The Jedi Will Rise Again
Please note – This is the international version aimed at the European and international forumers. For the Greek visitors, the version posted in the Greek architecture section includes an additional poll and more heavy Greek –related content as well as links to sites in the Greek language.
This version can be accessed by clicking here
Introduction: Read while pictures load yes: You guessed it– this is the mother of all threads!!! :yes: )
Three years after my first HUGE thread on Athens skyscrapers titled "Athens Skyscrapers and Modern Architecture", and after a whole new generation of Greek forumers have joined this forum, I believe the time has come for an update and a detailed account about the peculiar situation pertaining to the existence of tall buildings in Athens (and Greece), the misunderstandings, as well the chances of the particular issue to be raised in the near future. All that from the only Greek editor in http://www.skyscrapers.com, now also known as http://www.emporis.com, the leading authority in skyscrapers and building information worldwide.
So here it is, as promised in the Greek forum, a thread which not only presents pictures of Athenian tall buildings (well, nothing special but they are still standing), but also includes in my view valuable information of not only the existing ones, but also FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER the never-beens, the could have- beens – and one was demolished, including a full bunch of exclusive images capturing the full sequence of the actual 17-storey building tumbling down and falling to pieces after a series of controlled explosions. Also, the images portfolio of this thread includes excusive pictures of blueprints and models of planned "real" skyscrapers and 20-30+storey-tall towers some 30-35 years ago, projects that for whatever reason have never been realised and were buried under a negativist propaganda which turned skyscrapers into hate symbols and imminent apocalyptic evils as if the Greek construction firms -if permitted- would rush to build 300m-tall towers next to the Acropolis. And all that presented FOR THE FIRST TIME IN THE WEB EVER since nobody else to date cared or even dared to bring this discussion into full light.
Preparing this information in presentable form was a huge task that involved the scanning and editing of many pictures captured from various sources that I had stored in my archives, including video recordings from TV news reports. In addition, all the pictures presented here, especially the old ones that you might have seen in skyscrapers.com of other previous threads, have been re-mastered and reedited specifically for this thread. In some cases where for a number of treasons it was not possible to collect new material, I re-mastered the original source files including pics from Kodak picture disks, etc, so, whatever material you will see is practically new in terms of source origin in order for the pics to comply with the latest standards in terms of picture quality. Also, given the fact that the vast majority of the viewers will use a 1024x728 screen resolution I resized the pics to a maximum of 800x pixels horizontal dimension. Additionally, all of them have been compressed to downloadable sizes in order to facilitate low bandwidth users although my I reckon that you will have to fight red "x" with many manual attempts, especially if you have anything below 64K ISDN (like me). However, be aware that all the pictures presented here have been checked for downloadability and the links work fine. In case you see a red cross, you can right-click your mouse on it and then left-click on the choice"show picture". It will work and believe me, it is worth the way.
Also, expect many edits in the next couple of days after initial posting to check any potential glitches. Finally, most of these pictures will be uploaded to emporis.com in the largest possible file size and resolution to replace older ones.
Now, to facilitate your reading for those interested, you can copy and paste this text and pics immediately after download into an MS Word document for future reference if you so wish. It's practical and you can do it if you want to disseminate the information here to other interested parties.
Finally, I would like to kindly ask participants to keep their replies civil, as it took me ages (well… weeks) to prepare all this, and this is a skyscrapers and constructions forum first and foremost. I know that Athens doesn't have any real skyscrapers, so any comparison between cities with the aim to humiliate or edify Athens to unreal limits may be pointless here. As you will see, the choice about not to build skyscrapers was from a point in time, a political decision, NOT related by any means with the capacity of the technical construction firms of this country which have successfully undergone the test of the Olympic Games, given the fact that Greece is the smallest country to have organised them in the history of the modern games ever.
With all that, I let you enjoy (hopefully) what follows and especially for the young Greeks that started recently flooding this forum to get a different perspective about the built environment that they live in.
