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The postmodern ferment: the reconsideration of the modern, the regional, and the critical in the architectural practice of Suzana and Dimitris Antonakakis, c. 1980
This dissertation is a revisionist microhistory. It unfolds within a scholarly field outlined by contemporary revisits of the postmodern in architecture. Unveiling its narrow stylistic understanding as the outcome of a specific historical process, the thesis rethinks the postmodern as a proliferation of open-ended transcultural discourses on the modern, the regional, and the critical in architecture. This is turn enables it to recuperate a broader spectrum of postmodern problematic, including its socially conscious aspects that were gradually muted. To revise this problematic understanding, the research follows two major methodological shifts: (1) a categorical displacement of the discussion from theory to history, and (2) a contextual displacement of the discussion from the ‘centres’ of the Western European/North American world to the ‘peripheral’ case of Greece. The thesis thus rethinks the postmodern in its own open-ended historical horizon that in turn allows for a reconsideration of previously overlooked material. It follows the postmodern as a ferment that unfolds on the discursive, design, and pedagogical planes of architectural practice. The research focuses on Suzana and Dimitris Antonakakis, the Greek architects whose work attracted international attention as a defining example of critical regionalism in the early 1980s. Starting from the ‘international’ plane, chapter 1 revisits the 1980 Biennale in Venice through the lens of the two Greek architects and the curatorial debates that shaped it. The thesis thus draws a nuanced historical picture of the exhibition both as the generator of the dominant stylistic understanding of the postmodern, and the inadvertent catalyst for the subsequent articulation of critical regionalism. Following Kenneth Frampton’s resignation from the exhibition, chapter 2 stresses the transcultural authorship of critical regionalism by focusing on the tripartite relations of Frampton with Tzonis & Lefaivre and the Antonakakis. Moving to the ‘regional’ plane, the second part of the thesis follows the local repercussions of the inclusion of the Antonakakis in the ‘international’ canon of critical regionalism. Focusing on the architects’ formative years, chapter 3 traces the Antonakakis’ use of the modern as a critical tool to study the regional beyond traditionalism. Focusing on their design practice, chapter 4 traces their understanding of the regional as a collective endeavour that challenged modernist authorship. Focusing on Dimitris Antonakakis’s pedagogical practice, chapter 5 traces its recuperation by his politically active students in articulating their own radical critical discourse, also inspired by the postmodern theorists of the 1970s. The thesis thus juxtaposes ‘critical regionalism’, ‘postmodernism’ and other discursive formations with the work of the two architects circa 1980. In so doing, it also uncovers the historical agency, the limitations, as well as the untapped potential of these architectural discourses to inform contemporary reconsiderations of the modern, the regional, and the critical.
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