Though Athens gives off the impression of being a concrete jungle from afar, it is a surprisingly green city. During winter, orange trees line many of the roads, and in spring, there’s copious blossom, as well as the emergence of life from the city’s fig trees. Throughout the year, people’s balconies are generally covered in plants and trees. And of course, Athens itself is surrounded by – and made up of – hills. However, the chance to visit the Agricultural University offers a uniquely verdant experience.
Located in the Attica basin, the Agricultural University is a little farther outside the city centre. Even though the journey to get there is relatively short, the experience, once you arrive, feels fresh and new. This is because of the range of fields, greenhouses and abundance of fertile spaces that surround the main neoclassical university building. The impulse to explore is irresistible.
The Agricultural University of Athens is the third oldest in Greece, created in 1920. Inside the main building, history abounds, with a hunk of Plato’s olive tree exhibited in the central hall. Outside, thick olive trees speak of years of experience while a singular, tall palm tree sways over the whole grounds. The university’s vineyard produces its own organic wine, and visitors can also check out the orchard and botanical gardens. There are beehives too. Throughout, the space offers a sense of what ancient Athens might have been like before the city underwent urbanisation.
Until summer, this sacred space in the modern city will be open to the public as part of the Geometries exhibition, which is a three-month event held in partnership with the Onassis Cultural Centre and curated by Locus Athens. Divided into seven themes which centre around the elements and different landscapes, the Geometries exhibition includes workshops, cooking sessions, food, talks and performances.
The exhibition is curated by Locus Athens, a contemporary arts organisation run by Maria-Thalia Carras and Olga Hatzidaki. By using the full scope of terrain that the site offers, the organisers of Locus Athens invite audiences to meditate on how human beings interact with their environment and the effects that we have on natural space. Contributing artists are both local and international. The works include installations, performances and sculpture. ‘We hope that the exhibition and the programme can try and set some tentative co-ordinates for mapping a new approach to our relationship to where we live: our land,’ commented Maria and Olga in an opening statement about Geometries. The marriage of agricultural techniques and technological practices with contemporary art certainly offers visitors a new lens to experience the natural environment.