Constructing ‘the Commons’: Oil, Olive, Light Delphi & Athens

Constructing ‘the Commons’:
Oil, Olive, Light
Delphi & Athens

From soil to light

Stavropoulou Architects were commissioned to create an installation for the third edition of the ATHENA International Olive Oil Competition, to celebrate the economic and cultural significance of the product.

For centuries the production and consumption of olive oil has been central to Mediterranean culture, shaping the lives of inhabitants of the region.
The installation tells the story of the olive oil cycle – from the tangible soil of the farm to the intangible light of a traditional oil burning lamp. Olive oil is both a material product, and a symbol of a culture and tradition.
The client, Vinetum is a leading Greek wine and gastronomy company that organises exhibitions, and events and produces publications related to fine wines in Greece and beyond.
The trajectory of oil is developed in the exhibition space as a diptych: from the cultivation of the fruit to the harvest, and consumption.
Meanwhile, stories and images are reinscribed in the present, using humble materials: soil, roots, net, sacks, tins, lamps.
The cycles of nature and production shape the rituals of the future.
The exhibition narrative begins from the soil, receiving and nourishing the tree that will later bear the olives showing the harvesting of the fruit through the work of many hands and capturing the expectation that flows with the new press.
The ‘teneke’, a large metal tin, is filled with the year’s labour and the memory of work, the weather, and the grower’s expectations. In the installation, these tins are opened, becoming light-filled shells, where archival photographs of olive-gathering are positioned.
Elena Stavropoulou made the lanterns by hand from clay, a material related to the soil. In the installation the lanterns welcome the oil, transforming it into light.
Just as the soil helps the tree grow from the seed, the lamps, with their curved lines, refer to the maternal figure, mother-earth – welcoming, caring and nourishing.
Oil is a gift, contributing to acts of caring: for the land, the field, the grove, the oil, for fellow man. Oil heats, nourishes and gives light to the lamp, illuminating paths and futures.