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Into Stoas: A Tour of the Hidden Athenian Arcades
The mid-century arcades found all around Athens' city centre are like wondrous Aladdin's caves for urban cartographer Natassa Pappa, who invites visitors to explore their secrets and beauty on her dedicated Into Stoas tour.
37D 59' 01.71", 23D 43' 39.14"
Coordinates redefined

The dense urban fabric of downtown Athens is the result of rapid urban development during the post-war period, as well the incorporation of Western European architectural trends into the local architectural vernacular. During the 1950's and 60's, turn-of-the-century neoclassical buildings were demolished to make room for mid-century modernist apartment and office buildings all around the city centre — many of which occupied entire building blocks and rose up to seven stories high — in an effort to rank Athens in the list of western capital cities. In order to offer additional shopping spaces and alternative walking routes in the bustling city centre, arcades were created within these large new buildings, that cut across building blocks and often have several exits to different streets and squares. This labyrinthine network of arcades mostly extends within the city's "Commercial Triangle", an area delineated by Ermou, Athinas and Stadiou streets. The area within the Triangle is where the city's heart beats, both in terms of commerce and nightlife.

1-4 An ongoing research project based on the mapping if the arcade exits located in the commercial triangle of Athens

Fascinated by the typography and atmosphere found in these arcades, urban cartographer and designer Natassa Pappa decided to map the around 40 of them found within the Triangle, and document the vintage signage used to direct visitors in an out of their shady interiors. Known as stoas in Greek, the arcades are now mostly abandoned, but are still open to pedestrians and create an alternative walking network that's unknown to its majority, even to Athenians. Meticulously recording the typography designs at the entrance of each arcade, Natassa Pappa created a booklet that showcases the sheer variety and inventiveness of vintage Athenian signage and graphic design found within these old arcades. The "Into Stoas" city guide includes a map of the city centre pointing out the location of each arcade, as well as a minimalist "vocabulary" with all the arcade floorplans, that architecture and urban-planning enthusiasts will surely find exciting.

A flâneuse in the most literal meaning of the word, Natassa Pappa loves to wander in the city and explore every little street and neighbourhood. As part of ther Into Stoas project, she also takes visitors on tours into the Athenian arcades, to discover hidden cafés, creative studios and unique architectural features that are invisible from the street. From the impressive neon-sign collection of the Merchants' Arcade to the busy Stoa Kaïri and its lovely coffee shop, the Into Stoas tour offers a completely different experience of the city, one where the past and the present intertwine and the real side of Athens comes into the light.

This article is published in partnership with UND Athens, the new alternative art map for Athens.


Kiriakos Spirou

Natassa Pappa


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