Stoa Cavafy
An installation for Constantine P. Cavafy
by Not A Number Architects

The installation has been conceived on the occasion of 150 years since the birth of Constantine Cavafy, poet of “Ithaka” and “Waiting for the Barbarians”. It is the closing act in a series of cultural events that took place in 2013 celebrating the most distinguished Greek poet of the twentieth century and trying to draw the attention of the greater public on his timeless poetry. The opening of this temporary installation took place on 29 April, the date of his death but also his birthday, and will be dismantled after two months.

“and as he disappeared under the arcades,
among the shadows and the evening lights,”
Excerpt from “One of Their Gods”
Translated by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard

The project occupies part of an arcade that connects two busy streets in the centre of Thessaloniki, Greece. The arcade penetrates a derelict building of the 1900s once a bustling place packed with merchants. A clump of glowing columns resembling tree-trunks invite the passersby to explore the otherwise dark arcade. People enter this artificial garden of poetry through a heavy iron door that adds to the lyricism of the picture. The 5m high columns are wrapped in multiple layers of tracing paper and lit from inside. The paper is peeled like the bark of a tree revealing poems of Cavafy inside luminous hollows. The more the paper is peeled the clearer the poems can be read while forming stratifications of light and shadow. There are three types of columns with different diameters, corresponding to the three different types of Cavafy’s poems – the sensual, the philosophical and the historical. This scenographic experience is accompanied with audio versions and readouts of his work and recorded sounds from the streets of Alexandria, his home town and muse.

Constantine Cavafy remained unrecognized during his lifetime, working for 30 years as a civil servant for the British ministry of irrigation. At the back end of the installation there is a walnut desk with five oversized wooden stamps on it. Visitors can sit down and stamp the poems of Cavafy on a piece of paper which then they can keep, reenacting in this way the routine of his public life which ironically concealed the creation of his timeless art.

Project Title: Stoa Cavafy
Author: Not A Number Architects – NANA
Location: Thessaloniki, Greece
Project team: Ermis Adamantidis, Dominiki Dadatsi, Maria Avramidou, Nikos Koutroulos
Organizer: Onassis Foundation Cavafy Archive + Parallaximag