Athens is a city epitomized by ancient buildings. Still, for centuries, more contemporary examples of Greek architecture and design have been all but absent from the international conversation. But with the city’s art scene on the uptick (most say it started when Documenta chose Athens as a sister location to its usual Kassel, Germany, in 2017) and the energizing presence of international design gallery Carwan, a small-but-mighty design scene is beginning to bubble up from beneath the surface—catching the eyes of locals and expats alike.

When Greek American art and design enthusiast Katerina Papanikolopoulos moved to Athens for a change of pace during the pandemic, she quickly began to detect those rumblings. But, as she recalls, “people told me there was no design in Athens.” She set out to prove them wrong, canvassing the city for partnerships, funding, and venues to help her assemble the area’s first-ever design event. “It’s not a design week,” she insists, of Athens Design Forum (ADF), which runs September 30 through October 7. “The format will always be more experimental.”


She has big plans for ADF—more editions with the same experimental format, and, perhaps most ambitiously, an archive of traditional Greek craft. (“There is this misconception that Greece is like Pentelic marble and Parthenon,” Papanikolopoulos says. “I was interested in seeing the broader craft heritage—things from the 1600s, the medieval craft.”) Until then, here are a few of our favorite moments from the forum’s inaugural year.

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The home of contemporary Greek painter Alekos Fassianos. Tavitian

“He is inspired by the myth, the idea that everyone has his own myth,” says Mariza, wife of the contemporary Greek painter Alekos Fassianos. During the Athens Design Forum, she and her daughter, Viktoria, gave a tour of their art-filled family home in the Athenian suburb of Papagos. Among Fassianos’s many colorful, mythical paintings is a whole world of furniture and design objects he created for the place: vibrant ceramics, bird-shaped lights, mosaic faces in the floor, and a suite of custom furnishings—most of them never before seen.