ALL OUT FOR A TALL ATHENS
Editor for Athens and Greece,
2. The Blasphemy that Never Was: Setting the Stage
What most people know about Athens can be summarised in pictures that look like this, where the all-times classic 150 –tall rock of the Athens Acropolis is in the centre of a sea of lowrise concrete blocks between 3 to 10- storey buildings:
-The Acropolis seen from Lycabettus Hill (height: 270m) looking south:
…some postcards from the same spot may also offer a wider angle which looks like this:
The truth is that when many-many years ago the possibility of tall buildings in Athens met the reservations of those believing that tall buildings would spoil the view of the existing Athenian hills. We can see a distant view of three of them including the Lycabettus hill, the Acropolis and the Philopappos hill, taken from one of the best observation spots not much known, the Prifitis Ilias in Piraeus (with a very large zoom: That's one of the reasons that I like my camera ).
But… let's have a closer look at this picture. Now, if I proceed in magnifying a bit more what do I see? Just look at the following couple of pictures for the ultimate blasphemy, the ultimate nightmare of the city's planners to date as well as the architectural community can be seen here thanks to the long distance and the tricky games of the lenses: Antiquities and highrises side by side!!!! Exclusively for you brought by the official highrise freak of this country .
Also, remember the views of the Acropolis from Lycabettus hill shown above? These are pretty famous all over the world. However, if the same photographers made an attempt to take a picture to the north instead of the south of the hill, that's the picture that they would take:
Quite different from what we are used to see in Athens isn't it?
Also, here is the view one may see from a particular spot on the mountain of Penteli, clearly indicating that NOT all of Athens is THAT flat. This is one of the views of this city that I like most, since I first saw it some 30years ago, while my father took the family to eat in one of the many taverns still existing in Penteli. It was because of this view and some others that the idea of tall buildings was stuck in my mind.
But what happened to these buildings that are clearly above the stereotypical 8-storey limit, which formally or unofficially seems to have been imposed on this city? Who built them? Why are there never mentioned or depicted in city guides? When where they built? Will there be any new tall buildings in Athens in their future?
These are the questions we will try to answer with this thread. But let's go through some history first…
2. Historical Perspective
Following a heroic yet futile struggle against the axis forces which was succeeded by a prolonged period of occupation (1941-1944) and a bloody civil war, Greece found itself in real pain at the end of the 1940's. Athough Athens was not bombed by the Nazi and the fascists, leaving most of the city in tact because of itsantiquities, the civil war that followed immediately after liberation between the national pro-western government and army on the one side and the pro-communist rebels (1944-1949) on the other, Athens was left with many scars, both externally as well as internally, in what one might call "the collective unconscious" of its citizens. At that time, (1949-50) Athens was the capital of a country with a large number of war casualties (over than 500,000) and a destroyed infrastructure. The city itself had a population of slightly above one million and many parts of it were in ruins albeit not as much as other European cities which have been carpet-bombed or otherwise completely devastated during the war. Still in parts, the situation was quite reminiscent of the tragic events that took place at that time.
During the early reconstruction period, the only real concern for the city planners was to accommodate the thousands of immigrants fleeing from the countryside into Athens trying to escape the misery that was awaiting them in the barren war-torn countryside. I will not go into detail, but I will make a passing reference to a number of master plans that were considered from 1945 to 1949 when a significant figure, Konstantine Doxiadis the then minister of public works, among others, using the generous funds of the so-called "Marshall Plan" originated by the US as part of their aid to post-war Europe in his effort to put an order to the chaos and to accommodate the thousands of incoming refugees from the rural areas, an effort with significant but alas, still quite limited results.
At that time, the size and sheer volume of building constructions was not that large partly because of the reason that indeed, there didn't seem to be such a need yet. Indicatively, my parents were telling me about the "Giannaros Skyscraper" referring to the 7-storey building on the corner of Syntagma Square (I think it's Othonos Street) and Philellinon Street in central Athens as an example of tallness in these early years.
However, even as early as the beginning of the 1950's, the government planners have started to consider the allowance for bigger structures as they observed that (quite reasonably) the city had already started to grow exponentially, developing needs that could not be satisfied by the medium and functionally inadequate size of the existing buildings at that time, be it governmental, residential or even commercial.
3. The early years, 1950-1966
It was in the context of the above spirit that in 1954, the law 3213/54 governing the affairs of tourism was put into effect. This law included a provision about the allowance for construction of hotels "over and above the allowed construction height limits per sector" in tourist regions, in accordance to the need for big tourist hotel units that were then seen as one of the "locomotives of development", as Greece began to gain importance as a tourist destination at that time.
