance” - all of this stages a particular choreography by means of the objects; the eye gets attracted and then people begin to perform.
Indeed, we had the chance to witness this very recently, when the TED event was held here and there were a lot of participants. It was very interesting to observe how the crowd at the TED actually behaved; how people started to move in here, or how they stood still, how they made groups and how they positioned themselves in relation to the screen… They seemed to welcome the new lobby and to like it very much. As about ourselves, of course, we were truly happy, it was a major first test and we were left with the impression that it all went very well. Certainly, this new situation could be expanded with more “episodes”, there is a perpetual flow of new potential. It’s very interesting to observe how such buildings operate in other cities, things always seem to “keep happening”. They become incubators, inside which things keep happening far beyond their formal statement; that was the major stake for the OCC as well. The OCC undoubtedly has a spectacular schedule of events, but the question remains, what happens the rest of the time? For instance, in London, at the South Bank, there is a number of such cultural facilities where things “keep happening” - the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theater… Their biggest success is that, beyond the stage events, on weekdays, they remain full of people - parents with their children, professionals who come with a laptop because they like to sit in there and work or use them as a meeting point… This is the stake for the OCC: To place a number of catalysts that will expand the program and attract people at all times; to become a true hub for the whole city. Because if you go once and you like it, and then you come again and bring your friends along, it all becomes inscribed in the life of the city. The OCC is a shelter – this is actually what its name in Greek, ‘Stegi’, stands for: Shelter – that was our point of departure in the first place. The OCC should be able to shelter informal, unexpected activities beyond the schedule, inside an accommodating environment that will feel nice precisely because it keeps sparking up new ideas. We merely set the grounds for a debate we are sure the OCC will take much further, because they have just the right people to do so. To conclude, perhaps, this is the way we understand our own participation in any project.
Thank you!

Credits:

Design: Divercity (www.divercityarchitects.com)
Curatorial concept & signage: Double Decker(www.double-decker.org.uk)Industrial design consultant: Manos Vordonarakis
Competition Consultant: DESIGNLOBBY (Vassilios P Bartzokas)
 
Photography George Fakaros
The project calls for the redesign of the entrance and lobby spaces of the Onassis Cultural Center (www.sgt.gr), a new cultural hub in Athens designed by Architecture Studio.
The Center hosts events and actions across the whole spectrum of the arts from theater, dance, music and the visual arts to the written word, with an emphasis on contemporary cultural expression, on supporting Greek artists, on cultivating international collaborations and on educating children and people of all ages through life-long learning.Our design strategy transforms the lobby space into a ‘shelter' (a 'stegi' In Greek) in the city: a space that can work in addition to the formal program of the Cultural Center A series of bespoke installations wrap around the building’s existing structural elements and spark a dynamic relationship between the three key characteristics of the shelter; the physical space, the digital experience and a series of specially curated wrap-around events.
One is dedicated to showcase portfolios of young creatives, another becomes a pop-up store, curated by Yatzer's chief editor Costas Voyatzis while a third takes the more humble role of providing a meeting corner. The aim is to create a vibrant all day hub that will appeal to the Onassis Cultural Center’s ever increasing dynamic and diverse crowd.
The design of these new installations is inspired by the distinct language of the existing facade. The white marble louvers on the exterior (by Architecture Studio) are kinked to form the structures that wrap around the lobby’s existing elements. They are carefully choreographed in response to the existing building and to the flow of people to provide areas of rest and pause as well as cater for their main functions, which include the ticket desks, info points, signage, video walls, etc.
EXCLUSIVE: REDESIGN OF THE ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTER ENTRANCE AND LOBBY SPACES BY DIVERCITY ARCHITECTS
Stavros Martinos

Nikolas Travasaros of Divercity Architectstalks to Stavros Martinos on the ideas and challenges behind the redesign of the Onassis Cultural Center entrance and lobby spaces; Divercity elaborate on a bold and sophisticated proposal that will completely change the face of Athens’ undisputed leader in cultural innovation.

 
 
 
 photography @george fakaros
 
 
Hello Nikolas; we are absolutely thrilled and very grateful that Divercity chose Archisearch.gr for the first detailed presentation of the OCC redesign. The space already looks very stimulating, to say the least. The first thing anyone familiar with the building will notice is this new array of folded black solids all around the entrance and lobby. What was the idea in the first place?
It all started with a brief asking for very specific things; the OCC begun with two requests. The first one was to accommodate a number of functional requirements, such as rearranging the counters and better channeling the flow of visitors. At the same time, there were needs for an enhanced program that would transform the OCC reception areas into a living space rather than the typical “art venue” – those turned out to be a pop-up store that will be handed over to different retailers every month or so, one main info point, as well as a number of other supplementary uses that will support the proper function of the reception area; none of this was there. So, first and foremost, this functional aspect had to be taken care of. However, there was another request; the OCC were explicitly asking for a more urbane, rough-cut and ‘crumpled’ image, on the upside of being untouchable. What they meant was that there was a perceived discrepancy between what had started to consolidate as the OCC audience and the actual building. This is perfectly understandable; when the OCC was first launched as a new cultural institution in Athens, nobody could really tell which direction things would take and this naturally made it difficult for design to be relevant from the start. However, as the OCC matured on its identity and begun to get identified with an actual audience, the character of the lobby was clearly not getting the message through. This had to be ‘crumpled’; and we took it at face value.

photography @george fakaros 
First, there was already this facade carried out in marble louvers that we really liked – the pristine geometry of that “box”. Then, the “crumple effect” had to infiltrate the space; all those geometries originate in the idea of the louvered facade. So, the crumpling begins with literally crumpling the louvers – which is tongue-in-cheek, of course, this could be no serious architectural argument; what is serious, however, is that crumpling created backdrops, which could indeed accommodate all those things that we wanted. By crumpling we actually begun to fold space – to throw in some more conventional jargon here – and those folds were receptive to programmatic additions. A dynamic debate took off right after the first phase of the project was complete and this is all but the beginning of a number of interventions that will take place here.

Materiality was a key consideration: The choice of dark-coated steel plates comes to counterbalance, if we may say so, the shine of the materials already applied here – the marble, for example, on the ceiling or the floor… Now, the steel plates, with all their rusty ends and natural blemishes, immediately become more inviting; it’ s a rough-cut material that wrinkles and soils and does not deter one from coming closer. That was the idea of how the space should feel.
To get into more detail, one parallel consideration that kept informing our decisions was the explicit desire of the OCC to “open up to the city”: All those “found objects” inside the entrance and the lobby were considered as snapshots or instances of what one might actually come across in the city outside; in that respect, the contribution by our collaborators at the Double Decker creative agency has been invaluable. They came up with a lot of fantastic ideas on what the use of those solids could be, in fact. As a whole, all of this deals with an aggregation of things that constitute a spatial narrative and contribute into making the whole place more inviting and informal, while evoking a sensation upon one’s entry to the lobby – because the lobby did have to deal with that issue indeed. By now, the OCC has begun to get deeply grafted into the collective memory of the city; it is a very active presence and always provides an exceptionally high-quality, cutting edge schedule of events; as a consequence, the perceived disjunction between the actual audience and the awkward feeling one got upon entering the building could be no more.

photography @george fakaros 
Moveable furniture is another interesting aspect and the idea behind its new arrangement is not clearly visible yet; for instance, a number of informal sitting areas will be at close proximity with an open display of hard to find magazines from around the world – the lobby will be the place to sit and skim those through. Right beside, there will be the “wall of talent”: The OCC will invite a number of young creatives - recent graduates or postgraduate students in the arts and design – to showcase their portfolios, which will be openly available to the visiting public. What we design is the infrastructure for the OCC to accomplish its mission, which is none other than opening up to the city on all different levels. Even further beside, the pop-up store will not be a mere shop selling OCC memorabilia but will be handed over every number of months to very different people, under the curatorial supervision of Yatzer's Costas Voyatzis; for instance, one time there might be someone selling their new book on a particular topic, then there might be young designers without their own sales network which could be provided with the opportunity to set up shop inside the OCC and showcase their work… Across the lobby, by the entrance, there will be a blackboard for kids to draw with chalk and play around. As a whole, the OCC has initiated a procedure that will completely transform the spaces in the building.

 
photography @george fakaros 
The redesign of the OCC was the result of an invite-only competition organized with the assistance and consultancy of theDesignlobbycreative agency, and you were the competition winners. How was the competition experience to you?
I believe this initiative was of the utmost importance and it clearly demonstrates the leadership of the OCC among cultural institutions in Athens. To redesign their lobby spaces, the OCC held a competition among selected Greek architectural firms and this was invaluable, just on its own. We would be delighted if that happened more often! The OCC took the risk of inviting people whose work they had noticed somewhere, somehow – and it was through this process that we were selected to take up the project and elaborate on this specific proposal. I also feel compelled to say that the OCC displayed a great deal of courage in backing up a proposal which was apparently challenging. What I mean is that, now, when everything seems to be in place and working according to the plan, one might think it was all easy; this is absolutely not the case. Having their full support on such a project from the very beginning was anything but self-evident; listening to us architects say that “we will do those objects in black steel” required a lot of stomach on the client’s behalf – which it turns out that they had. The OCC clearly showed they were fully aware of the role they had to play in the city: Pushing things forward. It was not an “aesthetic” matter; the OCC showed how deeply they understood that their own mission was to define a whole new sensibility. They had the resources to pursue this - and they did. From my point of view, that was the most exhilarating aspect of the whole process. One other extremely happy occurrence for us was when we saw the audience openly embrace the change in the OCC; it is clear by now this can be deemed a big success and it immediately led us into talks on expanding the project in a number of other areas. For example, the first addition we aspire to make involves the space of the bar, which is a difficult one. It clearly needs better intertwining with the rest of the lobby. Additionally, the upper levels have already started to display a number of structures in the new vocabulary; gradually, this will become viral and will remodel the whole building. The lobby itself was no easy task, it’s not just about ticketing: First and foremost, a lobby needs a program. In the end, all those things we suggested together with Double Decker (who are a London-based curating agency directed by Melita Skamnaki and William Finger and are frequent collaborators of the Design Museum) will find their rightful place. Our collaboration with Double Decker was based upon a programmatic agreement; far from giving in to the impulse of doing “architecture and design”, we needed to lay out the program that would, as a matter of fact, “crumple the image”.

 
photography @george fakaros 
This is very interesting and raises very high hopes: More often than not, architects are merely expected to provide an “image”, while that is but one aspect of the job; perhaps the most visible one, but it can barely endure if it does not rely upon a solidly laid-out programmatic scheme. How did you, as architects, sustain your own argument against the already stated programmatic requirements of the OCC? It goes without saying, in order to win a competition, one has got to be convincing, even when the image has not been consolidated yet. Communicating through the dazzle of images sometimes helps, but in some other cases it all but misses the point; was there a particular strategy of communication you developed as an architectural practice in this project?
I believe that we won the competition when, talking over the first ideas, we pointed out that certain things would simply had to be forgotten. In the beginning the OCC thought there was a number of “hard” programmatic needs to be accommodated – for instance, the perpetual problem of queuing up at the counter. We told them that we understand the OCC as something bigger and more significant. We were able to convince that the stakes went further than merely resolving the problem of the ticket queue – which is crucial, of course – or “making the space look warmer”. The OCC needed to take things one step beyond and open up to events and activities that would invite people in. Furthermore, we told that we are architects and that from our experience in London (because our practice is based there and we have the opportunity to observe a number of such buildings already in operation) we could locate and collaborate with competent professionals in the field of curating with the necessary know-how for such an enterprise. Double Decker, to be precise, mostly work with wrap-around programs in Museums – which means that a Museum, beyond its formal statement, branches out into a number of different activities. We said that we will open up the debate and elaborate on a broader vision of what could take place here; and it was precisely then that the fantastic idea of the “talent wall” came up, together with a number of others. So we circumvented the restrictions of a “typical” programmatic scheme and managed to avoid the mere “accommodating of functional requirements” that was being asked of us; instead, we opened up a broader debate with the audience and invited people in. I believe that was the kind of argument that worked. Suddenly it becomes less important whether this is all carried out in black steel or in pink plastic; what counts is that something new and unexpected is taking place here, and this invites people to participate. Take for example the pop-up store: Say you are a young entrepreneur, you have an idea to start up with and you get invited by the OCC to distribute your product at their premises for one month or three consecutive ones; or you are a young graduate from a University in Greece under the present situation, you feel the urge to display your work somewhere and then you are provided with this substantial little stage together with unexpected visibility… I honestly believe this is the major success of the project and this is way above and beyond design – which, at the end of the day, remains there for anyone to see and judge according to their own individual tastes.

photography @george fakaros 
I am very happy to hear this because not many people think that way. The fact still remains that design in this case is anything but secondary; those “found objects” all around the lobby have a very strong visual presence in this space – yet they are interactive. What kind of technology did you use? Take, for example, this new video wall you suggested; this communicates with the city in a dynamic way, possibly through the web; and all those metal structures that look wrinkled do create spaces for informal events indeed, however they look quite simple to execute; or are they not?
Do you mean simple to build? Now that is a very interesting question. What is simple today and what is not, in the light of current technology… Let me say just one thing: We have carried out a lot of very complex and demanding projects at the office and we are very familiar with much larger scales – from the Doxiadis building which is one of the large scale projects, to very large hotels. Well, this is one of the most complicated things we have ever done. Ever. Behind this perceived simplicity, there is enormous complexity and a lot of overlapping or contradicting requirements that all needed to be met. To be able to design such a project in order for it to perform as it should, one needs to carry out work in a bewildering number of different levels. First, all those seemingly fragmented and “simple” structures needed to create space. To be able to resolve that, we needed to return to absolutely fundamental tools. We had a scale model built inside the office in 1:20 – try to imagine that, it was taking up half of our available room – because on the one hand all those objects needed to be placed in the right configuration for them to create space; if you look at it from here, it’s an enclosure. How each individual item twists and turns and faces all the rest though creates a very complex network of relations. It was impossible to conceive that by design means, unless we literally put ourselves inside there! So the first tool was a 1:20 scale model where those items were placed and tested – and there were 20 or 30 alternatives to each one of them. The objective was to have space created by the way they were put in there, to have this “container” which now looks perfectly clear, while on the other hand each structure had to meet up with rigid functional standards: For instance, the counter had to be that tall and be protected for a number of reasons, screens had to be at a specific height and angle and be of a given size etc. So, on the one hand there were “sculptural” requirements and on the other one, strict functionality and precision. That part of the problem once resolved, there still needed to be absolutely exact construction drawings made, and that was one long and painstaking process. Each item was drawn in 3d simulation where all of the minute construction details had to be provided, in a number of different stages of development and implementation. How those things in such geometries would come together had to be reviewed in the greatest detail and the end result would have to meet the quality standards of furniture. To have those oblique lines converging upon very specific points, in very specific ways, had us compelled to visualize the whole scenario of construction. In doing that, I couldn’t stress enough on how much we profited from the expertise of Manos Vardonarakis, an industrial designer specializing in metal – probably the best one we are aware of in this country. It is largely thanks to him that everything is so well-detailed.

