Intermediate 15 Chris Zhongtian Yuan, City of Objects, 2016-17

The Athens Studio

Xristina Argyros and Ryan Neiheiser

Athens is a city of contradictions: a city at the centre of European identity and yet at the edge of the "western" world; a city with massive influxes of voluntary tourists and involuntary immigrants; a new city that thinks it is old; a city defined as much by its amorphous sea of generic white buildings as by its perfect monuments of architecture. Above all Athens is a city in crisis. Many are looking for an economic or political solution, but the space of the city goes overlooked and under examined. It is both a city in need of immediate work and the contemporary European city that most dramatically embodies the urgent, alarming and intractable crises that face our cities today. This year we are once again immersing ourselves in this complicated context, attempting to render legible a city that is stubbornly difficult to grasp, and revealing new opportunities for intervention.

Change is most possible during times of crisis. We're hoping to take advantage of this current moment of precarity to make projects that are sensitive to the very real constraints of contemporary Athens but also move beyond traditional logics to imagine radical alternatives to the present.

Although much has been written about the polykatoikia, the quintessential modernist building typology whose endless repetition has paradoxically resulted in an un-modern formless city, we're choosing to focus instead on the moments of exception in the city. Architecture has the power to break the monotony, to register difference and to frame spaces of collective exchange and debate. Creating more public space in itself isn't enough. The challenge of Athens is best approached by rethinking its civic institutions, the monuments and voids that orient us in the isotropic fabric of the city.

This year Intermediate 15 will continue to rethink the institution of the university, starting from the hypothesis that the architecture of academic institutions is uniquely able to reorganise and reinvigorate the city. We will examine how these institutions are currently manifested in Athens, identify and critique emerging models and historical precedents, and imagine radical new propositions at both the urban and the architectural scale. Only by reinventing these institutions - both their logics and their forms - can we reinvent the future of the city.

Unit Staff

Xristina Argyros is co-founder of Neiheiser Argyros, a London-based multidisciplinary architecture practice. Originally from Athens, she graduated from Princeton University and received her Masters from the Yale School of Architecture. She has worked for WORKac, OMA New York and Ateliers Jean Nouvel, has taught at Cardiff and Yale universities, and has been teaching at the AA since 2016.

Ryan Neiheiser is co-founder of Neiheiser Argyros. He holds a dual-degree in engineering and art from Swarthmore College and a Masters from Princeton University School of Architecture. He has worked for OMA Rotterdam and Diller Scofidio + Renfro, has taught at Princeton University and has been teaching at the AA since 2014.


AA School of Architecture Admissions (Undergraduate)
36 Bedford Square
London WC1B 3ES

T: +44 (0)20 7887 4051
F: +44 (0)20 7414 0779

Links & Downloads

More Details

Extended Brief

Projects Review 2017

More Information


Prospectus 2017-18
AA Prospectus

Foundation Course Booklet
Foundation Course Booklet

Undergraduate Course Booklet
Undergraduate Course Booklet


Share |

The Architectural Association, Inc. is a Registered Charity Incorporated as a Company limited by guarantee. Registered in England No.171402. Registered office: 36 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3ES, 020 7887 4000

Click here to read the AA’s latest review report.

Click here to read the AA’s latest action plan.