Among other buildings which were taller in comparison to their neighouring ones, (make it say, 5 or 7 floors instead of their three-storey neighbours ) there was a particular one which signified the beginning of the era of tall buildings in Athens. That was the Athens Hilton Hotel, completed in 1963 (coincidentally, that was my birth year too !!! Ahhh the winds of karma are blowing in mysterious ways!!!). With a height of 65 metres distributed on 14 levels out of which 10 were allotted for guest rooms, 2 were used for the public spaces i.e. conferences and ballrooms (with the "Terpsichori" conference and ball room being the biggest at the time) and 2 being used as top lobby (where the famous top-notch "Galaxy Bar" on the 14th floor is still located offering an unbelievable view of Athens) and service floors, this hotel was the first highrise ever built in Athens. Still, it never gained the title for the first skyscraper of the city, as its horizontal dimension was much longer than its vertical one. On the other hand, its construction in relative proximity to the Acropolis and especially the Lycabettus Hill, created a lot of controversy at the time, given the apparent modernism in its design. True, the hotel is a landmark and at the time of completion symbolised the birth of modern Athens.
-The Athens Hilton immediately after its renovation (2003)
Since many years though and especially today, after its total renovation (2003) for the Olympics, the hotel and its neighbourhood (The so-known "Hilton area" ) is considered one of the best in central Athens.
-View of the high class area surrounding the Hilton Hotel, as seen from the top lobby (12th floor) of the Divani Caravel hotel, also depicting the Lycabettus hill and illustrating the reasons for the early controversy about the construction of this hotel.
The next significant event was the announcement of construction of a new hospital for the Red Cross, sometime during the early 1960's. The funny thing is that the building's frame topped out probably shortly after the Athens Hilton was completed or one or two years later (I need to check). We are talking about an 18-storey tall concrete frame clearly dominating the district of Ampelokipi where it blended quite well with the other 3-4 highrises that were (coincidentally? ) built later in the specific area. However, construction did not go on after the frame topped-out. To date, the rumour has it that the engineer of the building committed suicide after he found out that the building was statically defective, probably because of engineering mistakes (No PC's and/ or experience of building such big projects at the time). The ghost frame of the structure remained until 1995 when it was demolished in order for a lowrise complex to be built in its place. But more on this later…
Also, a very significant development at the time was the completion of the Greek Telecom building in 3rd September (Tritis Septemvriou) street. The building, although being only 12 stories tall, made a difference compared to the 5-6 storey neighbouring concrete blocks next to it, and its glass façade contributed to the overall impression. It must have been completed some time in 1966 or early 1967. Interestingly enough, it accommodated the first miniature Greek TV studios in the late 1960's, although it has to be 66 since to my understanding, the first trial broadcasts of Greek TV took place there.
All the above suggested that something was "on the move" in the mid-1960's, although obviously, the lack of prior experience and adequate resources at that time might have hampered the construction of taller buildings. However, I urge your attention to the fact that back in these days with the exception of Paris, Milan and possibly London, few cities in Europe (in fact, very few… ) could present something solid above 100m, with the exception of their cathedrals. In any case, the triggering of a real wave of highrise constructions in Athens (and a handful of other locations in Greece too) was associated with one of the most unfortunate events in modern Greek history, and it was probably because of this connection in the minds of some key decision makers (as well as many misinformed citizens too), decades ago, that although Greece appeared to be one of the most serious candidates for mass highrise construction in the southeastern Europe, the vertical development of this city (and potentially some others in Greece) witnessed an abrupt interruption and entered a downward spiral where recovery still seems to be a rather remote hypothetical construct.