This is evident to the naked eye at close inspection. However, those structures are not exactly modular neither do they seem standardized at first glance – though there are clearly rules at work here. What were they? I understand that this whole geometry stems out directly from the original idea that “the OCC crumples its image” and this is manifest in a very direct and successful manner. Still, all of this had to be rationalized somehow in order for it to be drawn with precision and from there, to find its way into construction; there had to be rules devised in order to make possible all those absolutely specific decisions.
How we folded those surfaces is the result of how one sees, at the moment one enters the space and also, of how one sees from the inside out. Upon the moment of entry, one should be provided with a comprehensive overview. At the same time, there is a conversation established between inside and outside – previously that relationship was rather awkward, one felt either inside or outside and those structures came to provide a connection, by leading the gaze in specific directions. They facilitate an effective communication between spaces by subtle manipulations of vision.

photography @george fakaros 
… You have designed all the folds as if your solids were cut through by viewing angles.
Exactly, fields of view and vanishing points were the first thing to consider systematically. The second one was the whole relation between the objects that were required to form an enclosure. There were functional aspects involved here; for instance, the optimal position of the screen or the views from inside the bar, as well as the movement of a rather large crowd inside the space – this had to be guided and channeled somehow because, previously, everything was rather disorienting and resulted in awkwardness. Another huge imposition was that we couldn’t really touch upon anything inside the building! All those objects had to be entirely self-bearing and, at the same time, they had to create space without charging the building’s structural system or interfering with any of the technical installations. That was very challenging. Furthermore, as soon as we had the geometry consolidated, we had to figure out a way of having everything prefabricated off-site, because the OCC could not interrupt its function for us to occupy the whole area of the lobby with construction work. Prefabrication prescribed a way of standardization. While each object is indeed unique, they all do follow the same typical system. There are always two sides bearing the structural frame while the rest hatch out as trap doors: Those had to be assembled separately and then they had to be brought here, pieced together and sealed on site; at the same time, they had to remain able to be opened when necessary, because, on the inside, there are installations running. Therefore, each structure has one face that can open every time anything needs to be fixed. That was a problem very difficult to solve.

photography @george fakaros
 
While deciding upon the final layout of the whole space, did you take under consideration any existing design method that has to do with human behavior and vision – space syntax, for instance?
Not quite; at least, not “formally”. The more we worked with the space, the more its very own parameters sprung up and became clear. What was important in the end was that, by way of connecting all those things, on the one hand there was a spatial narrative established inside the lobby – namely, an enclosure – while on the other one, we found a great number and variety of backdrops and intimate niches, like the one we’re sitting in at the moment, having this quiet conversation. The space has enormous potential. All this evolves as a very dynamic situation and, as a result, the OCC discovers a new identity; quite literally, as we say, the OCC “reinvents” itself. That is the major success. Each step led to the next, new potential was activated and, as a result, now we find ourselves in the position of having talks about expanding to the rest of the floors. This is what I consider to be successful design: Whatever pushes things forward, takes the brief one step beyond and brings to the surface new possibilities, allows for ideas to emerge.

photography @george fakaros 
Clearly; one assumes that the success of this design will be put to the final test when a large number of people find themselves inside here and begin to “dance” - all of this stages a particular choreography by means of the objects; the eye gets attracted and then people begin to perform.
Indeed, we had the chance to witness this very recently, when the TED event was held here and there were a lot of participants. It was very interesting to observe how the crowd at the TED actually behaved; how people started to move in here, or how they stood still, how they made groups and how they positioned themselves in relation to the screen… They seemed to welcome the new lobby and to like it very much. As about ourselves, of course, we were truly happy, it was a major first test and we were left with the impression that it all went very well. Certainly, this new situation could be expanded with more “episodes”, there is a perpetual flow of new potential. It’s very interesting to observe how such buildings operate in other cities, things always seem to “keep happening”. They become incubators, inside which things keep happening far beyond their formal statement; that was the major stake for the OCC as well. The OCC undoubtedly has a spectacular schedule of events, but the question remains, what happens the rest of the time? For instance, in London, at the South Bank, there is a number of such cultural facilities where things “keep happening” - the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theater… Their biggest success is that, beyond the stage events, on weekdays, they remain full of people - parents with their children, professionals who come with a laptop because they like to sit in there and work or use them as a meeting point… This is the stake for the OCC: To place a number of catalysts that will expand the program and attract people at all times; to become a true hub for the whole city. Because if you go once and you like it, and then you come again and bring your friends along, it all becomes inscribed in the life of the city. The OCC is a shelter – this is actually what its name in Greek, ‘Stegi’, stands for: Shelter – that was our point of departure in the first place. The OCC should be able to shelter informal, unexpected activities beyond the schedule, inside an accommodating environment that will feel nice precisely because it keeps sparking up new ideas. We merely set the grounds for a debate we are sure the OCC will take much further, because they have just the right people to do so. To conclude, perhaps, this is the way we understand our own participation in any project.
Thank you!

Credits:

Design: Divercity (www.divercityarchitects.com)
Curatorial concept & signage: Double Decker(www.double-decker.org.uk)Industrial design consultant: Manos Vordonarakis
Competition Consultant: DESIGNLOBBY (Vassilios P Bartzokas)
 
Photography George Fakaros
The project calls for the redesign of the entrance and lobby spaces of the Onassis Cultural Center (www.sgt.gr), a new cultural hub in Athens designed by Architecture Studio.
The Center hosts events and actions across the whole spectrum of the arts from theater, dance, music and the visual arts to the written word, with an emphasis on contemporary cultural expression, on supporting Greek artists, on cultivating international collaborations and on educating children and people of all ages through life-long learning.Our design strategy transforms the lobby space into a ‘shelter' (a 'stegi' In Greek) in the city: a space that can work in addition to the formal program of the Cultural Center A series of bespoke installations wrap around the building’s existing structural elements and spark a dynamic relationship between the three key characteristics of the shelter; the physical space, the digital experience and a series of specially curated wrap-around events.
One is dedicated to showcase portfolios of young creatives, another becomes a pop-up store, curated by Yatzer's chief editor Costas Voyatzis while a third takes the more humble role of providing a meeting corner. The aim is to create a vibrant all day hub that will appeal to the Onassis Cultural Center’s ever increasing dynamic and diverse crowd.
The design of these new installations is inspired by the distinct language of the existing facade. The white marble louvers on the exterior (by Architecture Studio) are kinked to form the structures that wrap around the lobby’s existing elements. They are carefully choreographed in response to the existing building and to the flow of people to provide areas of rest and pause as well as cater for their main functions, which include the ticket desks, info points, signage, video walls, etc.
EXCLUSIVE: REDESIGN OF THE ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTER ENTRANCE AND LOBBY SPACES BY DIVERCITY ARCHITECTS
Stavros Martinos

Nikolas Travasaros of Divercity Architectstalks to Stavros Martinos on the ideas and challenges behind the redesign of the Onassis Cultural Center entrance and lobby spaces; Divercity elaborate on a bold and sophisticated proposal that will completely change the face of Athens’ undisputed leader in cultural innovation.

 
 
 
 photography @george fakaros
 
 
Hello Nikolas; we are absolutely thrilled and very grateful that Divercity chose Archisearch.gr for the first detailed presentation of the OCC redesign. The space already looks very stimulating, to say the least. The first thing anyone familiar with the building will notice is this new array of folded black solids all around the entrance and lobby. What was the idea in the first place?
It all started with a brief asking for very specific things; the OCC begun with two requests. The first one was to accommodate a number of functional requirements, such as rearranging the counters and better channeling the flow of visitors. At the same time, there were needs for an enhanced program that would transform the OCC reception areas into a living space rather than the typical “art venue” – those turned out to be a pop-up store that will be handed over to different retailers every month or so, one main info point, as well as a number of other supplementary uses that will support the proper function of the reception area; none of this was there. So, first and foremost, this functional aspect had to be taken care of. However, there was another request; the OCC were explicitly asking for a more urbane, rough-cut and ‘crumpled’ image, on the upside of being untouchable. What they meant was that there was a perceived discrepancy between what had started to consolidate as the OCC audience and the actual building. This is perfectly understandable; when the OCC was first launched as a new cultural institution in Athens, nobody could really tell which direction things would take and this naturally made it difficult for design to be relevant from the start. However, as the OCC matured on its identity and begun to get identified with an actual audience, the character of the lobby was clearly not getting the message through. This had to be ‘crumpled’; and we took it at face value.

photography @george fakaros 
First, there was already this facade carried out in marble louvers that we really liked – the pristine geometry of that “box”. Then, the “crumple effect” had to infiltrate the space; all those geometries originate in the idea of the louvered facade. So, the crumpling begins with literally crumpling the louvers – which is tongue-in-cheek, of course, this could be no serious architectural argument; what is serious, however, is that crumpling created backdrops, which could indeed accommodate all those things that we wanted. By crumpling we actually begun to fold space – to throw in some more conventional jargon here – and those folds were receptive to programmatic additions. A dynamic debate took off right after the first phase of the project was complete and this is all but the beginning of a number of interventions that will take place here.

Materiality was a key consideration: The choice of dark-coated steel plates comes to counterbalance, if we may say so, the shine of the materials already applied here – the marble, for example, on the ceiling or the floor… Now, the steel plates, with all their rusty ends and natural blemishes, immediately become more inviting; it’ s a rough-cut material that wrinkles and soils and does not deter one from coming closer. That was the idea of how the space should feel.
To get into more detail, one parallel consideration that kept informing our decisions was the explicit desire of the OCC to “open up to the city”: All those “found objects” inside the entrance and the lobby were considered as snapshots or instances of what one might actually come across in the city outside; in that respect, the contribution by our collaborators at the Double Decker creative agency has been invaluable. They came up with a lot of fantastic ideas on what the use of those solids could be, in fact. As a whole, all of this deals with an aggregation of things that constitute a spatial narrative and contribute into making the whole place more inviting and informal, while evoking a sensation upon one’s entry to the lobby – because the lobby did have to deal with that issue indeed. By now, the OCC has begun to get deeply grafted into the collective memory of the city; it is a very active presence and always provides an exceptionally high-quality, cutting edge schedule of events; as a consequence, the perceived disjunction between the actual audience and the awkward feeling one got upon entering the building could be no more.

photography @george fakaros 
Moveable furniture is another interesting aspect and the idea behind its new arrangement is not clearly visible yet; for instance, a number of informal sitting areas will be at close proximity with an open display of hard to find magazines from around the world – the lobby will be the place to sit and skim those through. Right beside, there will be the “wall of talent”: The OCC will invite a number of young creatives - recent graduates or postgraduate students in the arts and design – to showcase their portfolios, which will be openly available to the visiting public. What we design is the infrastructure for the OCC to accomplish its mission, which is none other than opening up to the city on all different levels. Even further beside, the pop-up store will not be a mere shop selling OCC memorabilia but will be handed over every number of months to very different people, under the curatorial supervision of Yatzer's Costas Voyatzis; for instance, one time there might be someone selling their new book on a particular topic, then there might be young designers without their own sales network which could be provided with the opportunity to set up shop inside the OCC and showcase their work… Across the lobby, by the entrance, there will be a blackboard for kids to draw with chalk and play around. As a whole, the OCC has initiated a procedure that will completely transform the spaces in the building.

