March 11 2014

The Rebirth of Ziller’s Omonoia Square: Athens, Greece

Two old hotels, Bagion and Megas Alexandros, and the café Neon stand observing, like always, the prewar neoclassical square Omonoia. These are the only buildings that keep the memory of the old square alive and moreover seem to have many things in common. All three of them were built in the same period, at the end of the nineteenth century, by the same architect, the famous Ernest Ziller, and thanks to one man’s donation, a great national benefactor named John Bagas.

Hotels  Bagion and Megas Alexandros as they were in the past

Their similarities continue to this day, as a program regarding the alteration of these buildings has been put in place. This project aims to create entrepreneurship centres with particular regard to scientific and technological innovation. The idea behind this concept is a low cost co-location of individuals or teams of professionals.

Two of the most recognizable buildings in Omonoia Square

The Onassis Foundation has already financed the restoration design of the two hotels, which was undertaken by the architectural office Studio 75This assignment is part of the prominent project concerning the rehabilitation of Athens’s centre, a.k.a. Rethink Athens. The main target of the whole project is the economic restart of the area around Omonoia square. In order to do so, the municipality decided to reconstruct the two old hotels through the current NSRF (National Strategic Reference Framework), although it seems a bit easier said than done. Too much time was spent, as Mr. Galinos – the CEO of the Athens Development and Destination Management Agency has stated, to complete the conveyance of the two building for the Municipality. The restoration project is estimated to be completed in two to two and a half years. The Municipality services are doing their best to expand the deadlines and take advantage of the current NSRF, otherwise it will be included in the following deadline.

Photo from the interior of Hotel Baggeion Today

Despite the fact that both hotels stopped functioning a long time ago, their condition has been declared standard. Parts of the wooden floors require reconstruction, but all the work that needs to be done seems absolutely manageable. Bagion (1894) was in operation as a hotel until 1969. Today, except in the ground floor, the building is totally abandoned. The construction of Bagion, and its twin structure Megas Alexandros a few years earlier, embarked on a new era of the hotels of Athens, in terms of size, form and interior design. The preceding Megas Alexandros operated until 1950. Initially the building had three floors with sculptures decorating the roof, which were removed when a fourth floor was added in the 1920s.

Will the restoration of the two old hotels also restore the image of the square? Are you familiar with any similar projects in your community?

The original article, published in Greek, can be found here.

Credits: Images and data linked to sources.

Dafni Dimitriadi

Dafni Dimitriadi is a student of Architecture at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece. Her numerous experiences in participating in architectural competitions have helped her understand the importance of research and design. She is interested in building and urban design restoration and aims to continue her studies in order to gain more knowledge related to these fields. She is an active volunteer and has participated in many interesting projects, including Open House Thessaloniki. She currently lives in Thessaloniki and through her blogs aims to explore developments associated with architecture and urban design.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 at 9:41 am and is filed under Architecture, Housing, Infrastructure, Urban Development/Real Estate. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


3 Responses to “The Rebirth of Ziller’s Omonoia Square: Athens, Greece”

  1. Carl Says:

    This plan is a great step forward for the area.

  2. Dafni Dimitriadi Says:

    Dear Carl,

    thank you for your comment.
    It’s true that Omonoia Area is considered to be one of the most degraded areas in Athens. The square has changed several times but still many things need to be done.
    We all hope that through projects, like the one described in the article, the square will gain its glory back.

  3. Martin Says:

    The two other important buildings still standing in Omonoia are the Neon Cafe (as you mention) and the National Bank building on the corner with Panepistimiou Street. You can see both of these (along with the original extension to the Bageion Hotel, above the famous Zacharatos Cafe and to the left of the Neon building) in the postcard here:

    The hotel on the upper floors of the National Bank building was Hotel de la Grece, later becoming the Victorial Palace Hotel in 1909. This photo is handcoloured and roughly dates to 1900-1906.

    Thank you for using my online collection of original postcards, photos and maps.

    Martin Baldwin-Edwards

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