4. The Military Dictatorship (1967-1974) and Highrise Construction Boom (1974-1981) :
Reaching new heights in the wrong place and at the wrong time…
On 21 April 1967 a coup d' état took place in Greece, led by a group of Greek army colonels. Despite that it was not as bloody as others in Europe and elsewhere, the military junta never gained the real support of the people and it eventually collapsed in a dramatic manner in 1974. Notably, in a fashion typical in all dictatorships, the new rulers showed a keen interest in inducing an element of (sometimes ill-conceived) grandiosity in whatever plans they had about development in this country. A typical example of this megalomania was for instance the new Athens airport for which they wanted to either flatten the whole of the Makronissos Island close to the east coast of Attica (the prefecture where Athens, Piraeus and the Suburbs belong) and connect it with a bridge (and please don't laugh: Hong Kong did this in 1997 ) off the area of Lavrion with the mainland, or to build a mega airport, three times the size of the existing one (that is, as large as the one in Dallas - Fort Worth, Texas :lol: ) with four parallel runways in either the area of Tanagra, or in Pachi- Megara (West Attica) or in Spata (to the east, which is the location of the existing more reasonably sized new airport of Athens). Also, remind me to show you the plans for a multi-story airport (!!!!! ) for Short-Take-Off and Landing (STOL) Planes !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
It seemed that, this notion of excess was also present in the minds of the dictators with regards to buildings, especially the ones to accommodate government and public services, as these would epitomise the supremacy of the Greek construction sector and indirectly, point the dynamism of the new state of affairs in Greece. In addition, it is said that many of the then big contractors were looking for an increase in the so-called "building and construction coefficients" that is, the percentage of the total over-ground floor area of a building over the area of the estate built.
At that time it seemed that the pressures and the expectations were high and changes were imminent, as the building construction sector in Greece displayed a tremendous dynamism, making Greek and foreign observers to euphemistically talk about a "construction orgasm" :lol:. And changes did eventually happen with the most dramatic being the partial abolishment of the height restrictions in certain areas. The measure was officially decreed as a provision of the new "development law" Α.Ν. 395/68 "on the heights of buildings and free construction", although the closest term notionally is: "on unrestricted construction". The law simply stated that a contractor might be allowed to build "over and above" the existing height limit restrictions in the area provided that the building would be free and not connected to any other building on all sides of the estate's perimeter.
It seemed that there were already many plans waiting on the drawing table with regards to the why's and how's such a law was imposed so hastily in the first place, just a year after the seizing of power by the dictators. This probably explains why the surprised Athenians one historic (for me ) morning in 1968 saw the bulldozers taking over the large piece of property on 2, Messogeion street. The construction site would probably go unnoticed –after all, since, as mentioned above, from the late 1950's everybody was talking about the new wave of construction that has stormed the city and was changing it –slowly but surely- into this sea of concrete white roofs that became its trademark from the 1960's onwards. But not this time, something bigger was in the making, for in this case one could see the proud announcement on the signs reading:
"GENERAL CONTACTOR: ALVERTIS AND DIMOPOULOS SA"
Actually, Alvertis and Dimopoulos were already known for their completed projects, including the American Embassy in Athens, the Evgenidion Institution and Planetarium in Syggrou Avenue, and other high quality lowrise office buildings. They also had a number of projects completed in the Middle East, some of them being highrises too.
As time went by, the frame of the building started to rise above its 6-storey neighbours that seemed to be gradually dwarfed by the sheer size of the giant next to them.
-Picture of the Athens Tower at the time of construction. Watch the sign for the new branch of Commercial Credit bank, now called "Alpha Credit Bank".
Source: Architecture in Greece, Vol. 6/72
In 1971 after three years of construction and many heartbeat palpitations of A&D's engineers (after all, the building was the first of its kind and the tallest in the Balkans-quite a pioneering construction at the time) the full 103 metre-tall edifice was ready to admit its first tenants. The building's architecture was representative of the "international style" and much reminiscent of the Seagram Building in New York. The architects were two: Ioannis Vikelas and Ioannis Kymbritis, of which, Vikelas was bound to become famous and successful later employed solely by Babis Vovos, the most successful of the new generation of building contractors that emerged after 1980.
Picture of Athens Tower (103m, 1971) Athens' tallest building to date, as seen from Vasilissis Sophias Avenue:
Also, not forgetting that Athens belongs to medium to high intensity earthquake zone, the building employed the latest technology of the time (and has gone through major quakes in 1981 and 1999 without breaking a sweat, eh… a glass, sorry :lol:, although as you can see its exterior surfaces are covered in glass ).