 
photography @george fakaros 
The redesign of the OCC was the result of an invite-only competition organized with the assistance and consultancy of theDesignlobbycreative agency, and you were the competition winners. How was the competition experience to you?
I believe this initiative was of the utmost importance and it clearly demonstrates the leadership of the OCC among cultural institutions in Athens. To redesign their lobby spaces, the OCC held a competition among selected Greek architectural firms and this was invaluable, just on its own. We would be delighted if that happened more often! The OCC took the risk of inviting people whose work they had noticed somewhere, somehow – and it was through this process that we were selected to take up the project and elaborate on this specific proposal. I also feel compelled to say that the OCC displayed a great deal of courage in backing up a proposal which was apparently challenging. What I mean is that, now, when everything seems to be in place and working according to the plan, one might think it was all easy; this is absolutely not the case. Having their full support on such a project from the very beginning was anything but self-evident; listening to us architects say that “we will do those objects in black steel” required a lot of stomach on the client’s behalf – which it turns out that they had. The OCC clearly showed they were fully aware of the role they had to play in the city: Pushing things forward. It was not an “aesthetic” matter; the OCC showed how deeply they understood that their own mission was to define a whole new sensibility. They had the resources to pursue this - and they did. From my point of view, that was the most exhilarating aspect of the whole process. One other extremely happy occurrence for us was when we saw the audience openly embrace the change in the OCC; it is clear by now this can be deemed a big success and it immediately led us into talks on expanding the project in a number of other areas. For example, the first addition we aspire to make involves the space of the bar, which is a difficult one. It clearly needs better intertwining with the rest of the lobby. Additionally, the upper levels have already started to display a number of structures in the new vocabulary; gradually, this will become viral and will remodel the whole building. The lobby itself was no easy task, it’s not just about ticketing: First and foremost, a lobby needs a program. In the end, all those things we suggested together with Double Decker (who are a London-based curating agency directed by Melita Skamnaki and William Finger and are frequent collaborators of the Design Museum) will find their rightful place. Our collaboration with Double Decker was based upon a programmatic agreement; far from giving in to the impulse of doing “architecture and design”, we needed to lay out the program that would, as a matter of fact, “crumple the image”.

 
photography @george fakaros 
This is very interesting and raises very high hopes: More often than not, architects are merely expected to provide an “image”, while that is but one aspect of the job; perhaps the most visible one, but it can barely endure if it does not rely upon a solidly laid-out programmatic scheme. How did you, as architects, sustain your own argument against the already stated programmatic requirements of the OCC? It goes without saying, in order to win a competition, one has got to be convincing, even when the image has not been consolidated yet. Communicating through the dazzle of images sometimes helps, but in some other cases it all but misses the point; was there a particular strategy of communication you developed as an architectural practice in this project?
I believe that we won the competition when, talking over the first ideas, we pointed out that certain things would simply had to be forgotten. In the beginning the OCC thought there was a number of “hard” programmatic needs to be accommodated – for instance, the perpetual problem of queuing up at the counter. We told them that we understand the OCC as something bigger and more significant. We were able to convince that the stakes went further than merely resolving the problem of the ticket queue – which is crucial, of course – or “making the space look warmer”. The OCC needed to take things one step beyond and open up to events and activities that would invite people in. Furthermore, we told that we are architects and that from our experience in London (because our practice is based there and we have the opportunity to observe a number of such buildings already in operation) we could locate and collaborate with competent professionals in the field of curating with the necessary know-how for such an enterprise. Double Decker, to be precise, mostly work with wrap-around programs in Museums – which means that a Museum, beyond its formal statement, branches out into a number of different activities. We said that we will open up the debate and elaborate on a broader vision of what could take place here; and it was precisely then that the fantastic idea of the “talent wall” came up, together with a number of others. So we circumvented the restrictions of a “typical” programmatic scheme and managed to avoid the mere “accommodating of functional requirements” that was being asked of us; instead, we opened up a broader debate with the audience and invited people in. I believe that was the kind of argument that worked. Suddenly it becomes less important whether this is all carried out in black steel or in pink plastic; what counts is that something new and unexpected is taking place here, and this invites people to participate. Take for example the pop-up store: Say you are a young entrepreneur, you have an idea to start up with and you get invited by the OCC to distribute your product at their premises for one month or three consecutive ones; or you are a young graduate from a University in Greece under the present situation, you feel the urge to display your work somewhere and then you are provided with this substantial little stage together with unexpected visibility… I honestly believe this is the major success of the project and this is way above and beyond design – which, at the end of the day, remains there for anyone to see and judge according to their own individual tastes.

photography @george fakaros 
I am very happy to hear this because not many people think that way. The fact still remains that design in this case is anything but secondary; those “found objects” all around the lobby have a very strong visual presence in this space – yet they are interactive. What kind of technology did you use? Take, for example, this new video wall you suggested; this communicates with the city in a dynamic way, possibly through the web; and all those metal structures that look wrinkled do create spaces for informal events indeed, however they look quite simple to execute; or are they not?
Do you mean simple to build? Now that is a very interesting question. What is simple today and what is not, in the light of current technology… Let me say just one thing: We have carried out a lot of very complex and demanding projects at the office and we are very familiar with much larger scales – from the Doxiadis building which is one of the large scale projects, to very large hotels. Well, this is one of the most complicated things we have ever done. Ever. Behind this perceived simplicity, there is enormous complexity and a lot of overlapping or contradicting requirements that all needed to be met. To be able to design such a project in order for it to perform as it should, one needs to carry out work in a bewildering number of different levels. First, all those seemingly fragmented and “simple” structures needed to create space. To be able to resolve that, we needed to return to absolutely fundamental tools. We had a scale model built inside the office in 1:20 – try to imagine that, it was taking up half of our available room – because on the one hand all those objects needed to be placed in the right configuration for them to create space; if you look at it from here, it’s an enclosure. How each individual item twists and turns and faces all the rest though creates a very complex network of relations. It was impossible to conceive that by design means, unless we literally put ourselves inside there! So the first tool was a 1:20 scale model where those items were placed and tested – and there were 20 or 30 alternatives to each one of them. The objective was to have space created by the way they were put in there, to have this “container” which now looks perfectly clear, while on the other hand each structure had to meet up with rigid functional standards: For instance, the counter had to be that tall and be protected for a number of reasons, screens had to be at a specific height and angle and be of a given size etc. So, on the one hand there were “sculptural” requirements and on the other one, strict functionality and precision. That part of the problem once resolved, there still needed to be absolutely exact construction drawings made, and that was one long and painstaking process. Each item was drawn in 3d simulation where all of the minute construction details had to be provided, in a number of different stages of development and implementation. How those things in such geometries would come together had to be reviewed in the greatest detail and the end result would have to meet the quality standards of furniture. To have those oblique lines converging upon very specific points, in very specific ways, had us compelled to visualize the whole scenario of construction. In doing that, I couldn’t stress enough on how much we profited from the expertise of Manos Vardonarakis, an industrial designer specializing in metal – probably the best one we are aware of in this country. It is largely thanks to him that everything is so well-detailed.

This is evident to the naked eye at close inspection. However, those structures are not exactly modular neither do they seem standardized at first glance – though there are clearly rules at work here. What were they? I understand that this whole geometry stems out directly from the original idea that “the OCC crumples its image” and this is manifest in a very direct and successful manner. Still, all of this had to be rationalized somehow in order for it to be drawn with precision and from there, to find its way into construction; there had to be rules devised in order to make possible all those absolutely specific decisions.
How we folded those surfaces is the result of how one sees, at the moment one enters the space and also, of how one sees from the inside out. Upon the moment of entry, one should be provided with a comprehensive overview. At the same time, there is a conversation established between inside and outside – previously that relationship was rather awkward, one felt either inside or outside and those structures came to provide a connection, by leading the gaze in specific directions. They facilitate an effective communication between spaces by subtle manipulations of vision.

photography @george fakaros 
… You have designed all the folds as if your solids were cut through by viewing angles.
Exactly, fields of view and vanishing points were the first thing to consider systematically. The second one was the whole relation between the objects that were required to form an enclosure. There were functional aspects involved here; for instance, the optimal position of the screen or the views from inside the bar, as well as the movement of a rather large crowd inside the space – this had to be guided and channeled somehow because, previously, everything was rather disorienting and resulted in awkwardness. Another huge imposition was that we couldn’t really touch upon anything inside the building! All those objects had to be entirely self-bearing and, at the same time, they had to create space without charging the building’s structural system or interfering with any of the technical installations. That was very challenging. Furthermore, as soon as we had the geometry consolidated, we had to figure out a way of having everything prefabricated off-site, because the OCC could not interrupt its function for us to occupy the whole area of the lobby with construction work. Prefabrication prescribed a way of standardization. While each object is indeed unique, they all do follow the same typical system. There are always two sides bearing the structural frame while the rest hatch out as trap doors: Those had to be assembled separately and then they had to be brought here, pieced together and sealed on site; at the same time, they had to remain able to be opened when necessary, because, on the inside, there are installations running. Therefore, each structure has one face that can open every time anything needs to be fixed. That was a problem very difficult to solve.

photography @george fakaros
 
While deciding upon the final layout of the whole space, did you take under consideration any existing design method that has to do with human behavior and vision – space syntax, for instance?
Not quite; at least, not “formally”. The more we worked with the space, the more its very own parameters sprung up and became clear. What was important in the end was that, by way of connecting all those things, on the one hand there was a spatial narrative established inside the lobby – namely, an enclosure – while on the other one, we found a great number and variety of backdrops and intimate niches, like the one we’re sitting in at the moment, having this quiet conversation. The space has enormous potential. All this evolves as a very dynamic situation and, as a result, the OCC discovers a new identity; quite literally, as we say, the OCC “reinvents” itself. That is the major success. Each step led to the next, new potential was activated and, as a result, now we find ourselves in the position of having talks about expanding to the rest of the floors. This is what I consider to be successful design: Whatever pushes things forward, takes the brief one step beyond and brings to the surface new possibilities, allows for ideas to emerge.

photography @george fakaros 
Clearly; one assumes that the success of this design will be put to the final test when a large number of people find themselves inside here and begin to “dance” - all of this stages a particular choreography by means of the objects; the eye gets attracted and then people begin to perform.
Indeed, we had the chance to witness this very recently, when the TED event was held here and there were a lot of participants. It was very interesting to observe how the crowd at the TED actually behaved; how people started to move in here, or how they stood still, how they made groups and how they positioned themselves in relation to the screen… They seemed to welcome the new lobby and to like it very much. As about ourselves, of course, we were truly happy, it was a major first test and we were left with the impression that it all went very well. Certainly, this new situation could be expanded with more “episodes”, there is a perpetual flow of new potential. It’s very interesting to observe how such buildings operate in other cities, things always seem to “keep happening”. They become incubators, inside which things keep happening far beyond their formal statement; that was the major stake for the OCC as well. The OCC undoubtedly has a spectacular schedule of events, but the question remains, what happens the rest of the time? For instance, in London, at the South Bank, there is a number of such cultural facilities where things “keep happening” - the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theater… Their biggest success is that, beyond the stage events, on weekdays, they remain full of people - parents with their children, professionals who come with a laptop because they like to sit in there and work or use them as a meeting point… This is the stake for the OCC: To place a number of catalysts that will expand the program and attract people at all times; to become a true hub for the whole city. Because if you go once and you like it, and then you come again and bring your friends along, it all becomes inscribed in the life of the city. The OCC is a shelter – this is actually what its name in Greek, ‘Stegi’, stands for: Shelter – that was our point of departure in the first place. The OCC should be able to shelter informal, unexpected activities beyond the schedule, inside an accommodating environment that will feel nice precisely because it keeps sparking up new ideas. We merely set the grounds for a debate we are sure the OCC will take much further, because they have just the right people to do so. To conclude, perhaps, this is the way we understand our own participation in any project.
Thank you!

Credits:

Design: Divercity (www.divercityarchitects.com)
Curatorial concept & signage: Double Decker(www.double-decker.org.uk)Industrial design consultant: Manos Vordonarakis
Competition Consultant: DESIGNLOBBY (Vassilios P Bartzokas)
 
Photography George Fakaros
The project calls for the redesign of the entrance and lobby spaces of the Onassis Cultural Center (www.sgt.gr), a new cultural hub in Athens designed by Architecture Studio.
The Center hosts events and actions across the whole spectrum of the arts from theater, dance, music and the visual arts to the written word, with an emphasis on contemporary cultural expression, on supporting Greek artists, on cultivating international collaborations and on educating children and people of all ages through life-long learning.Our design strategy transforms the lobby space into a ‘shelter' (a 'stegi' In Greek) in the city: a space that can work in addition to the formal program of the Cultural Center A series of bespoke installations wrap around the building’s existing structural elements and spark a dynamic relationship between the three key characteristics of the shelter; the physical space, the digital experience and a series of specially curated wrap-around events.
One is dedicated to showcase portfolios of young creatives, another becomes a pop-up store, curated by Yatzer's chief editor Costas Voyatzis while a third takes the more humble role of providing a meeting corner. The aim is to create a vibrant all day hub that will appeal to the Onassis Cultural Center’s ever increasing dynamic and diverse crowd.
The design of these new installations is inspired by the distinct language of the existing facade. The white marble louvers on the exterior (by Architecture Studio) are kinked to form the structures that wrap around the lobby’s existing elements. They are carefully choreographed in response to the existing building and to the flow of people to provide areas of rest and pause as well as cater for their main functions, which include the ticket desks, info points, signage, video walls, etc.
EXCLUSIVE: REDESIGN OF THE ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTER ENTRANCE AND LOBBY SPACES BY DIVERCITY ARCHITECTS
Stavros Martinos

Nikolas Travasaros of Divercity Architectstalks to Stavros Martinos on the ideas and challenges behind the redesign of the Onassis Cultural Center entrance and lobby spaces; Divercity elaborate on a bold and sophisticated proposal that will completely change the face of Athens’ undisputed leader in cultural innovation.

