Polykatoikia, the multi-storey apartment building, appeared as a building type in Athens all along 1910. Polykatoikia,though, as the social & legal contract which is the essence of it, was constituted and established with the 1929 law of horizontal ownership, according to which each apartment could have a different owner and the management of shared spaces is done collectively. Since then and through the system of antiparochi, polykatoikia spread out all over Attica region, taking over every free space and shaping the image of its urbanscape, as well the human geography of the modern metropolis. The cheap, dark, small apartments of basements or 1st floor, together with the almost identical middle-class apartments on the floors above, and the privileged, with-a-view penthouses on top constitute a microcosm which is a vertical reproduction of the social stratification of Athens.
The mass spread of polykatoikia was abetted by its cheap standardized construction method, the easily adaptable floor-plan which as a reinterpretation of maison dom-ino implied its infinite reproductions with small variations, its relatively small size that economically enabled its wide dissemination, and the maximization of profit due to the variety of possible uses which could co-exist in a single building: shops, offices, storage spaces, workshops, luxury last floor apartments and cheap basements, even public services.
However, flexible in its adaptation to the urban environment, the polykatoikia became a particularly rigid model regarding its ability to assimilate a number of different lifestyles. Behind the exterior complexity of the rows of polykatoikia lies the interior uniformity of standardized typical flats. The typology of the apartment is particularly restrictive and is addressed almost exclusively to the standard requirements of the nuclear family of three or four members, permanent residents of the city.
It is usually a cheap construction of a reinforced concrete frame with flat roof, filled with brick. The façades are stripped of any decoration, with all flat surfaces covered by rough cast, shaped only by the grid of the standardized openings & windows, which are wider in the newly built, and the rows of balconies which create a rhythmical pattern along the axis of the streets. The 1955 building code set the rule for the succession of penthouses, each one 2,5 m narrower than the other, that gave polykatoikia its typical pyramid section.
Most of polykatoikias are built without an architect’s contribution, as a mere technical work, a repetition of a typical floor plan with lack of any architectural detailing. Their form was shaped, beyond architectural design, by the building regulations of their times in an effort to make most of the available space. They usually have 4 to 7 floors with shops and workshops in the ground floor, and parking spaces in the newly built. Since 1950 there were only 1000 buildings of more than 5-storey in Athens, but in the following decades between 1950-1980 35.000 more were built. Most apartments are 3 rooms and average 75 sq.m. (source)
The polykatoikia statute
defines the use of common spaces. It is a very important document, and it comes as a necessary appendix to the sale contract of each apartment according to the 1929 law of horizontal ownership. It sets the rule for the use of common spaces, the terrace, the entrance, the akalyptos (the backyard), it defines the ways that conflicts occurring from the co-living could be resolved, and also defines the economic management of common expenses, renovations, and possible alterations.
Besides the apartment each owner owns a percentage of the floor area ratio of the land plot, which is defined in the polykatoikia statute. That means in case of demolition οf the existing structure each owner still has the right to build according to his percentage on the plot, multiplied by the permitted floor area ratio.