Thanks to its design, the building itself, looks some 20-30m taller than it actually is. Even now, the impact it creates to somebody looking up from its base to the top cannot be created by any other "human scale" lowrise office development in this city. Its design, despite being boxy, still passes successfully the test of time; You can only partly understand the feeling of the above by looking at the following picture:
Very few things have been written about the significance of this building, which has become the hate symbol of a whole new generation of skyscraper haters in Greece that turned up in the early 1980's, with their negativism spread evenly between the government, as well as the ranks of professionals, architects and city planners alike. In any case, the building's boxy shape made sure that the skyline of the district of Ampelokipi, some 5 km from the Acropolis and 1.5 km from the Lycabettus hill to the north-east of the municipality of Athens, would never be the same again.
-View of the building also depicting part of the skyline in Ampelokipi, Athens, as seen from Hymettus mountain.
For some additional pictures of the building click here
Aerial view of the densely built Ampelokipi district depicting the Athens tower in the middle. The observant eye may catch the green coloured football stadium of Panathinaikos FC towards the upper middle part of the picture.
The overwhelming presence of this building was immediately felt and recorded in the press at the time (early 70's). I remember the "Tachydromos" magazine having a story about it some time in 1974, talking about some small houses that were still a few blocks away from it, the last remains of another epoch that even back then, was quickly fading away… . Other papers were talking about a fear of "manhattanization" of Athens, while, when in 1975 the movie "Earthquake" starring Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner reached the Athenian cinemas, this building was part of many "what if" scenarios appearing in newspaper movie reviews. Also, the fire department of the city of Athens talked about their incapacity back then to reach above the 8th floor of a building and the stories continued when another disaster movie, "The Towering Inferno", starring Paul Newman, also hit the Athenian movie theatres in 1976.
In reality, when in 1981 and 1999 Athens was hit respectively by two serious quakes measuring some 6+ on the Richter scale each, nothing was heard of the building in contrast to many lowrises, which on both occasions, either collapsed or were severely damaged because of the shakes. Probably the haters of the building would like it to collapse so as not to obstruct the "human scale" of its gray-walled lowrise neighbours. To their disappointment, the building stood and still stands unscratched .
-View of the building from the park at the crossroads of Alexandras – Vasilissis sophias Avenue.
It was because of that building that, at the beginning of the 1970's as a child I actually started developing an interest about skyscrapers, and what a fascination it was when I would discover a new one piercing the skies of its immediate vicinity in Athens. You see, I doubt that the Greeks here (or at least the younger forumers) have felt the fascination that I was feeling back in those days where I could see that gradually the Athens greater area but especially the district of Ampelokipi was seeing this type of development when, immediately after the completion of the Athens Tower, a handful of other ones, inferior both in height as well as designs were gradually completed in the area until 1978, and every time I would discover a new one of them I would cheer and have my own private party since, back at the time, there was no Internet and I was the only one -as it seems – to be taking notice of what was happening.
That's why I can understand the rest of the Turkish, Polish, British, Austrian, Latvian, Eastern Europeans, Western Europeans and all else that they see their cities transformed and lifted to a higher level.
Anyway, at the time the military Junda fell in 1974, the "construction orgasm" was still present, albeit reduced in intensity compared to the early 1960's frenzy. With regards to skyscrapers, it seemed that Athens was ready to go on to the next phase with a number of buildings already completed (Athens Tower, Apollo Tower), a large number of others on the verge of topping out or at various stages of construction (Aghia Varvara Chalandriou Residence complex, Ministry of Public Order, President Hotel, Greek Telecom (OTE) Head offices in Kifissias Avenue etc.).
These are some skyline views of the area of Ampelikipi, in my view the only "real skyline of Athens. The names of the four tallest buildings from left to right and the years of completion are given below:
Apollo Tower (1973), Athens Expo Center (1979), President Hotel (1978) and of course, Athens Tower 1.
Views from the Hilton Hotel Top Lobby, "Galaxy Bar", 14th level (floor)
-Narrow angle view focusing on the four tallest buildings:
-View depicting Vasilissis Sophias Avenue where the Athens Megaron Concert Hall is also visible:
As this is the best possible highrise skyline shot in Athens, I have provided you already with a bigger version of this picture here.
