Victoria: Way In/Way Out: The shelter, the embassy and the transparent state

AREA - Architecture Research Athens


Project Team:
Styliani Daouti, Giorgos Mitroulias, Michaeljohn Raftopoulos with Katerina Vassiliou

In the summer of 2015, refugees from the Middle East found temporary shelter at Victoria Square, on their journey to Western Europe. Since then, Victoria, an urban space of bourgeois past and imperial name, has become a nexus of the refugee crisis, with an extended solidarity network providing shelter and guidance.

Victoria: Way In/Way Out imagines the space of Victoria Square as a paradigm for the future of the Mediterranean city. Two parallel urban entities coexist: the ‘Shelter’ and the ‘Transparent State.’ The first emerges within the concrete frames of former polykatoikies, i.e. apartment blocks, that now function as small, live-in ‘factories,’ where a diverse population of urban dwellers engages in the low-tech production and exchange of knowledge, products and services of a post-capitalist society. As an ever-changing, horizontal city perpetually linked to the present, the ‘Shelter ’ is intersected by the ‘Transparent State’: a formal and invariable network of radically privatized infrastructures and public spaces, with restricted access and limited rights, where constant surveillance guarantees safety and conformity to the past.

Victoria Square itself has been transformed into a new Crystal Palace, or ‘Embassy,’ negotiating between the ‘Shelter’ and the ‘Transparent State.’ Mobility and the transitory nature of human occupation are everywhere on display, mediated by control points, waiting rooms and prepared experiences, whereby individuals may or may not be granted further access.