Natassa Dourida is a sociocultural engineer based in Athens. After receiving a degree in civil engineering (NTUA, 2008), she mastered in Restoration of Monuments (Msc Arch, NTUA, 2014).
Through a cultural management fellowship (Robert Bosch Stiftung, stART 2015), she developed the sociocultural project "Communitism" with the aim to motivate communities into reactivating abandoned heritage buildings in Athens. While coordinating the project, she developed her own artistic practice, conceptualizing and leading events meant as experiences to promote social reform, for which she and the Communi-team have been granted with Burning Man Art Grant (Europe was taken by a Bull, 2018). The project evolved into the start in 2018 of “Communitism”, an association operating a community-run sociocultural center in a formerly abandoned neoclassical building in the Keramikos-Metaxourgeio neighbourhood in the center of Athens.
“Our 1938 neoclassical building of 1200 square meters in the center of Athens offers the chance to juxtapose a highly traditional Greek style with contemporary interventions far from familiar. (…) Everything at Communitism is Do it Ourselves (DIO). […] We are motivated by the fact that our project is situated in the heart of Metaxourgeio, one of the most diverse neighbourhoods in Athens. On our block we coexist with heavy substance users, a red light district, recent refugees mainly from the Middle East, long term economic and political migrants from Asia and Africa, working class Greek and some of the trendiest eateries, cafes and bars of the Athenian nightlife. We are in one of the most unique environments in Europe, at the cross-section of the tension and possibility of divergent economic, political and cultural forces. We believe the solutions we find here will provide inspiration for neighbourhoods throughout the city. People become a part of the local defense by promoting the idea that you are more sustainable by working collectively. […] The key concept is to develop a methodology and support network to guide future teams reviving similar buildings throughout the city.” (source)
Introduced to the chair by Panayotis Antoniadis, researcher and co-founder of NetHood Zurich, Communitism opened up to us as our physical and social headquarters during our Seminar Week in Athens in the Fall of 2019 in a very generous and warm way. Communitism houses several multifunctional spaces that serve a wide variety of activities, from exhibitions and workshops with school children to queer performance nights, enabling the get-together of students, activists, politicians and academics.
Natassa’s experience in community building led to academic cooperation in the form of collectively written research proposals, as well as in the preparation and support of Studio Piraeus, and in her guest appearances during Workshops and as part of Studio Tirana.
The extraordinary story of the creation of the community center was additionally captured in an interview-based contribution to the forthcoming publication of the NEWROPE Chair titled “Chapter - Design in Dialogue".
Natassa is currently promoting capacity infusion within the association and the local networks as a member of the board. She is also co-ordinating the in-house project "Butterflies and Camels", and working on projects as a freelancer.
Natassa in the kitchen of Communitism. What used to be a filthy storage room was cleaned and re-activated as collective space. (photo: Maxime Delvaux)