 
 
 
 photography @george fakaros
 
 
Hello Nikolas; we are absolutely thrilled and very grateful that Divercity chose Archisearch.gr for the first detailed presentation of the OCC redesign. The space already looks very stimulating, to say the least. The first thing anyone familiar with the building will notice is this new array of folded black solids all around the entrance and lobby. What was the idea in the first place?
It all started with a brief asking for very specific things; the OCC begun with two requests. The first one was to accommodate a number of functional requirements, such as rearranging the counters and better channeling the flow of visitors. At the same time, there were needs for an enhanced program that would transform the OCC reception areas into a living space rather than the typical “art venue” – those turned out to be a pop-up store that will be handed over to different retailers every month or so, one main info point, as well as a number of other supplementary uses that will support the proper function of the reception area; none of this was there. So, first and foremost, this functional aspect had to be taken care of. However, there was another request; the OCC were explicitly asking for a more urbane, rough-cut and ‘crumpled’ image, on the upside of being untouchable. What they meant was that there was a perceived discrepancy between what had started to consolidate as the OCC audience and the actual building. This is perfectly understandable; when the OCC was first launched as a new cultural institution in Athens, nobody could really tell which direction things would take and this naturally made it difficult for design to be relevant from the start. However, as the OCC matured on its identity and begun to get identified with an actual audience, the character of the lobby was clearly not getting the message through. This had to be ‘crumpled’; and we took it at face value.

photography @george fakaros 
First, there was already this facade carried out in marble louvers that we really liked – the pristine geometry of that “box”. Then, the “crumple effect” had to infiltrate the space; all those geometries originate in the idea of the louvered facade. So, the crumpling begins with literally crumpling the louvers – which is tongue-in-cheek, of course, this could be no serious architectural argument; what is serious, however, is that crumpling created backdrops, which could indeed accommodate all those things that we wanted. By crumpling we actually begun to fold space – to throw in some more conventional jargon here – and those folds were receptive to programmatic additions. A dynamic debate took off right after the first phase of the project was complete and this is all but the beginning of a number of interventions that will take place here.

Materiality was a key consideration: The choice of dark-coated steel plates comes to counterbalance, if we may say so, the shine of the materials already applied here – the marble, for example, on the ceiling or the floor… Now, the steel plates, with all their rusty ends and natural blemishes, immediately become more inviting; it’ s a rough-cut material that wrinkles and soils and does not deter one from coming closer. That was the idea of how the space should feel.
To get into more detail, one parallel consideration that kept informing our decisions was the explicit desire of the OCC to “open up to the city”: All those “found objects” inside the entrance and the lobby were considered as snapshots or instances of what one might actually come across in the city outside; in that respect, the contribution by our collaborators at the Double Decker creative agency has been invaluable. They came up with a lot of fantastic ideas on what the use of those solids could be, in fact. As a whole, all of this deals with an aggregation of things that constitute a spatial narrative and contribute into making the whole place more inviting and informal, while evoking a sensation upon one’s entry to the lobby – because the lobby did have to deal with that issue indeed. By now, the OCC has begun to get deeply grafted into the collective memory of the city; it is a very active presence and always provides an exceptionally high-quality, cutting edge schedule of events; as a consequence, the perceived disjunction between the actual audience and the awkward feeling one got upon entering the building could be no more.

photography @george fakaros 
Moveable furniture is another interesting aspect and the idea behind its new arrangement is not clearly visible yet; for instance, a number of informal sitting areas will be at close proximity with an open display of hard to find magazines from around the world – the lobby will be the place to sit and skim those through. Right beside, there will be the “wall of talent”: The OCC will invite a number of young creatives - recent graduates or postgraduate students in the arts and design – to showcase their portfolios, which will be openly available to the visiting public. What we design is the infrastructure for the OCC to accomplish its mission, which is none other than opening up to the city on all different levels. Even further beside, the pop-up store will not be a mere shop selling OCC memorabilia but will be handed over every number of months to very different people, under the curatorial supervision of Yatzer's Costas Voyatzis; for instance, one time there might be someone selling their new book on a particular topic, then there might be young designers without their own sales network which could be provided with the opportunity to set up shop inside the OCC and showcase their work… Across the lobby, by the entrance, there will be a blackboard for kids to draw with chalk and play around. As a whole, the OCC has initiated a procedure that will completely transform the spaces in the building.

 
photography @george fakaros 
The redesign of the OCC was the result of an invite-only competition organized with the assistance and consultancy of theDesignlobbycreative agency, and you were the competition winners. How was the competition experience to you?
I believe this initiative was of the utmost importance and it clearly demonstrates the leadership of the OCC among cultural institutions in Athens. To redesign their lobby spaces, the OCC held a competition among selected Greek architectural firms and this was invaluable, just on its own. We would be delighted if that happened more often! The OCC took the risk of inviting people whose work they had noticed somewhere, somehow – and it was through this process that we were selected to take up the project and elaborate on this specific proposal. I also feel compelled to say that the OCC displayed a great deal of courage in backing up a proposal which was apparently challenging. What I mean is that, now, when everything seems to be in place and working according to the plan, one might think it was all easy; this is absolutely not the case. Having their full support on such a project from the very beginning was anything but self-evident; listening to us architects say that “we will do those objects in black steel” required a lot of stomach on the client’s behalf – which it turns out that they had. The OCC clearly showed they were fully aware of the role they had to play in the city: Pushing things forward. It was not an “aesthetic” matter; the OCC showed how deeply they understood that their own mission was to define a whole new sensibility. They had the resources to pursue this - and they did. From my point of view, that was the most exhilarating aspect of the whole process. One other extremely happy occurrence for us was when we saw the audience openly embrace the change in the OCC; it is clear by now this can be deemed a big success and it immediately led us into talks on expanding the project in a number of other areas. For example, the first addition we aspire to make involves the space of the bar, which is a difficult one. It clearly needs better intertwining with the rest of the lobby. Additionally, the upper levels have already started to display a number of structures in the new vocabulary; gradually, this will become viral and will remodel the whole building. The lobby itself was no easy task, it’s not just about ticketing: First and foremost, a lobby needs a program. In the end, all those things we suggested together with Double Decker (who are a London-based curating agency directed by Melita Skamnaki and William Finger and are frequent collaborators of the Design Museum) will find their rightful place. Our collaboration with Double Decker was based upon a programmatic agreement; far from giving in to the impulse of doing “architecture and design”, we needed to lay out the program that would, as a matter of fact, “crumple the image”.

 
photography @george fakaros 
This is very interesting and raises very high hopes: More often than not, architects are merely expected to provide an “image”, while that is but one aspect of the job; perhaps the most visible one, but it can barely endure if it does not rely upon a solidly laid-out programmatic scheme. How did you, as architects, sustain your own argument against the already stated programmatic requirements of the OCC? It goes without saying, in order to win a competition, one has got to be convincing, even when the image has not been consolidated yet. Communicating through the dazzle of images sometimes helps, but in some other cases it all but misses the point; was there a particular strategy of communication you developed as an architectural practice in this project?
I believe that we won the competition when, talking over the first ideas, we pointed out that certain things would simply had to be forgotten. In the beginning the OCC thought there was a number of “hard” programmatic needs to be accommodated – for instance, the perpetual problem of queuing up at the counter. We told them that we understand the OCC as something bigger and more significant. We were able to convince that the stakes went further than merely resolving the problem of the ticket queue – which is crucial, of course – or “making the space look warmer”. The OCC needed to take things one step beyond and open up to events and activities that would invite people in. Furthermore, we told that we are architects and that from our experience in London (because our practice is based there and we have the opportunity to observe a number of such buildings already in operation) we could locate and collaborate with competent professionals in the field of curating with the necessary know-how for such an enterprise. Double Decker, to be precise, mostly work with wrap-around programs in Museums – which means that a Museum, beyond its formal statement, branches out into a number of different activities. We said that we will open up the debate and elaborate on a broader vision of what could take place here; and it was precisely then that the fantastic idea of the “talent wall” came up, together with a number of others. So we circumvented the restrictions of a “typical” programmatic scheme and managed to avoid the mere “accommodating of functional requirements” that was being asked of us; instead, we opened up a broader debate with the audience and invited people in. I believe that was the kind of argument that worked. Suddenly it becomes less important whether this is all carried out in black steel or in pink plastic; what counts is that something new and unexpected is taking place here, and this invites people to participate. Take for example the pop-up store: Say you are a young entrepreneur, you have an idea to start up with and you get invited by the OCC to distribute your product at their premises for one month or three consecutive ones; or you are a young graduate from a University in Greece under the present situation, you feel the urge to display your work somewhere and then you are provided with this substantial little stage together with unexpected visibility… I honestly believe this is the major success of the project and this is way above and beyond design – which, at the end of the day, remains there for anyone to see and judge according to their own individual tastes.

photography @george fakaros 
I am very happy to hear this because not many people think that way. The fact still remains that design in this case is anything but secondary; those “found objects” all around the lobby have a very strong visual presence in this space – yet they are interactive. What kind of technology did you use? Take, for example, this new video wall you suggested; this communicates with the city in a dynamic way, possibly through the web; and all those metal structures that look wrinkled do create spaces for informal events indeed, however they look quite simple to execute; or are they not?
Do you mean simple to build? Now that is a very interesting question. What is simple today and what is not, in the light of current technology… Let me say just one thing: We have carried out a lot of very complex and demanding projects at the office and we are very familiar with much larger scales – from the Doxiadis building which is one of the large scale projects, to very large hotels. Well, this is one of the most complicated things we have ever done. Ever. Behind this perceived simplicity, there is enormous complexity and a lot of overlapping or contradicting requirements that all needed to be met. To be able to design such a project in order for it to perform as it should, one needs to carry out work in a bewildering number of different levels. First, all those seemingly fragmented and “simple” structures needed to create space. To be able to resolve that, we needed to return to absolutely fundamental tools. We had a scale model built inside the office in 1:20 – try to imagine that, it was taking up half of our available room – because on the one hand all those objects needed to be placed in the right configuration for them to create space; if you look at it from here, it’s an enclosure. How each individual item twists and turns and faces all the rest though creates a very complex network of relations. It was impossible to conceive that by design means, unless we literally put ourselves inside there! So the first tool was a 1:20 scale model where those items were placed and tested – and there were 20 or 30 alternatives to each one of them. The objective was to have space created by the way they were put in there, to have this “container” which now looks perfectly clear, while on the other hand each structure had to meet up with rigid functional standards: For instance, the counter had to be that tall and be protected for a number of reasons, screens had to be at a specific height and angle and be of a given size etc. So, on the one hand there were “sculptural” requirements and on the other one, strict functionality and precision. That part of the problem once resolved, there still needed to be absolutely exact construction drawings made, and that was one long and painstaking process. Each item was drawn in 3d simulation where all of the minute construction details had to be provided, in a number of different stages of development and implementation. How those things in such geometries would come together had to be reviewed in the greatest detail and the end result would have to meet the quality standards of furniture. To have those oblique lines converging upon very specific points, in very specific ways, had us compelled to visualize the whole scenario of construction. In doing that, I couldn’t stress enough on how much we profited from the expertise of Manos Vardonarakis, an industrial designer specializing in metal – probably the best one we are aware of in this country. It is largely thanks to him that everything is so well-detailed.

