If one marked Athens’ empty and abandoned buildings in Google Earth, they would see little black spots in extremely high density. There is a large number of “dead shells” inside the city’s structured tissue, a phenomenon that always surprises foreign visitors. This issue is something that the Dutch architect Martin Knight has stressed, when he undertook the rehabilitation project in the city’s centre through the Onassis competition. “Athens is the leader in empty buildings.” From another perspective, Athens is open to criticism as far as her weakness in understanding the seriousness of the matter is concerned.
This weakness that is visible in all areas of the city’s centre, and also in each and every district (from Colonus to Kolonaki, with gradations and shades), reveals the Greek “system’s” chronic problems: polyarchy, evasion of responsibility, short-sightedness, poor imagination, inappropriate people, ignorance of the city’s history and lack of contact with international developments. One way or another, many of Athens’ problems have also occurred in other cities over time, which have been dealt with through a variety of methods. Athens’ special character lies in the remarkable and therefore destructive delay in actions, in combination with reluctance of cooperation and excessive variety of theoretical opinions. There are many examples in both large buildings in the historic center and numerous ruins in all neighborhoods.
In the city’s center one can find the building of Vourou Foundation, where two cinemas (Attikon and Apollon) used to be housed. Next to it, there is the eclectic building of Marfin. Opposite to that, there is the Esperia Hotel, which was constructed in the 50’s. Next, there is the Akron building. Towards the Omonoia area, there is the Athinogenis Mansion, in Stadiou Street, which is currently under restoration. A few meters away, there is a neoclassical building at the intersection of Aiolou and Stadiou Street. On Panepistimiou street, there is the old hotel “Majestic,” right opposite to Rex. In that area, one can also find the building of the old National- Ktimatikis Bank. On Stadiou and Amerikis streets, there are two small neoclassical buildings, that have been abandoned for decades. On Feidiou Street there is the old Greek Conservatory that was built as a residence of an Austrian ambassador. On Amalias Street, next to the Anglican Church and opposite to Zappeion, there is an old abandoned three-story building in a prominent position that has been for sale for years. On Akadimias Street, there is another building that has been for sale for years and used to be the headquarters of the Association of Foreign Correspondents; a very important structure as it was designed by the architect Vasilios Tsagris. On Mitropoleos Street, in a very prominent position, there is an eclectic building of high aesthetic value that was built in the first decade of the 20th century and remains abandoned. A few meters away, there are two dilapidated facades of buildings that were built between 1910 and 1925. On Agias Irinis square and also in the old mall, in Aiolou Street, Athinas Street and Saint Markou Street, there are several other ruins.
Pressure is Needed
These are only some illustrative examples that one can spot when they walk in the core of the city’s center. Pressure is needed in order to eradicate this unpleasant phenomenon. The changes of use in these buildings could change the image of the city in only two years.
Are there many abandoned historic buildings in the center of the city where you live in? How have citizens or tourists reacted?
Original article, originally published in Greek, here.
Credits: Images and data linked to sources.