Workers’ Housing Complex (OEK)

Nea Philadelphia, 1955-57

Aris Konstantinidis (1913-1993)

The workers’ housing complex in Nea Philadelphia is one of the most authentic efforts to adapt the principles of modern town planning to postwar Greece. It was the first large-scale work by the radical architect Aris Konstantinidis, and was designed and built between 1955-57 when Konstantinidis was head of the Studies Service of the Workers’ Housing Organisation (OEK).
The complex was organised in accordance with the modern free building system on both regularly and irregularly shaped lots. The general disposition of the two-storey and three-storey buildings is governed by geometric clarity on the rectangular lots; on the irregular lots, the adaptation of the buildings creates inner courtyards with asymmetrical sides. There is a systematic partition of volumes into smaller units that are juxtaposed either at an angle or set back from each other. The basic unit consists of a semi-outdoor staircase with two three-room apartments on each floor on either side.
The construction is of reinforced concrete structural elements that follow a strict grid defining the form of the apartments both inside and out. The façades follow the grid of the unplastered concrete skeleton and the fill-in brickwork walls painted in light earth tones: terracotta, ochre, brown. A characteristic stylistic element of the complex, which hints at tradition, is the projection of the roofed balconies with the simple metal profiles of the railings and the vertical features that link the balconies.
Various alterations made by the inhabitants of the apartments and by the OEK bureaucracy led to the aesthetic and functional downgrading of the buildings. Moreover, the main reasons why Aris Konstantinidis resigned from his position as head of studies at OEK was his opposition to the more intensive exploitation of land desired by his superiors in the bureaucracy, and their refusal to fund the landscaping of the open spaces in all the workers’ housing settlements, as he proposed.