This is evident to the naked eye at close inspection. However, those structures are not exactly modular neither do they seem standardized at first glance – though there are clearly rules at work here. What were they? I understand that this whole geometry stems out directly from the original idea that “the OCC crumples its image” and this is manifest in a very direct and successful manner. Still, all of this had to be rationalized somehow in order for it to be drawn with precision and from there, to find its way into construction; there had to be rules devised in order to make possible all those absolutely specific decisions.
How we folded those surfaces is the result of how one sees, at the moment one enters the space and also, of how one sees from the inside out. Upon the moment of entry, one should be provided with a comprehensive overview. At the same time, there is a conversation established between inside and outside – previously that relationship was rather awkward, one felt either inside or outside and those structures came to provide a connection, by leading the gaze in specific directions. They facilitate an effective communication between spaces by subtle manipulations of vision.

photography @george fakaros 
… You have designed all the folds as if your solids were cut through by viewing angles.
Exactly, fields of view and vanishing points were the first thing to consider systematically. The second one was the whole relation between the objects that were required to form an enclosure. There were functional aspects involved here; for instance, the optimal position of the screen or the views from inside the bar, as well as the movement of a rather large crowd inside the space – this had to be guided and channeled somehow because, previously, everything was rather disorienting and resulted in awkwardness. Another huge imposition was that we couldn’t really touch upon anything inside the building! All those objects had to be entirely self-bearing and, at the same time, they had to create space without charging the building’s structural system or interfering with any of the technical installations. That was very challenging. Furthermore, as soon as we had the geometry consolidated, we had to figure out a way of having everything prefabricated off-site, because the OCC could not interrupt its function for us to occupy the whole area of the lobby with construction work. Prefabrication prescribed a way of standardization. While each object is indeed unique, they all do follow the same typical system. There are always two sides bearing the structural frame while the rest hatch out as trap doors: Those had to be assembled separately and then they had to be brought here, pieced together and sealed on site; at the same time, they had to remain able to be opened when necessary, because, on the inside, there are installations running. Therefore, each structure has one face that can open every time anything needs to be fixed. That was a problem very difficult to solve.

photography @george fakaros
 
While deciding upon the final layout of the whole space, did you take under consideration any existing design method that has to do with human behavior and vision – space syntax, for instance?
Not quite; at least, not “formally”. The more we worked with the space, the more its very own parameters sprung up and became clear. What was important in the end was that, by way of connecting all those things, on the one hand there was a spatial narrative established inside the lobby – namely, an enclosure – while on the other one, we found a great number and variety of backdrops and intimate niches, like the one we’re sitting in at the moment, having this quiet conversation. The space has enormous potential. All this evolves as a very dynamic situation and, as a result, the OCC discovers a new identity; quite literally, as we say, the OCC “reinvents” itself. That is the major success. Each step led to the next, new potential was activated and, as a result, now we find ourselves in the position of having talks about expanding to the rest of the floors. This is what I consider to be successful design: Whatever pushes things forward, takes the brief one step beyond and brings to the surface new possibilities, allows for ideas to emerge.

photography @george fakaros 
Clearly; one assumes that the success of this design will be put to the final test when a large number of people find themselves inside here and begin to “dance” - all of this stages a particular choreography by means of the objects; the eye gets attracted and then people begin to perform.
Indeed, we had the chance to witness this very recently, when the TED event was held here and there were a lot of participants. It was very interesting to observe how the crowd at the TED actually behaved; how people started to move in here, or how they stood still, how they made groups and how they positioned themselves in relation to the screen… They seemed to welcome the new lobby and to like it very much. As about ourselves, of course, we were truly happy, it was a major first test and we were left with the impression that it all went very well. Certainly, this new situation could be expanded with more “episodes”, there is a perpetual flow of new potential. It’s very interesting to observe how such buildings operate in other cities, things always seem to “keep happening”. They become incubators, inside which things keep happening far beyond their formal statement; that was the major stake for the OCC as well. The OCC undoubtedly has a spectacular schedule of events, but the question remains, what happens the rest of the time? For instance, in London, at the South Bank, there is a number of such cultural facilities where things “keep happening” - the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theater… Their biggest success is that, beyond the stage events, on weekdays, they remain full of people - parents with their children, professionals who come with a laptop because they like to sit in there and work or use them as a meeting point… This is the stake for the OCC: To place a number of catalysts that will expand the program and attract people at all times; to become a true hub for the whole city. Because if you go once and you like it, and then you come again and bring your friends along, it all becomes inscribed in the life of the city. The OCC is a shelter – this is actually what its name in Greek, ‘Stegi’, stands for: Shelter – that was our point of departure in the first place. The OCC should be able to shelter informal, unexpected activities beyond the schedule, inside an accommodating environment that will feel nice precisely because it keeps sparking up new ideas. We merely set the grounds for a debate we are sure the OCC will take much further, because they have just the right people to do so. To conclude, perhaps, this is the way we understand our own participation in any project.
Thank you!

Credits:

Design: Divercity (www.divercityarchitects.com)
Curatorial concept & signage: Double Decker(www.double-decker.org.uk)Industrial design consultant: Manos Vordonarakis
Competition Consultant: DESIGNLOBBY (Vassilios P Bartzokas)
 
Photography George Fakaros
The project calls for the redesign of the entrance and lobby spaces of the Onassis Cultural Center (www.sgt.gr), a new cultural hub in Athens designed by Architecture Studio.
The Center hosts events and actions across the whole spectrum of the arts from theater, dance, music and the visual arts to the written word, with an emphasis on contemporary cultural expression, on supporting Greek artists, on cultivating international collaborations and on educating children and people of all ages through life-long learning.Our design strategy transforms the lobby space into a ‘shelter' (a 'stegi' In Greek) in the city: a space that can work in addition to the formal program of the Cultural Center A series of bespoke installations wrap around the building’s existing structural elements and spark a dynamic relationship between the three key characteristics of the shelter; the physical space, the digital experience and a series of specially curated wrap-around events.
One is dedicated to showcase portfolios of young creatives, another becomes a pop-up store, curated by Yatzer's chief editor Costas Voyatzis while a third takes the more humble role of providing a meeting corner. The aim is to create a vibrant all day hub that will appeal to the Onassis Cultural Center’s ever increasing dynamic and diverse crowd.
The design of these new installations is inspired by the distinct language of the existing facade. The white marble louvers on the exterior (by Architecture Studio) are kinked to form the structures that wrap around the lobby’s existing elements. They are carefully choreographed in response to the existing building and to the flow of people to provide areas of rest and pause as well as cater for their main functions, which include the ticket desks, info points, signage, video walls, etc.
EXCLUSIVE: REDESIGN OF THE ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTER ENTRANCE AND LOBBY SPACES BY DIVERCITY ARCHITECTS
Stavros Martinos

Nikolas Travasaros of Divercity Architectstalks to Stavros Martinos on the ideas and challenges behind the redesign of the Onassis Cultural Center entrance and lobby spaces; Divercity elaborate on a bold and sophisticated proposal that will completely change the face of Athens’ undisputed leader in cultural innovation.

 
 
 
 photography @george fakaros
 
 
Hello Nikolas; we are absolutely thrilled and very grateful that Divercity chose Archisearch.gr for the first detailed presentation of the OCC redesign. The space already looks very stimulating, to say the least. The first thing anyone familiar with the building will notice is this new array of folded black solids all around the entrance and lobby. What was the idea in the first place?
It all started with a brief asking for very specific things; the OCC begun with two requests. The first one was to accommodate a number of functional requirements, such as rearranging the counters and better channeling the flow of visitors. At the same time, there were needs for an enhanced program that would transform the OCC reception areas into a living space rather than the typical “art venue” – those turned out to be a pop-up store that will be handed over to different retailers every month or so, one main info point, as well as a number of other supplementary uses that will support the proper function of the reception area; none of this was there. So, first and foremost, this functional aspect had to be taken care of. However, there was another request; the OCC were explicitly asking for a more urbane, rough-cut and ‘crumpled’ image, on the upside of being untouchable. What they meant was that there was a perceived discrepancy between what had started to consolidate as the OCC audience and the actual building. This is perfectly understandable; when the OCC was first launched as a new cultural institution in Athens, nobody could really tell which direction things would take and this naturally made it difficult for design to be relevant from the start. However, as the OCC matured on its identity and begun to get identified with an actual audience, the character of the lobby was clearly not getting the message through. This had to be ‘crumpled’; and we took it at face value.

photography @george fakaros 
First, there was already this facade carried out in marble louvers that we really liked – the pristine geometry of that “box”. Then, the “crumple effect” had to infiltrate the space; all those geometries originate in the idea of the louvered facade. So, the crumpling begins with literally crumpling the louvers – which is tongue-in-cheek, of course, this could be no serious architectural argument; what is serious, however, is that crumpling created backdrops, which could indeed accommodate all those things that we wanted. By crumpling we actually begun to fold space – to throw in some more conventional jargon here – and those folds were receptive to programmatic additions. A dynamic debate took off right after the first phase of the project was complete and this is all but the beginning of a number of interventions that will take place here.

Materiality was a key consideration: The choice of dark-coated steel plates comes to counterbalance, if we may say so, the shine of the materials already applied here – the marble, for example, on the ceiling or the floor… Now, the steel plates, with all their rusty ends and natural blemishes, immediately become more inviting; it’ s a rough-cut material that wrinkles and soils and does not deter one from coming closer. That was the idea of how the space should feel.
To get into more detail, one parallel consideration that kept informing our decisions was the explicit desire of the OCC to “open up to the city”: All those “found objects” inside the entrance and the lobby were considered as snapshots or instances of what one might actually come across in the city outside; in that respect, the contribution by our collaborators at the Double Decker creative agency has been invaluable. They came up with a lot of fantastic ideas on what the use of those solids could be, in fact. As a whole, all of this deals with an aggregation of things that constitute a spatial narrative and contribute into making the whole place more inviting and informal, while evoking a sensation upon one’s entry to the lobby – because the lobby did have to deal with that issue indeed. By now, the OCC has begun to get deeply grafted into the collective memory of the city; it is a very active presence and always provides an exceptionally high-quality, cutting edge schedule of events; as a consequence, the perceived disjunction between the actual audience and the awkward feeling one got upon entering the building could be no more.

photography @george fakaros 
Moveable furniture is another interesting aspect and the idea behind its new arrangement is not clearly visible yet; for instance, a number of informal sitting areas will be at close proximity with an open display of hard to find magazines from around the world – the lobby will be the place to sit and skim those through. Right beside, there will be the “wall of talent”: The OCC will invite a number of young creatives - recent graduates or postgraduate students in the arts and design – to showcase their portfolios, which will be openly available to the visiting public. What we design is the infrastructure for the OCC to accomplish its mission, which is none other than opening up to the city on all different levels. Even further beside, the pop-up store will not be a mere shop selling OCC memorabilia but will be handed over every number of months to very different people, under the curatorial supervision of Yatzer's Costas Voyatzis; for instance, one time there might be someone selling their new book on a particular topic, then there might be young designers without their own sales network which could be provided with the opportunity to set up shop inside the OCC and showcase their work… Across the lobby, by the entrance, there will be a blackboard for kids to draw with chalk and play around. As a whole, the OCC has initiated a procedure that will completely transform the spaces in the building.

 
photography @george fakaros 
The redesign of the OCC was the result of an invite-only competition organized with the assistance and consultancy of theDesignlobbycreative agency, and you were the competition winners. How was the competition experience to you?
I believe this initiative was of the utmost importance and it clearly demonstrates the leadership of the OCC among cultural institutions in Athens. To redesign their lobby spaces, the OCC held a competition among selected Greek architectural firms and this was invaluable, just on its own. We would be delighted if that happened more often! The OCC took the risk of inviting people whose work they had noticed somewhere, somehow – and it was through this process that we were selected to take up the project and elaborate on this specific proposal. I also feel compelled to say that the OCC displayed a great deal of courage in backing up a proposal which was apparently challenging. What I mean is that, now, when everything seems to be in place and working according to the plan, one might think it was all easy; this is absolutely not the case. Having their full support on such a project from the very beginning was anything but self-evident; listening to us architects say that “we will do those objects in black steel” required a lot of stomach on the client’s behalf – which it turns out that they had. The OCC clearly showed they were fully aware of the role they had to play in the city: Pushing things forward. It was not an “aesthetic” matter; the OCC showed how deeply they understood that their own mission was to define a whole new sensibility. They had the resources to pursue this - and they did. From my point of view, that was the most exhilarating aspect of the whole process. One other extremely happy occurrence for us was when we saw the audience openly embrace the change in the OCC; it is clear by now this can be deemed a big success and it immediately led us into talks on expanding the project in a number of other areas. For example, the first addition we aspire to make involves the space of the bar, which is a difficult one. It clearly needs better intertwining with the rest of the lobby. Additionally, the upper levels have already started to display a number of structures in the new vocabulary; gradually, this will become viral and will remodel the whole building. The lobby itself was no easy task, it’s not just about ticketing: First and foremost, a lobby needs a program. In the end, all those things we suggested together with Double Decker (who are a London-based curating agency directed by Melita Skamnaki and William Finger and are frequent collaborators of the Design Museum) will find their rightful place. Our collaboration with Double Decker was based upon a programmatic agreement; far from giving in to the impulse of doing “architecture and design”, we needed to lay out the program that would, as a matter of fact, “crumple the image”.

 
photography @george fakaros 
This is very interesting and raises very high hopes: More often than not, architects are merely expected to provide an “image”, while that is but one aspect of the job; perhaps the most visible one, but it can barely endure if it does not rely upon a solidly laid-out programmatic scheme. How did you, as architects, sustain your own argument against the already stated programmatic requirements of the OCC? It goes without saying, in order to win a competition, one has got to be convincing, even when the image has not been consolidated yet. Communicating through the dazzle of images sometimes helps, but in some other cases it all but misses the point; was there a particular strategy of communication you developed as an architectural practice in this project?
I believe that we won the competition when, talking over the first ideas, we pointed out that certain things would simply had to be forgotten. In the beginning the OCC thought there was a number of “hard” programmatic needs to be accommodated – for instance, the perpetual problem of queuing up at the counter. We told them that we understand the OCC as something bigger and more significant. We were able to convince that the stakes went further than merely resolving the problem of the ticket queue – which is crucial, of course – or “making the space look warmer”. The OCC needed to take things one step beyond and open up to events and activities that would invite people in. Furthermore, we told that we are architects and that from our experience in London (because our practice is based there and we have the opportunity to observe a number of such buildings already in operation) we could locate and collaborate with competent professionals in the field of curating with the necessary know-how for such an enterprise. Double Decker, to be precise, mostly work with wrap-around programs in Museums – which means that a Museum, beyond its formal statement, branches out into a number of different activities. We said that we will open up the debate and elaborate on a broader vision of what could take place here; and it was precisely then that the fantastic idea of the “talent wall” came up, together with a number of others. So we circumvented the restrictions of a “typical” programmatic scheme and managed to avoid the mere “accommodating of functional requirements” that was being asked of us; instead, we opened up a broader debate with the audience and invited people in. I believe that was the kind of argument that worked. Suddenly it becomes less important whether this is all carried out in black steel or in pink plastic; what counts is that something new and unexpected is taking place here, and this invites people to participate. Take for example the pop-up store: Say you are a young entrepreneur, you have an idea to start up with and you get invited by the OCC to distribute your product at their premises for one month or three consecutive ones; or you are a young graduate from a University in Greece under the present situation, you feel the urge to display your work somewhere and then you are provided with this substantial little stage together with unexpected visibility… I honestly believe this is the major success of the project and this is way above and beyond design – which, at the end of the day, remains there for anyone to see and judge according to their own individual tastes.

