Troon Street: A road in transition 

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What follows is about my neighborhood, Ano (Upper) Petralona. It takes the form of notes and thoughts, circling around the social geographies of the area and building infrastructure, and taking as an example Troon Street, one of the main streets in the area. 

Location: Petralona belongs to the municipality of Athens. It is situated very close to the historical city centre (just a 20min walk), but, at the same time, it remains a primarily residential area. Although it’s only recently that a variety of commercial activities -restaurants, bars, as well as art galleries- have made an appearance, these have already made quite an impact on the life of the neighborhood. Also interesting to note is the area’s various street names, most of which relate to tribes from ancient Greek history.  

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Filopappou Hill: A distinctive feature of the area is its access to Filoppapou Hill, also called Muses’ Hill, a green and pleasant space, south-west of the Acropolis, which combines the open-space activities that usually take place in a park with archeological walks in the pedestrianized area around Acropolis and Pnyx, following the wonderful paths, designed in 1957 by Dimitris Pikionis, an important Greek architect and a major figure of the Regionalist movement. Since it is a significant archeological site, in close proximity to the Acropolis, the archeological authorities have repeatedly attempted to fence it off and impose charges on visitors. However, the residents have shown that they have other plans, and have fervently fought against such ideas. Consequently, the hill continues to be open to the public and it has now become quite apparent that it has to be used and kept alive and accessible to all citizens. Such a feature has attracted a mixture of social classes to the area, which has now been gentrified, following western-European examples.      

Synoikia to oneiro: Ano Petralona used to be one of the poorest neighborhoods in central Athens, a place where refuges took up residence, during various periods in recent history. It was once called “Synoikia to Oneiro”, a name acquired from a 1961 film directed by Alekos Alexandrakis. This neorealist film, which was then banned by censorship, presented a real-life view of the poorest population living in Athens, and thus it was certainly not welcome by the authoritarian, right-wing regime, which was established in Greece, straight after civil war. Here you can see selected scenes from the film and listen to part of the soundtrack, which is also very interesting. Here you can watch the entire film (no subtitles are currently available).


Βuilding infrastructure: When the capital of the newly born Greek state was relocated from Nafplion to Athens in 1834, a significant number of people, from all over the country  moved to the new capital. Low income population tended to settled in areas around the city centre. Such areas developed outside the official urban-planning, with much jerry-building. As the city continued to expand, these areas where later included in the city maps revised versions. Petralona became a part of the official plan at the end of 19th century. Beside jerrybuilding, several neoclassical and eclecticist type of buildings, also made an appearance, which were mainly two storey, with an inner courtyard at the back. “Neoclassical” should here be understood as a popular, toned-down version of the original; simpler, made with lower-cost materials, and with much less elaborate decorative elements that those applied to major buildings of the city centre, occupied by the upper class. Thus, if centrally located neoclassical buildings born the signature of a famous architect, those at Petralona and similar areas around city centre remained anonymous. However, even if they could not be considered of great value by formal standards, these buildings still represent a valuable contribution to the popular culture of the period, an adaptation and interpretation of a particular moment in history. At significant number of such buildings can still be seen on Troon street.

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Troon street also features structures buildings from the interwar period. This age of transition is reflected to buildings that still show neoclassical influences, but their main attribute is their contradictory nature. Occasionally they show rejection of the neoclassical trend in favour of a modernist approach, which comes close to a form of the Bauhaus aesthetic, naturally adapted to local needs and means. Such buildings remain two-storey, and have a more geometric appearance, cubic volumes, semi-outdoor spaces etc.      

Recent developments: Today, Troon Street is interesting and vibrant, as it contains fragments from all afore-mentioned transitions in the history of the city. Due to its proximity to the Acropolis, the street together alongside the entire neighborhood, has to follow strict building regulations, which helped it escape those building storms of the 1960s and ’70.... Ano Petralona was gentrified during the 2000s, and was, thus, subsequently transformed from being a former refugee, working class area to a place that attracts parts of the middle classes, in particular a young intelligentsia, keen to mix with locals as well as migrants. 

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The outcome of all these is a interesting mixture of styles and cultures: A few dilapidated houses, looking exactly like the did many decades ago, when they were inhabited by emigrants and working class people, recently renovated neoclassical style buildings now occupied by the middle classes, inter-war period modernist buildings, as well as some contemporary lofts all merge together. As of recently, the economic crisis has started to transform this historical Athenian neighborhood once again, but this has to be the subject of a future posting. As the economical and social contradictions of the area are getting deepen, this is reflected to the formation of the urban space and related activities and the demand for public, open and free of charge facilities and events is getting bigger. Furthermore, these economical developments had as an effect the rise of the political consciousness and action of local peoples, as well as all the Athenian people. This has been expressed by the huge number of people that participated in the local people’s assembly during the massive demonstrations against the austerity measures that took place all over Athens during summer 2011. This assembly is still taking place at the central square of the neighborhood and is evident that people’s political action will also contribute to the developments and transformation of the neighborhood in a certain direction. 

Just a quick final note on Petralona: New urban plans that have come to light show intentions for the area to become the city’s next "hot spot", in the massively expanding entertainment industry; an urban area which will join those of Metaxourgeio and Keramikos. During the past 2 years, the number of restaurants, cafés and bars has significantly increased. However, I do not see this a viable project, since Petralona remains a primary residential area, with the majority of people opposing such plans, whereas Metaxourgeio and Keramikos are basically abandoned areas, mainly inhabited by recent immigrants and very low income people, who were driven away by the authorities’ hostility in the context of the "re-building" and "regenerating" the area. In addition, the economic crisis and its side effects will make funding such developments rather difficult. So far, such policies and ideas have been associated with state intervention, which is unlikely to continue unabated. What is vital for people within an urban context to maintain a quality of life, as well as to strengthen citizen’s rights against the consequences of the economic crisis.           


A photo survey of the building infrastructure of Troon Street can be found here.

A view of Filopappou Hill  and the activities that take place every Clean Monday can be found here

  

© SoundandSpace 2016