K. Antonopoulos apartment building (Blue Building)

61 Arahovis and 80 Themistokleous Sts, Athens, 1932-33


Kyriakoulis Panayotakos (1903-1982)
Painter Spyros Papaloukas (1892-1957)
Dimitris Pikionis (1887-1968), NTUA professor

This building designed by Kyriakoulis Panayotakos is a benchmark work of Greek modernism. Situated on the square of the middle-class district of Exarchia, not far from the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), it ranks among the first Athenian apartments to constitute a genuine expression of the radical principles and codes of the Modern Movement. This work was praised by Le Corbusier who said of it: "C’est très beau", when he visited it in the construction stage, having come to Athens for the Fourth International Congress of Modern Architecture (IV CIAM).
The building consists of a basement, ground floor and six upper storeys. It includes 38 apartments of 16 different types and four ground floor shops on the side of the square. On the flat roof, in addition to the service areas, he created a lounge for the inhabitants, giving them a place for social contact. The architect designed all the construction details and the built-in furnishings, apart from the wooden rolling shutters and the locks which, together with the sanitary ware and the special electrical installations, were ordered from Germany and Italy.
The building’s elevations show the influence of the central European Modern Movement. Their treatment is characterised by the harmonious synthesis of solid and void and the rhythmic alternation of closed and semi-outdoor areas, which lends them a mild plasticity. The most impressive innovation on this building, however, and the one that received the sharpest criticism was its colour: deep blue and warm sienna. These colours, the product of the artist’s collaboration with his teacher, architect Dimitris Pikionis, and the artist Spyros Papaloukas, from 1913 on were influenced by the radical works of Bruno Taut and other European avant-gardists who experimented with strong colours on buildings.
The boldness of Panayotakos and Papaloukas was not vindicated in practice. The blue paint on the elevations aged badly and its unfamiliar presence in the strong Attic light discouraged the continuation of this experiment and led to the "blue" apartment building being repainted in lighter colours.