Infoscience

Conference paper

Polykatoikia: the popularisation of a status symbol

In interwar Greece, the form of apartment building called the polykatoikia was promoted by architects as the modern, ground-breaking residential type. Back then, the polykatoikia was designed for and inhabited by the urban upper-class, while its architects made use of the form to underline their allegiance to the central-European Modern Movement. During the years of post-war reconstruction, the lack of sufficient public housing as well as intensive migration into the cities created demands for the modernisation of housing forms. At the same time, a series of institutional and social changes made the erection of polykatoikia easier and eventually the object of a fevered, small-scale entrepreneurship. Gradually, rural migrants to the cities became an affluent, urban middle-class that enjoyed the status of home ownership, thanks to the polykatoikia. This paper aims to observe the translation of a high-profile architectural invention into a vulgarized, middle-class housing type, an object of hedonistic consumption. The focus will be on a particular polykatoikia in Athens designed in 1956 by the eminent architect Dimitris Fatouros. In order to demonstrate its importance for contemporary Greek housing, its diffusion into the provinces, as well as the role of various actors, it will be compared to a polykatoikia erected on the island of Crete 21 years later by an unrecognised local construction engineer.

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