photography @george fakaros 
I am very happy to hear this because not many people think that way. The fact still remains that design in this case is anything but secondary; those “found objects” all around the lobby have a very strong visual presence in this space – yet they are interactive. What kind of technology did you use? Take, for example, this new video wall you suggested; this communicates with the city in a dynamic way, possibly through the web; and all those metal structures that look wrinkled do create spaces for informal events indeed, however they look quite simple to execute; or are they not?
Do you mean simple to build? Now that is a very interesting question. What is simple today and what is not, in the light of current technology… Let me say just one thing: We have carried out a lot of very complex and demanding projects at the office and we are very familiar with much larger scales – from the Doxiadis building which is one of the large scale projects, to very large hotels. Well, this is one of the most complicated things we have ever done. Ever. Behind this perceived simplicity, there is enormous complexity and a lot of overlapping or contradicting requirements that all needed to be met. To be able to design such a project in order for it to perform as it should, one needs to carry out work in a bewildering number of different levels. First, all those seemingly fragmented and “simple” structures needed to create space. To be able to resolve that, we needed to return to absolutely fundamental tools. We had a scale model built inside the office in 1:20 – try to imagine that, it was taking up half of our available room – because on the one hand all those objects needed to be placed in the right configuration for them to create space; if you look at it from here, it’s an enclosure. How each individual item twists and turns and faces all the rest though creates a very complex network of relations. It was impossible to conceive that by design means, unless we literally put ourselves inside there! So the first tool was a 1:20 scale model where those items were placed and tested – and there were 20 or 30 alternatives to each one of them. The objective was to have space created by the way they were put in there, to have this “container” which now looks perfectly clear, while on the other hand each structure had to meet up with rigid functional standards: For instance, the counter had to be that tall and be protected for a number of reasons, screens had to be at a specific height and angle and be of a given size etc. So, on the one hand there were “sculptural” requirements and on the other one, strict functionality and precision. That part of the problem once resolved, there still needed to be absolutely exact construction drawings made, and that was one long and painstaking process. Each item was drawn in 3d simulation where all of the minute construction details had to be provided, in a number of different stages of development and implementation. How those things in such geometries would come together had to be reviewed in the greatest detail and the end result would have to meet the quality standards of furniture. To have those oblique lines converging upon very specific points, in very specific ways, had us compelled to visualize the whole scenario of construction. In doing that, I couldn’t stress enough on how much we profited from the expertise of Manos Vardonarakis, an industrial designer specializing in metal – probably the best one we are aware of in this country. It is largely thanks to him that everything is so well-detailed.

This is evident to the naked eye at close inspection. However, those structures are not exactly modular neither do they seem standardized at first glance – though there are clearly rules at work here. What were they? I understand that this whole geometry stems out directly from the original idea that “the OCC crumples its image” and this is manifest in a very direct and successful manner. Still, all of this had to be rationalized somehow in order for it to be drawn with precision and from there, to find its way into construction; there had to be rules devised in order to make possible all those absolutely specific decisions.
How we folded those surfaces is the result of how one sees, at the moment one enters the space and also, of how one sees from the inside out. Upon the moment of entry, one should be provided with a comprehensive overview. At the same time, there is a conversation established between inside and outside – previously that relationship was rather awkward, one felt either inside or outside and those structures came to provide a connection, by leading the gaze in specific directions. They facilitate an effective communication between spaces by subtle manipulations of vision.

photography @george fakaros 
… You have designed all the folds as if your solids were cut through by viewing angles.
Exactly, fields of view and vanishing points were the first thing to consider systematically. The second one was the whole relation between the objects that were required to form an enclosure. There were functional aspects involved here; for instance, the optimal position of the screen or the views from inside the bar, as well as the movement of a rather large crowd inside the space – this had to be guided and channeled somehow because, previously, everything was rather disorienting and resulted in awkwardness. Another huge imposition was that we couldn’t really touch upon anything inside the building! All those objects had to be entirely self-bearing and, at the same time, they had to create space without charging the building’s structural system or interfering with any of the technical installations. That was very challenging. Furthermore, as soon as we had the geometry consolidated, we had to figure out a way of having everything prefabricated off-site, because the OCC could not interrupt its function for us to occupy the whole area of the lobby with construction work. Prefabrication prescribed a way of standardization. While each object is indeed unique, they all do follow the same typical system. There are always two sides bearing the structural frame while the rest hatch out as trap doors: Those had to be assembled separately and then they had to be brought here, pieced together and sealed on site; at the same time, they had to remain able to be opened when necessary, because, on the inside, there are installations running. Therefore, each structure has one face that can open every time anything needs to be fixed. That was a problem very difficult to solve.

photography @george fakaros
 
While deciding upon the final layout of the whole space, did you take under consideration any existing design method that has to do with human behavior and vision – space syntax, for instance?
Not quite; at least, not “formally”. The more we worked with the space, the more its very own parameters sprung up and became clear. What was important in the end was that, by way of connecting all those things, on the one hand there was a spatial narrative established inside the lobby – namely, an enclosure – while on the other one, we found a great number and variety of backdrops and intimate niches, like the one we’re sitting in at the moment, having this quiet conversation. The space has enormous potential. All this evolves as a very dynamic situation and, as a result, the OCC discovers a new identity; quite literally, as we say, the OCC “reinvents” itself. That is the major success. Each step led to the next, new potential was activated and, as a result, now we find ourselves in the position of having talks about expanding to the rest of the floors. This is what I consider to be successful design: Whatever pushes things forward, takes the brief one step beyond and brings to the surface new possibilities, allows for ideas to emerge.

photography @george fakaros 
Clearly; one assumes that the success of this design will be put to the final test when a large number of people find themselves inside here and begin to “dance” - all of this stages a particular choreography by means of the objects; the eye gets attracted and then people begin to perform.
Indeed, we had the chance to witness this very recently, when the TED event was held here and there were a lot of participants. It was very interesting to observe how the crowd at the TED actually behaved; how people started to move in here, or how they stood still, how they made groups and how they positioned themselves in relation to the screen… They seemed to welcome the new lobby and to like it very much. As about ourselves, of course, we were truly happy, it was a major first test and we were left with the impression that it all went very well. Certainly, this new situation could be expanded with more “episodes”, there is a perpetual flow of new potential. It’s very interesting to observe how such buildings operate in other cities, things always seem to “keep happening”. They become incubators, inside which things keep happening far beyond their formal statement; that was the major stake for the OCC as well. The OCC undoubtedly has a spectacular schedule of events, but the question remains, what happens the rest of the time? For instance, in London, at the South Bank, there is a number of such cultural facilities where things “keep happening” - the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theater… Their biggest success is that, beyond the stage events, on weekdays, they remain full of people - parents with their children, professionals who come with a laptop because they like to sit in there and work or use them as a meeting point… This is the stake for the OCC: To place a number of catalysts that will expand the program and attract people at all times; to become a true hub for the whole city. Because if you go once and you like it, and then you come again and bring your friends along, it all becomes inscribed in the life of the city. The OCC is a shelter – this is actually what its name in Greek, ‘Stegi’, stands for: Shelter – that was our point of departure in the first place. The OCC should be able to shelter informal, unexpected activities beyond the schedule, inside an accommodating environment that will feel nice precisely because it keeps sparking up new ideas. We merely set the grounds for a debate we are sure the OCC will take much further, because they have just the right people to do so. To conclude, perhaps, this is the way we understand our own participation in any project.
Thank you!

Credits:

Design: Divercity (www.divercityarchitects.com)
Curatorial concept & signage: Double Decker(www.double-decker.org.uk)Industrial design consultant: Manos Vordonarakis
Competition Consultant: DESIGNLOBBY (Vassilios P Bartzokas)
 
Photography George Fakaros
The project calls for the redesign of the entrance and lobby spaces of the Onassis Cultural Center (www.sgt.gr), a new cultural hub in Athens designed by Architecture Studio.
The Center hosts events and actions across the whole spectrum of the arts from theater, dance, music and the visual arts to the written word, with an emphasis on contemporary cultural expression, on supporting Greek artists, on cultivating international collaborations and on educating children and people of all ages through life-long learning.Our design strategy transforms the lobby space into a ‘shelter' (a 'stegi' In Greek) in the city: a space that can work in addition to the formal program of the Cultural Center A series of bespoke installations wrap around the building’s existing structural elements and spark a dynamic relationship between the three key characteristics of the shelter; the physical space, the digital experience and a series of specially curated wrap-around events.
One is dedicated to showcase portfolios of young creatives, another becomes a pop-up store, curated by Yatzer's chief editor Costas Voyatzis while a third takes the more humble role of providing a meeting corner. The aim is to create a vibrant all day hub that will appeal to the Onassis Cultural Center’s ever increasing dynamic and diverse crowd.
The design of these new installations is inspired by the distinct language of the existing facade. The white marble louvers on the exterior (by Architecture Studio) are kinked to form the structures that wrap around the lobby’s existing elements. They are carefully choreographed in response to the existing building and to the flow of people to provide areas of rest and pause as well as cater for their main functions, which include the ticket desks, info points, signage, video walls, etc.
EXCLUSIVE: REDESIGN OF THE ONASSIS CULTURAL CENTER ENTRANCE AND LOBBY SPACES BY DIVERCITY ARCHITECTS
Stavros Martinos

Nikolas Travasaros of Divercity Architectstalks to Stavros Martinos on the ideas and challenges behind the redesign of the Onassis Cultural Center entrance and lobby spaces; Divercity elaborate on a bold and sophisticated proposal that will completely change the face of Athens’ undisputed leader in cultural innovation.

 
 
 
 photography @george fakaros
 
 
Hello Nikolas; we are absolutely thrilled and very grateful that Divercity chose Archisearch.gr for the first detailed presentation of the OCC redesign. The space already looks very stimulating, to say the least. The first thing anyone familiar with the building will notice is this new array of folded black solids all around the entrance and lobby. What was the idea in the first place?
It all started with a brief asking for very specific things; the OCC begun with two requests. The first one was to accommodate a number of functional requirements, such as rearranging the counters and better channeling the flow of visitors. At the same time, there were needs for an enhanced program that would transform the OCC reception areas into a living space rather than the typical “art venue” – those turned out to be a pop-up store that will be handed over to different retailers every month or so, one main info point, as well as a number of other supplementary uses that will support the proper function of the reception area; none of this was there. So, first and foremost, this functional aspect had to be taken care of. However, there was another request; the OCC were explicitly asking for a more urbane, rough-cut and ‘crumpled’ image, on the upside of being untouchable. What they meant was that there was a perceived discrepancy between what had started to consolidate as the OCC audience and the actual building. This is perfectly understandable; when the OCC was first launched as a new cultural institution in Athens, nobody could really tell which direction things would take and this naturally made it difficult for design to be relevant from the start. However, as the OCC matured on its identity and begun to get identified with an actual audience, the character of the lobby was clearly not getting the message through. This had to be ‘crumpled’; and we took it at face value.

photography @george fakaros 
First, there was already this facade carried out in marble louvers that we really liked – the pristine geometry of that “box”. Then, the “crumple effect” had to infiltrate the space; all those geometries originate in the idea of the louvered facade. So, the crumpling begins with literally crumpling the louvers – which is tongue-in-cheek, of course, this could be no serious architectural argument; what is serious, however, is that crumpling created backdrops, which could indeed accommodate all those things that we wanted. By crumpling we actually begun to fold space – to throw in some more conventional jargon here – and those folds were receptive to programmatic additions. A dynamic debate took off right after the first phase of the project was complete and this is all but the beginning of a number of interventions that will take place here.

