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.
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.
The Onassis Foundation has already financed the restoration design of the two hotels, which was undertaken by the architectural office Studio 75. This 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.
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.