Walking through the dark alleys of Psirri, a part of the Athens’ city centre that has a strong identity and contradictive reputation, you will discover Pittaki street. Creative studio Beforelight and the non-profit organization Imagine The City decided to bring light back to that forgotten street by creating a light installation from 150 citizens’ donations of old lamp fixtures and lamp shades.
This street was chosen because although it is small in length, it is an entrance to the Psyrri area that is visible from the main commercial street of Ermou. However, in this period of decay and crime, the pedestrian traffic is gradually declining and the street’s mixed use with private residencies and shops is also shrinking, as Cristina Ampatzidou from Beforelight explains. It was an ideal spot for this particular urban intervention, turning the street into a more lively and welcoming place.
The group started gathering and repairing lamps with valuable help from volunteers, in a temporary workshop set in an abandoned shop on the particular street. Apart from collecting lamp fixtures, the workspace brought the community together. Curious pedestrians often confused it for a lamp shop; hospitable neighbors brought food while friends from the social media shared the whole process online. The project became a big buzz, bringing metaphorically and literally some much needed light into our lives.
Neighbors were more than happy to help since somebody was finally paying attention to their street. Surprisingly they had no problem with the necessary holes and fixtures made on to their buildings’ facades, as they were fascinated with the idea and even insisted on selecting the lamp they preferred to be placed outside their window! Just imagine the potential of such a flexible environment…
When the project was finalised, a colorful light ceiling was created, making the narrow space seem less suffocating by breaking the height of the tall buildings. A street artist decorated some empty walls along the street, imitating a house’s interior, creating all together a cozy and welcoming atmosphere.It was fascinating being in this street. You could almost feel the presence of the lamps’ owners as each lamp told its own unique story. But more strongly you could feel the positive energy and the bond that was formed among them. This became in my eyes a striking representation of a temporary pop-up community.
It was certainly a magical place to be especially during Christmas holidays. Some people saw it as a symbol that could become the equivalent of Athens’ main Christmas tree – which this year was replaced by a poorly designed structure. These initiatives should be the ones that should characterize Athens in such a difficult period becoming bright visual responses to the brutal images promoted by the media.
Apart from the vast positive feedback the Pittaki project got, a dialogue sprung between professionals’ and citizens’ circles, hopefully bringing a positive change in the way the city is perceived and the extent in which citizens should participate. The fastest response to that was the transformation of a nearby street that some artists decided to turn it into a permanent photo exhibition. Pittaki’s lights will remain in place for the next six months. Stay tuned because there is always something new happening there.