Materiality was a key consideration: The choice of dark-coated steel plates comes to counterbalance, if we may say so, the shine of the materials already applied here – the marble, for example, on the ceiling or the floor… Now, the steel plates, with all their rusty ends and natural blemishes, immediately become more inviting; it’ s a rough-cut material that wrinkles and soils and does not deter one from coming closer. That was the idea of how the space should feel.
To get into more detail, one parallel consideration that kept informing our decisions was the explicit desire of the OCC to “open up to the city”: All those “found objects” inside the entrance and the lobby were considered as snapshots or instances of what one might actually come across in the city outside; in that respect, the contribution by our collaborators at the Double Decker creative agency has been invaluable. They came up with a lot of fantastic ideas on what the use of those solids could be, in fact. As a whole, all of this deals with an aggregation of things that constitute a spatial narrative and contribute into making the whole place more inviting and informal, while evoking a sensation upon one’s entry to the lobby – because the lobby did have to deal with that issue indeed. By now, the OCC has begun to get deeply grafted into the collective memory of the city; it is a very active presence and always provides an exceptionally high-quality, cutting edge schedule of events; as a consequence, the perceived disjunction between the actual audience and the awkward feeling one got upon entering the building could be no more.

photography @george fakaros 
Moveable furniture is another interesting aspect and the idea behind its new arrangement is not clearly visible yet; for instance, a number of informal sitting areas will be at close proximity with an open display of hard to find magazines from around the world – the lobby will be the place to sit and skim those through. Right beside, there will be the “wall of talent”: The OCC will invite a number of young creatives - recent graduates or postgraduate students in the arts and design – to showcase their portfolios, which will be openly available to the visiting public. What we design is the infrastructure for the OCC to accomplish its mission, which is none other than opening up to the city on all different levels. Even further beside, the pop-up store will not be a mere shop selling OCC memorabilia but will be handed over every number of months to very different people, under the curatorial supervision of Yatzer's Costas Voyatzis; for instance, one time there might be someone selling their new book on a particular topic, then there might be young designers without their own sales network which could be provided with the opportunity to set up shop inside the OCC and showcase their work… Across the lobby, by the entrance, there will be a blackboard for kids to draw with chalk and play around. As a whole, the OCC has initiated a procedure that will completely transform the spaces in the building.

 
photography @george fakaros 
The redesign of the OCC was the result of an invite-only competition organized with the assistance and consultancy of theDesignlobbycreative agency, and you were the competition winners. How was the competition experience to you?
I believe this initiative was of the utmost importance and it clearly demonstrates the leadership of the OCC among cultural institutions in Athens. To redesign their lobby spaces, the OCC held a competition among selected Greek architectural firms and this was invaluable, just on its own. We would be delighted if that happened more often! The OCC took the risk of inviting people whose work they had noticed somewhere, somehow – and it was through this process that we were selected to take up the project and elaborate on this specific proposal. I also feel compelled to say that the OCC displayed a great deal of courage in backing up a proposal which was apparently challenging. What I mean is that, now, when everything seems to be in place and working according to the plan, one might think it was all easy; this is absolutely not the case. Having their full support on such a project from the very beginning was anything but self-evident; listening to us architects say that “we will do those objects in black steel” required a lot of stomach on the client’s behalf – which it turns out that they had. The OCC clearly showed they were fully aware of the role they had to play in the city: Pushing things forward. It was not an “aesthetic” matter; the OCC showed how deeply they understood that their own mission was to define a whole new sensibility. They had the resources to pursue this - and they did. From my point of view, that was the most exhilarating aspect of the whole process. One other extremely happy occurrence for us was when we saw the audience openly embrace the change in the OCC; it is clear by now this can be deemed a big success and it immediately led us into talks on expanding the project in a number of other areas. For example, the first addition we aspire to make involves the space of the bar, which is a difficult one. It clearly needs better intertwining with the rest of the lobby. Additionally, the upper levels have already started to display a number of structures in the new vocabulary; gradually, this will become viral and will remodel the whole building. The lobby itself was no easy task, it’s not just about ticketing: First and foremost, a lobby needs a program. In the end, all those things we suggested together with Double Decker (who are a London-based curating agency directed by Melita Skamnaki and William Finger and are frequent collaborators of the Design Museum) will find their rightful place. Our collaboration with Double Decker was based upon a programmatic agreement; far from giving in to the impulse of doing “architecture and design”, we needed to lay out the program that would, as a matter of fact, “crumple the image”.

 
photography @george fakaros 
This is very interesting and raises very high hopes: More often than not, architects are merely expected to provide an “image”, while that is but one aspect of the job; perhaps the most visible one, but it can barely endure if it does not rely upon a solidly laid-out programmatic scheme. How did you, as architects, sustain your own argument against the already stated programmatic requirements of the OCC? It goes without saying, in order to win a competition, one has got to be convincing, even when the image has not been consolidated yet. Communicating through the dazzle of images sometimes helps, but in some other cases it all but misses the point; was there a particular strategy of communication you developed as an architectural practice in this project?
I believe that we won the competition when, talking over the first ideas, we pointed out that certain things would simply had to be forgotten. In the beginning the OCC thought there was a number of “hard” programmatic needs to be accommodated – for instance, the perpetual problem of queuing up at the counter. We told them that we understand the OCC as something bigger and more significant. We were able to convince that the stakes went further than merely resolving the problem of the ticket queue – which is crucial, of course – or “making the space look warmer”. The OCC needed to take things one step beyond and open up to events and activities that would invite people in. Furthermore, we told that we are architects and that from our experience in London (because our practice is based there and we have the opportunity to observe a number of such buildings already in operation) we could locate and collaborate with competent professionals in the field of curating with the necessary know-how for such an enterprise. Double Decker, to be precise, mostly work with wrap-around programs in Museums – which means that a Museum, beyond its formal statement, branches out into a number of different activities. We said that we will open up the debate and elaborate on a broader vision of what could take place here; and it was precisely then that the fantastic idea of the “talent wall” came up, together with a number of others. So we circumvented the restrictions of a “typical” programmatic scheme and managed to avoid the mere “accommodating of functional requirements” that was being asked of us; instead, we opened up a broader debate with the audience and invited people in. I believe that was the kind of argument that worked. Suddenly it becomes less important whether this is all carried out in black steel or in pink plastic; what counts is that something new and unexpected is taking place here, and this invites people to participate. Take for example the pop-up store: Say you are a young entrepreneur, you have an idea to start up with and you get invited by the OCC to distribute your product at their premises for one month or three consecutive ones; or you are a young graduate from a University in Greece under the present situation, you feel the urge to display your work somewhere and then you are provided with this substantial little stage together with unexpected visibility… I honestly believe this is the major success of the project and this is way above and beyond design – which, at the end of the day, remains there for anyone to see and judge according to their own individual tastes.

photography @george fakaros 
I am very happy to hear this because not many people think that way. The fact still remains that design in this case is anything but secondary; those “found objects” all around the lobby have a very strong visual presence in this space – yet they are interactive. What kind of technology did you use? Take, for example, this new video wall you suggested; this communicates with the city in a dynamic way, possibly through the web; and all those metal structures that look wrinkled do create spaces for informal events indeed, however they look quite simple to execute; or are they not?
Do you mean simple to build? Now that is a very interesting question. What is simple today and what is not, in the light of current technology… Let me say just one thing: We have carried out a lot of very complex and demanding projects at the office and we are very familiar with much larger scales – from the Doxiadis building which is one of the large scale projects, to very large hotels. Well, this is one of the most complicated things we have ever done. Ever. Behind this perceived simplicity, there is enormous complexity and a lot of overlapping or contradicting requirements that all needed to be met. To be able to design such a project in order for it to perform as it should, one needs to carry out work in a bewildering number of different levels. First, all those seemingly fragmented and “simple” structures needed to create space. To be able to resolve that, we needed to return to absolutely fundamental tools. We had a scale model built inside the office in 1:20 – try to imagine that, it was taking up half of our available room – because on the one hand all those objects needed to be placed in the right configuration for them to create space; if you look at it from here, it’s an enclosure. How each individual item twists and turns and faces all the rest though creates a very complex network of relations. It was impossible to conceive that by design means, unless we literally put ourselves inside there! So the first tool was a 1:20 scale model where those items were placed and tested – and there were 20 or 30 alternatives to each one of them. The objective was to have space created by the way they were put in there, to have this “container” which now looks perfectly clear, while on the other hand each structure had to meet up with rigid functional standards: For instance, the counter had to be that tall and be protected for a number of reasons, screens had to be at a specific height and angle and be of a given size etc. So, on the one hand there were “sculptural” requirements and on the other one, strict functionality and precision. That part of the problem once resolved, there still needed to be absolutely exact construction drawings made, and that was one long and painstaking process. Each item was drawn in 3d simulation where all of the minute construction details had to be provided, in a number of different stages of development and implementation. How those things in such geometries would come together had to be reviewed in the greatest detail and the end result would have to meet the quality standards of furniture. To have those oblique lines converging upon very specific points, in very specific ways, had us compelled to visualize the whole scenario of construction. In doing that, I couldn’t stress enough on how much we profited from the expertise of Manos Vardonarakis, an industrial designer specializing in metal – probably the best one we are aware of in this country. It is largely thanks to him that everything is so well-detailed.

This is evident to the naked eye at close inspection. However, those structures are not exactly modular neither do they seem standardized at first glance – though there are clearly rules at work here. What were they? I understand that this whole geometry stems out directly from the original idea that “the OCC crumples its image” and this is manifest in a very direct and successful manner. Still, all of this had to be rationalized somehow in order for it to be drawn with precision and from there, to find its way into construction; there had to be rules devised in order to make possible all those absolutely specific decisions.
How we folded those surfaces is the result of how one sees, at the moment one enters the space and also, of how one sees from the inside out. Upon the moment of entry, one should be provided with a comprehensive overview. At the same time, there is a conversation established between inside and outside – previously that relationship was rather awkward, one felt either inside or outside and those structures came to provide a connection, by leading the gaze in specific directions. They facilitate an effective communication between spaces by subtle manipulations of vision.

photography @george fakaros 
… You have designed all the folds as if your solids were cut through by viewing angles.
Exactly, fields of view and vanishing points were the first thing to consider systematically. The second one was the whole relation between the objects that were required to form an enclosure. There were functional aspects involved here; for instance, the optimal position of the screen or the views from inside the bar, as well as the movement of a rather large crowd inside the space – this had to be guided and channeled somehow because, previously, everything was rather disorienting and resulted in awkwardness. Another huge imposition was that we couldn’t really touch upon anything inside the building! All those objects had to be entirely self-bearing and, at the same time, they had to create space without charging the building’s structural system or interfering with any of the technical installations. That was very challenging. Furthermore, as soon as we had the geometry consolidated, we had to figure out a way of having everything prefabricated off-site, because the OCC could not interrupt its function for us to occupy the whole area of the lobby with construction work. Prefabrication prescribed a way of standardization. While each object is indeed unique, they all do follow the same typical system. There are always two sides bearing the structural frame while the rest hatch out as trap doors: Those had to be assembled separately and then they had to be brought here, pieced together and sealed on site; at the same time, they had to remain able to be opened when necessary, because, on the inside, there are installations running. Therefore, each structure has one face that can open every time anything needs to be fixed. That was a problem very difficult to solve.

photography @george fakaros
 
While deciding upon the final layout of the whole space, did you take under consideration any existing design method that has to do with human behavior and vision – space syntax, for instance?
Not quite; at least, not “formally”. The more we worked with the space, the more its very own parameters sprung up and became clear. What was important in the end was that, by way of connecting all those things, on the one hand there was a spatial narrative established inside the lobby – namely, an enclosure – while on the other one, we found a great number and variety of backdrops and intimate niches, like the one we’re sitting in at the moment, having this quiet conversation. The space has enormous potential. All this evolves as a very dynamic situation and, as a result, the OCC discovers a new identity; quite literally, as we say, the OCC “reinvents” itself. That is the major success. Each step led to the next, new potential was activated and, as a result, now we find ourselves in the position of having talks about expanding to the rest of the floors. This is what I consider to be successful design: Whatever pushes things forward, takes the brief one step beyond and brings to the surface new possibilities, allows for ideas to emerge.

photography @george fakaros 
Clearly; one assumes that the success of this design will be put to the final test when a large number of people find themselves inside here and begin to “dance” - all of this stages a particular choreography by means of the objects; the eye gets attracted and then people begin to perform.
Indeed, we had the chance to witness this very recently, when the TED event was held here and there were a lot of participants. It was very interesting to observe how the crowd at the TED actually behaved; how people started to move in here, or how they stood still, how they made groups and how they positioned themselves in relation to the screen… They seemed to welcome the new lobby and to like it very much. As about ourselves, of course, we were truly happy, it was a major first test and we were left with the impression that it all went very well. Certainly, this new situation could be expanded with more “episodes”, there is a perpetual flow of new potential. It’s very interesting to observe how such buildings operate in other cities, things always seem to “keep happening”. They become incubators, inside which things keep happening far beyond their formal statement; that was the major stake for the OCC as well. The OCC undoubtedly has a spectacular schedule of events, but the question remains, what happens the rest of the time? For instance, in London, at the South Bank, there is a number of such cultural facilities where things “keep happening” - the Royal Festival Hall, the National Theater… Their biggest success is that, beyond the stage events, on weekdays, they remain full of people - parents with their children, professionals who come with a laptop because they like to sit in there and work or use them as a meeting point… This is the stake for the OCC: To place a number of catalysts that will expand the program and attract people at all times; to become a true hub for the whole city. Because if you go once and you like it, and then you come again and bring your friends along, it all becomes inscribed in the life of the city. The OCC is a shelter – this is actually what its name in Greek, ‘Stegi’, stands for: Shelter – that was our point of departure in the first place. The OCC should be able to shelter informal, unexpected activities beyond the schedule, inside an accommodating environment that will feel nice precisely because it keeps sparking up new ideas. We merely set the grounds for a debate we are sure the OCC will take much further, because they have just the right people to do so. To conclude, perhaps, this is the way we understand our own participation in any project.
Thank you!

