An architectural refresh of the Athens Conservatoire hits all the right notes
Ioannis Despotopoulos – also known internationally as Jan Despo – is one of Greece’s most prominent modernists, widely acclaimed for one of the capital’s best kept secrets, the Athens Conservatoire – a distinct, linear concrete structure in the heart of the city’s centre.
Designed in 1959 and built in the 1970s, the iconic modernist piece is raised on pillars, which create a beautiful grid externally, and hosts ample space for study and performance within - yet unfortunately whole areas of the building were never fully completed, and the building remained unfinished for some 40 years, due to lack of funding.
Enter atelier66, founded by Dimitris and Suzanna Antonakakis, and tense architecture network – led by Tilemachos Andrianopoulos . The team has been working on an extensive study of the building’s upper level and its Aris Garoufalis Hall, after securing the much needed funds by the foundation Friends of Aliki Vatikioti for Music and the Arts. Their labour of love is finally ready to open its doors to the public today.
The architects stress that the project revolves around the preservation of the original design's spirit, working with the historical plans to restore, complete and enhance Despotopoulos’ architectural intention. ‘The Hall suffered by wear and tear, and a series of random, dull alterations. Its inherent splendour remained nevertheless latent. Execution drawings of the side walls were identified in Despo’s archives and revealed a brilliant composition of acoustic panels that was never realised. Adjustments were necessary but our effort was not to betray the spirit and the modernist supremacy of the work,’ says Andrianopoulos.
Working with iroko wood for the flooring, and tinted and painted plywood for the wall panels, the team created a considerate interior that feels contemporary and has been acoustically perfected – thanks to the use of Sto sound absorbing panels - while at the same time remains true to its original designer’s vision, helping a much loved architectural icon get one step closer to full completion.