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In Solomou street in Exarchia, a neighbourhood which during the recent years has undergone an often violent process of gentrification, we have been asked to design a space hosting mediterranean cold cuts and several varieties of biological wines made by local producers. In a low profile street which hosts mainly traditional cookhouses, our main design principle was the contextualisation into the authenticity of the region while ‘extending’ the public urban fabric to the interior of the bar. Elements like the red colour of a vintage garage on the opposite side of the street, a built-in bench serving the visitors of the space as well as highlighting the originality of the existing building materials contribute to the continuity between private and public space, which in the neighbourhood of Exarchia holds an important historical position.
The functional need for the creation of a three dimensional exhibition of wine bottles and other local products was the start of the synthetic process, pointing out the mediterranean essence of the initiative of the creator of the space which is not just a conventional bar but rather an experience tasting space and diving into the familiarity of mediterranean smells and images. A 3d grid made out of black iron neutrally varnished organises a small space of 40 sqm while a wine red curtain creating a background to the products exhibited offering theatricality to the double height space. The black iron in its primal state is combined with the columns of the ‘60s building block to their original material, raw concrete, which offer at the same time a spatial rhythm. A Spanish hand-made tile with a tactile surface has been chosen for the bar tiling as well as for the bench on the opposite side giving a material continuity to the space. The wooden surface of the bar and the bottles storage shelves has been varnished wine red as well letting the wood water visible. An important element of the materiality of the space has been the revelation of the original building material of one of the walls, natural stone. The redesign of existing buildings is considered for us a living organism, so even though natural stone was not included in our initial design intention, the old material during the removals construction phase has refuelled the design process. Stainless steel has been used for the external bar while as a building material for the facade rectangular glass brick has been chosen to match the proportions of the orthogonal 3d metallic grid, strengthening the indoors-outdoors continuity.
Due to the very narrow width of the space, small movable tables have been placed on top of the bench giving space to users to move freely through the corridor. The main facade has preserved the marble covering and no signage has been placed respecting the non-commerciality of the streets of Exarchia and avoiding the normalisation of the commercialisation of the streets of such a historically sensitive area. The name of the bar ‘Bocas’ means in Spanish ‘Mouths’ inviting the user to taste mediterranean smells and to create images from Spain, Greece and other Mediterranean countries. A theatricality has deliberately been given to the photoshooting of the project in an attempt to redefine the commercial recreation spaces into spaces which respect their context and which the user will be able to be familiarised with by keeping the continuity with the open public space as intact as possible.
Photography: Dimitris Sidirokastritis, Photographer
Art Direction: Elli Athanasiadou
Model: Alexandros Piechowiak, Actor
Woodwork: Marios Zikas, Carpenter
Metalwork: Nikos Kapsis
Curtains: Sarlas Contract
Tiles: Equipe Ceramicas
Location: Solomou 34, Exarchia, Athens
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