Credits:

Design: Divercity (www.divercityarchitects.com)
Curatorial concept & signage: Double Decker(www.double-decker.org.uk)Industrial design consultant: Manos Vordonarakis
Competition Consultant: DESIGNLOBBY (Vassilios P Bartzokas)
 
Photography George Fakaros
The project calls for the redesign of the entrance and lobby spaces of the Onassis Cultural Center (www.sgt.gr), a new cultural hub in Athens designed by Architecture Studio.
The Center hosts events and actions across the whole spectrum of the arts from theater, dance, music and the visual arts to the written word, with an emphasis on contemporary cultural expression, on supporting Greek artists, on cultivating international collaborations and on educating children and people of all ages through life-long learning.Our design strategy transforms the lobby space into a ‘shelter' (a 'stegi' In Greek) in the city: a space that can work in addition to the formal program of the Cultural Center A series of bespoke installations wrap around the building’s existing structural elements and spark a dynamic relationship between the three key characteristics of the shelter; the physical space, the digital experience and a series of specially curated wrap-around events.
One is dedicated to showcase portfolios of young creatives, another becomes a pop-up store, curated by Yatzer's chief editor Costas Voyatzis while a third takes the more humble role of providing a meeting corner. The aim is to create a vibrant all day hub that will appeal to the Onassis Cultural Center’s ever increasing dynamic and diverse crowd.
The design of these new installations is inspired by the distinct language of the existing facade. The white marble louvers on the exterior (by Architecture Studio) are kinked to form the structures that wrap around the lobby’s existing elements. They are carefully choreographed in response to the existing building and to the flow of people to provide areas of rest and pause as well as cater for their main functions, which include the ticket desks, info points, signage, video walls, etc.
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DESIGNLOBBY SIGNS AGREEMENT WITH HOMMAXX IN SHANGHAI, MEMBER OF THE LARGEST NATIONAL FURNITURE MALL CHAIN IN CHINA, CALLED RED STAR MACALLINE DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA Platform signs contract through its Chinese Partners in Guangzhou with the largest furniture mall chain group in China. The agreement was signed by the PDC & DESIGNLOBBY and it involves the Design & Consulting Services for the Renovation of one of their Furniture Shops for an area of 1,300m2The company which will work on that projects is MIRACLES Hong Kong represented by Olga Sismanidou and Fotis Stamatopoulos who have extensive experience and presence in China for the last 8 years. MIRACLES will be in charge for the Creative Direction and Communication Services from DL members.Olga Sismanidou Creative director and co founder of Miracles said:” We are excited with this collaboration as it has great potential and we look forward working with Red Star Macalline Group. We would like to thank DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA and its CEO Mr Vassilios P Bartzokas for his support and assistance and we are confident that we can bring a European Fleur and approach in their concept.ABOUT RED STAR MACALLINE GROUPHeadquartered in Shanghai, Red Star Macalline is the largest national furniture mall chain in China, with stores in Beijing, Shanghai, Shenyang, Tianjin, Chengdu, Wuxi, Nanjing and other major cities across the country.Red Star Macalline targets the rapidly growing middle class in China through the operation of “furniture malls” that offer residential fixtures, fit outs and furniture. Mr. Che Jianxin first founded the company as a furniture manufacturer in 1986. Five years later, it began to operate and lease its first furniture mall, and by 1999 had entered the key markets of Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin.To date, its furniture mall portfolio has increased to over 100 malls and in excess of 10 million square meters.Headquartered in Shanghai, CDG Retail Management Co. Ltd. (“CDG”) is a vertically integrated, retail-driven development and asset management company offering turn-key, on the ground execution and delivery capabilities.CDG was founded in 2010 to pursue retail anchored mixed-use development and value-added opportunities in mainland China. CDG is led by a senior management team comprised of three cycle-tested executives with an extensive blend of design, development, finance, construction, leasing and operations. Senior management has broad experience, particularly in emerging international markets, includes the formation and leadership of joint ventures with institutional investors including JP Morgan/Peabody Funds (France, Poland, Turkey), Morgan Stanley Real Estate (China) and Warburg Pincus (China).CDG Retail currently has shopping malls in multiple key second and third tier Chinese cities under development. Projects range in size from GFA 50,000 sqm to 120,000 sqm. Since 2004, the CDG Retail team has opened projects comprising the InCity portfolio, including investment grade shopping malls in Suzhou, Hangzhou, and Zhengzhou. The InCity portfolio, totaling more than 345,000 sqm, was sold at USD 350 million in 2010 representing one of the largest retail transactions in mainland China to date. In addition, CDG Retail’s executive team successfully led the leasing and / or project development of 4 projects in Beijing, Wuhan, Wuxi and Chengdu, totaling over 800,000 sqm.
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KOMMIGRAPHICS DESIGN STUDIO ΑWARDED WITH A GOLDEN ERMIS FOR ITS WORK ON DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA!
Kommigraphics Design Studio has been awarded with the Golden Ermis Award for its work on the online platform DesignLobby.asia at the Digital/ Websites.
DesignLobby.asia, the international matchmaker and guardian cluster of creatives, actively represents Award winning European Creatives from the fields of Product Design, Branding & Communication, Photography, Architecture, Interior Design, Web & Sound Design, Photography, Motion Design and the other creative fields.Its online philosophy and platform has been designed to accommodate all of its members and at the same time it forms an easy, quick and creative tool for anyone that is interested to find out more about DesignLobby.asia. The online and mobile platform has been designed by Kommigraphics Desigh Studio (www.kommigraphics.com), which alongside with DesignLobby’s founders has tried to integrate the best possible navigation with its innovative & functional design.

We are very proud to have created such a tool, where design meets expertise, highlighting the importance of creative thinking in every business aspect.
Kommigraphics Design Studio would like to thank DesignLobby.asia for its trust and Lab21 (www.lab21.gr) for its great cooperation at the development end.
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Ξεκίνησε η προπώληση εισιτηρίων για το ΕΣΩ #esw13 http://t.co/iCSsvwLz4R @Yatzer @minas_kosmidis @BeetRootDesign http://t.co/dpkaiFmZmw

Αναλυτικα το προγραμμα και η αγορά εισιτηρίων στην σύνδεση www.esw.gr 

#interiordesign #design #architecture #landscapedesign #communication #greekdesign
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Zege Architects & Minas Kosmidis members of Designlobby.asia platform nominated for the Idea Tops Awards.

Zege Architects are nominated for the a International Space Award in the category Hotels for THE MET HOTEL. 

Minas Kosmidis is nominated for the category Restaurant for the project O 13. The event will be held at the Shenzen Poly Theatre.

About Idea
International Space Design Award— Idea-Tops, which is strongly supported by related government branches. 

The Zhonghua Interior Design Website ( www. a963.com)— the first portal among the architectural and interior design industry in China, joints three leading academic institutions, Academy of Arts & Design, Tsinghua University, China Central Academy of Fine Arts and Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts to host the competition. 

The Idea-Tops award, which aims to create the most thoughtful and influential interior design award all over the world, discover and praise the best designers and design works.
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DesignLobby Greece, η χαρά της καινοτομίας
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ctrlzak:

Nature with its astonishing perfect geometry has always been the primary source of inspiration for most forms of creative projects. QUARTZ is a system that couples two-dimensional pentagonal and hexagonal wooden structures, which develop in three dimensions following natural crystalloid formations.
ctrlzak:

Nature with its astonishing perfect geometry has always been the primary source of inspiration for most forms of creative projects. QUARTZ is a system that couples two-dimensional pentagonal and hexagonal wooden structures, which develop in three dimensions following natural crystalloid formations.
ctrlzak:

Nature with its astonishing perfect geometry has always been the primary source of inspiration for most forms of creative projects. QUARTZ is a system that couples two-dimensional pentagonal and hexagonal wooden structures, which develop in three dimensions following natural crystalloid formations.
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DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA booth images from the recent participation at Canton Fair.
DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA booth images from the recent participation at Canton Fair.
DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA booth images from the recent participation at Canton Fair.
DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA booth images from the recent participation at Canton Fair.
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kostasyrtariotis:

Canton Faire (China)
Guested by Designlobby.Asia
kostasyrtariotis:

Canton Faire (China)
Guested by Designlobby.Asia
kostasyrtariotis:

Canton Faire (China)
Guested by Designlobby.Asia
kostasyrtariotis:

Canton Faire (China)
Guested by Designlobby.Asia
kostasyrtariotis:

Canton Faire (China)
Guested by Designlobby.Asia
kostasyrtariotis:

Canton Faire (China)
Guested by Designlobby.Asia
kostasyrtariotis:

Canton Faire (China)
Guested by Designlobby.Asia
kostasyrtariotis:

Canton Faire (China)
Guested by Designlobby.Asia
kostasyrtariotis:

Canton Faire (China)
Guested by Designlobby.Asia
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yatzer:

“Greece: the richest place in the world”
 by Beetroot…as long as we can get rid of some “setbacks”! The wonderful beaches, unique products, exquisite services and the hospitality, Greece is known for, should never be compromised by “setbacks”. Beetroot created a series of videos, commissioned by the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Greek National Tourism Organization about the simple, everyday things that can really make a difference in Greek tourism growth.


BEETROOT ARE DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA MEMBERS
yatzer:

“Greece: the richest place in the world”
 by Beetroot…as long as we can get rid of some “setbacks”! The wonderful beaches, unique products, exquisite services and the hospitality, Greece is known for, should never be compromised by “setbacks”. Beetroot created a series of videos, commissioned by the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Greek National Tourism Organization about the simple, everyday things that can really make a difference in Greek tourism growth.


BEETROOT ARE DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA MEMBERS
yatzer:

“Greece: the richest place in the world”
 by Beetroot…as long as we can get rid of some “setbacks”! The wonderful beaches, unique products, exquisite services and the hospitality, Greece is known for, should never be compromised by “setbacks”. Beetroot created a series of videos, commissioned by the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Greek National Tourism Organization about the simple, everyday things that can really make a difference in Greek tourism growth.


BEETROOT ARE DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA MEMBERS
yatzer:

“Greece: the richest place in the world”
 by Beetroot…as long as we can get rid of some “setbacks”! The wonderful beaches, unique products, exquisite services and the hospitality, Greece is known for, should never be compromised by “setbacks”. Beetroot created a series of videos, commissioned by the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Greek National Tourism Organization about the simple, everyday things that can really make a difference in Greek tourism growth.


BEETROOT ARE DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA MEMBERS
yatzer:

“Greece: the richest place in the world”
 by Beetroot…as long as we can get rid of some “setbacks”! The wonderful beaches, unique products, exquisite services and the hospitality, Greece is known for, should never be compromised by “setbacks”. Beetroot created a series of videos, commissioned by the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Greek National Tourism Organization about the simple, everyday things that can really make a difference in Greek tourism growth.


BEETROOT ARE DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA MEMBERS
yatzer:

“Greece: the richest place in the world”
 by Beetroot…as long as we can get rid of some “setbacks”! The wonderful beaches, unique products, exquisite services and the hospitality, Greece is known for, should never be compromised by “setbacks”. Beetroot created a series of videos, commissioned by the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Greek National Tourism Organization about the simple, everyday things that can really make a difference in Greek tourism growth.


BEETROOT ARE DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA MEMBERS
yatzer:

“Greece: the richest place in the world”
 by Beetroot…as long as we can get rid of some “setbacks”! The wonderful beaches, unique products, exquisite services and the hospitality, Greece is known for, should never be compromised by “setbacks”. Beetroot created a series of videos, commissioned by the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Greek National Tourism Organization about the simple, everyday things that can really make a difference in Greek tourism growth.


BEETROOT ARE DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA MEMBERS
yatzer:

“Greece: the richest place in the world”
 by Beetroot…as long as we can get rid of some “setbacks”! The wonderful beaches, unique products, exquisite services and the hospitality, Greece is known for, should never be compromised by “setbacks”. Beetroot created a series of videos, commissioned by the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Greek National Tourism Organization about the simple, everyday things that can really make a difference in Greek tourism growth.


BEETROOT ARE DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA MEMBERS
yatzer:

“Greece: the richest place in the world”
 by Beetroot…as long as we can get rid of some “setbacks”! The wonderful beaches, unique products, exquisite services and the hospitality, Greece is known for, should never be compromised by “setbacks”. Beetroot created a series of videos, commissioned by the Greek Ministry of Culture and the Greek National Tourism Organization about the simple, everyday things that can really make a difference in Greek tourism growth.


BEETROOT ARE DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA MEMBERS
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yatzer:

Biribildu: Greek Souvlaki Under The Big Top.

Minas Kosmidis is a member of DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA platform
yatzer:

Biribildu: Greek Souvlaki Under The Big Top.

Minas Kosmidis is a member of DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA platform
yatzer:

Biribildu: Greek Souvlaki Under The Big Top.

Minas Kosmidis is a member of DESIGNLOBBY.ASIA platform
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yatzer:

iMuseum By CTRLZAK In Mykonos, Greece
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keikbureau:

FoodMafia’s Sign