Panayotis A. Michelis

Panayotis A. Michelis (1903-1969)

Panayotis A. Michelis, the Greek architect, theoretician of architecture and philosopher of art, was born in Patras in 1903. In 1926 he graduated from the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Dresden. He began his career as an architect in Dresden and then worked in Patras and Athens. Very soon, however, he devoted himself almost exclusively to theoretical studies on architecture, art and aesthetics.

From 1941 to 1969 he held the Theory of Architecture Chair at the National Technical University of Athens. During his tenure he founded the Collections and Architectural Studies Archive where students’ studies of architectural monuments in Greece from antiquity to modern times were deposited. New material is constantly added to this invaluable archive.

Michelis participated in a large number of both Greek and international conferences on aesthetics, architecture, Byzantine studies and philosophy. As visiting professor he taught at universities and colleges in Europe (Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Sweden) and the United States (Harvard, MIT).

He was the founder of the Hellenic Society for Aesthetics and its first President. He organised the IV International Congress on Aesthetics in Athens in 1960. In 1962 he had published the first issue of the review Chronika Aisthetikes / Annales d’Esthétique / Annals for Aesthetics that continues to be published to this day.

Michelis was among the first Greek architects to champion modern architecture and art. His profuse theoretical work focusses on three main areas:

  1. the principles of architecture as an art;
  2. 20th century architecture, new materials, contemporary art and the resulting forms;
  3. aesthetics and philosophy of art and art history.

His work was internationally acclaimed and almost all of his books were translated into several languages (French, English, Italian, Serbian, Rumanian, Japanese, Korean).

His book An Aesthetic Approach to Byzantine Art is internationally acknowledged as the first scientific study on the aesthetic principles of Byzantine art leading the way for younger scholars.

Equally influential both in Greece and abroad, where it was favourably received, was his monograph on the Church of Saint Sophia (Haghia-Sophia) in Constantinople.

In addition to his philosophical and architectural studies Panayotis Michelis published four collections of poems, the first one under the nom de plume Takis Michail.

A prominent figure in the post-war intellectual life of Greece, Michelis sought to shed light on Byzantine and ancient Greek architecture and art, as well as the modern, vernacular Greek architectural tradition. With his work and teaching, he also contributed greatly to laying the theoretical foundations for contemporary architecture in Greece and defining its aesthetics.