I was walking around in Kifissia, when I came across some kind of a strange box at the corner of Levidou and Kassaveti str.. Which is actually an installation, serving as a public library, resembling more of an open space bookshelf rather than a building. It looked like nothing I’d seen before! And just like that, my mission became to track down the masterminds behind this genius idea. And I did. Please, meet Irini – Emilia Ioannidou and Eleftherios Ambatzis. And let’s embrace this concept. It’s called “Vivliothiki Kifissias // The Bookshelf of Kifissia“.
First of all, please do introduce yourselves.
El.: We are two young fellow architects, who in relation to practicing architecture as such, we are also both very much interested in a wider spectrum of applying new ideas and designs. Sometimes these ideas take form in the private sector and some others are filtered with a more public projection. For example, Irini also designs jewelry, whereas Eleftherios (moi) focuses on industrial design, objects and furniture.
Would you mind sharing with us the sole purpose behind the public library?
El.: “The bookshelf of Kifissia” incorporates an alternative approach to the traditional concept of other public libraries. It promotes social interaction, which can be achieved through books.
I.: First of all, we are talking about a piece of public furniture and not a building. Our proposal includes a modern construction (0.8m X 0.8 X 2.0m) based on traditional bookshelf standards, where visitors can manage the bookshelf material on a full-time basis without the need of registering, subscribing or contributing of any fees. Visitors can offer books, return or swap them anytime, as the bookshelf is open to visitors 24 hours, seven days a week. The aim is to promote an aesthetic, cultural and educative value to the residents and visitors of the Municipality of Kifissia.
Do you think that “free reading” (if you can excuse the use of such a term) is the antidote to “no reading”?
I.: Could be… To be honest, our initiative is not based on this factor. We started working on the bookshelf project with a sole purpose: free circulation of books. We believe one should not need to pay or register anywhere, in order to have access to a book. We thought of developing a condition in which reading could become more tempting, when offered freely in a public space.
What’s your all time favorite book?
I.: “The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand.
E.: “The Satanic Verses” by Salman Rushdie.
Why did you choose Kifissia?
I.: We both are citizens of Kifissia and our first thought was to approach our municipality and propose our idea. We also considered the fact that Kifissia is a suburb extremely suitable for the first bookshelf project. Perfect to see whether there’s a future to it or not. The centre of the area combines several varying facilities which make it a very alive place and it’s relatively reliable for such an experiment to take place. We also appreciate the cultural history of Kifissia and wanted to contribute to it somehow.
Are you already planning to expand by building a second bookshelf beyond Kifissia area, for instance downtown Athens?
El.: Of course we do, we are very optimistic, hoping that our idea could expand to other areas as well, both within as well as outside Athens. We consider it as the answer to a general need. We like to think of a network of bookshelves spreading. Why not, taking a book from the bookshelf of Kifissia and returning another one to the bookshelf of Athens?… or even Thessaloniki?
Aren’t you afraid that it could become victim of vandalism?
I.: No one could stop them, should this possibility arise. But I can’t really think of any reason why anyone would hurt the project in any ways possible. See, this bookshelf as a project belongs to everyone. It does not stand there for any other reason than to freely circulate a common good: the book.
Are you fully satisfied with the crowd’s reactions so far?
I.: More than satosfied! We did not expect such a warm welcome from the public. We try to visit the bookshelf every day, since last week’s opening and each time we find around a hundred new books on the shelves! The total amount is more or less the same, but the books are different every time, which means that the idea of swapping has already started to work!
El.: Another interesting dimension of the project is the social interaction taking place around this public piece of furniture. People stop and wonder if they are allowed to freely take a book and most of the times discuss about the way it functions with other passers by. It’s already been a week now and we are truly hoping that the bookshelf experiment will keep on flourishing!
This project is sponsored by: