OCC: Strange Cities Athens

Visualising Athens Unseen

An exhibition inspired solely by non-visual references of the city of Athens.


Double Decker invited 25 award-winning visual artists, none of whom had visited Athens, to create new pieces in response to the city, inspired by a box of non-visual elements. Strongly contemporary works colonised the aesthetically dilapidated exhibition venue, offering up a series of encounters with painting, installation, graphic art and digital interactions from which the dazzled visitor emerged with a new perception of their own city. By working closely with the OCC team, Double Decker ensured that ‘Strange Cities: Athens’ was one of the Centre’s most successful exhibitions, attracting over 8,000 visitors, and was supported by a rich programme of engaging talks, workshops and activities.

The Building

The exhibition was installed in the Diplareios Building, constructed in 1932 to be Greece’s flagship design school but now a ghostly, dilapidated presence in the heart of the city, in a neighbourhood steeped in history and the unexpected. Inevitably then, the experience of Strange Cities: Athens began in the building’s cultural neighbourhood, before the viewer even reached the threshold.


Whatever country my words may evoke around you, you will see it from a vantage point like yours.
– Invisible Cities, Italo Calvino (p. 27) Translation: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. Vintage Classics, 1997.


The Inspiration Box

Double Decker provided each artist with a cache of non-visual clues, including Yorgos Seferis’ poem ‘Jasmine’, a vintage popular song (‘A Magical City’ by Manos Hadjidakis), ‘2’ (a contemporary piece of instrumental music by Konstantinos Vita), a recipe for stuffed tomatoes (beloved by Athenians), excerpts from ‘Single Line Athens’ (Petros Markaris’ reflections on Athens through its old electric train line) and a field-recorded soundtrack of the city. No visual research was allowed.



And yet Athens is still animated.


Workshop series with Babis Alexiadis.
April – June 2015


Double Decker worked alongside internationally fêted animator and media artist Babis Alexiadis to devise a series of workshops for children as part of the education programme accompanying the Strange Cities: Athens exhibition. Young people were supported in exploring their own perceptions and story-telling abilities in working with others to make an animated film about Athens. Along the way each child gained not just knowledge of animation techniques and a better understanding of their own city, but also improved confidence, social and teamwork skills, and a sense of achievement.


  • 25 photographers, painters, graphic artists, illustrators & interactive designers from 11 countries
  • 90 artworks in various media
  • Exhibition opening attended by 3,500 visitors
  • 8,000 visitors in total
  • 30 wraparound programmes & workshops



Location: Onassis Cultural Centre: Diplareios School, Plateia Theatrou, Athens, Greece
Date: 20 April – 31 July 2015
Curation: Double Decker
Communication & Marketing: Onassis Cultural Centre, Athens: Afroditi Panagiotakou
Exhibition Design & Supervision: Spacelab Architecture: Sotiris Hainis, Vana Krimnioti


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