On first glance, a typical Athens polikatoikia doesn’t necessarily look like the answer to a host of urban issues. Built quickly and on the cheap — mainly from the 1950s to the 1980s — these modernist apartment buildings (pronounced “Pol-i-kat-i-KEE-A”) line street after street in the Greek capital, their repeated concrete facings and endless lines of unfurled balcony awnings giving the city an appearance of remarkable consistency. They may lack the elegance of Athens’ earlier neo-classical housing, but they have helped to create a city that is vibrant, socially integrated and (until recently) affordable, in which most residents’ housing offers broadly good living conditions. It’s probably fair to say, however, that the buildings have managed all this more or less by accident.
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