-Narrow angle view from Caravel Hotel
-Broad angle view from the top lobby (12th floor) Caravel Hotel:
Apart from the central districts such as Ampelokipi, the highrises had already started to move towards the periphery of the city. Look for instance at this view from the Hilton Hotel depicting the Ministry of Public Order (1978) and a couple of residential towers in Cholargos, some 800m from my place. All built before 1978.
Also, here is a view of the tallest residential in Greece with 24 floors, the Apollo Tower:
Also, in Piraeus, a 25-storey tower, namely the Piraeus Trade Center had its frame completed in 1976 still remains on hold although it had its façade clad with glass in 1986 but never opened for business. In 2002, there was some publicity about J&P Avax to have bought it for completion and commercial use but nothing was heard ever since.
-Piraeus Tower as it is today (I took this pic in 2002)
-Piraeus skyline as seen from the Profitis Ilias Hill (2002). It remained the same for over 20 years.
From what we see it is understandable that the future seemed bright and sunny especially since there were so many projects underway or completed. I was in my high school years then and among my other interests, I was frequently going to the rooftop terrace of my house and looked towards the direction of the Athens Tower and the Apollo Tower and things looked promising. After all you see, Papagos, the green, low-density and low-rise suburb that I live, is close to the district of Ampelokipi where the tallest of the towers are located. Consequently these highrises are visible from many spots in the area, especially from the house terraces. One of these views is depicted in the following picture, taken from the fourth floor of a new block of flats close to my house. Observe the roof gardens in the terraces in some houses and the towers in the background, perhaps the only picture you'll ever see from Athens combining suburbia with the closest thing of a "downtown" skyline , which also included the Acropolis (in the far left) and the Lycabettus hill (in the middle:
Yes, one may say that I was lucky to have grown with the prospects of a taller Athens. But all this had to end and it ended violently. Until 1978, all major highrises regardless of their size and complexity had been built, all but one.
The Atrina Centre, was not completed until 1980. Built by the Babis Vovos SA company as phase II of the overall project called Atrina Centre also including another 8-storey building. It was built in a half-empty area on a rather quiet spot on the then 4-lane Kifissias Avenue (no resemblance with the ultra6-lane highway it is now), as Babis Vovos, the contractor had envisisaged even from the end of the 1970's that this part of Athens would be the new business centre of the expanding Greek capital. And he was right.
-The Atrina Centre from across Kifissias Avenue
This elegant 20-storey office tower symbolised the beginning of a new age where better and more aesthetically appealing towers would be built, this time probably grouped in zones allowing the construction of such buildings with proper regulations. All that to avoid some mistakes of the past, where, many of ones built during the 1970's, looked like vertical extensions of the already existing concrete blocks of flats. The way things looked back then, one might expect that the completion of the Atrina Centre would probably mark the beginning of construction of a new generation of glass towers that would be spread along the newly developing areas outside central Athens looking perhaps like small versions of "La Defence". Certain areas like Kifissias Avenue (click here to see how it looks today) to the north and Syggrou Avenue towards the Phaleron Delta in the coastal zone where the Atrina Centre and the brand new OTE HQ had already been built looked quite promising so as to undertake the role of the new highrise business centres of the future. Yes, Atrina Centre at that time was the face of the future. A future that alas, was never bound to come, although it was difficult for me or any other interested observer to know it back then. But, enough with the talk. Now I believe it's time to categorise and examine these buildings in groups to see what they were and how they looked (and look) like. Their typology can be described as follows:
a. The buildings for commercial use or government use:
These were built for primarily office or other commercial public use including public administration, hotels, health units, etc. They were normally located close to major arterial roads. Most of them have cement as their façade materials except for the Athens Tower the Atrina centre tower, the national Bank of Greece branch of Paliaon Psychikon and the Piraeus Trade centre, whose facades are clad with glass on all sides. Some examples of the these buildings can be seen below, all characteristic of the architectural styles dominant in the middle 1970's.
Besides the Athens tower of which we saw many pictures previously, there were a number of buildings completed for government use, like the Ministry of Public Order and the 401-421 military hospitals in Messogeion Avenue as seen in the following picture from the new bridge made by S. Calatrava as seen from the follwing pictures:
-Now, feast your eyes with this UNIQUE picture taken from a VERY high location in mount hymettus depicting Katehaki Avenue and the Ministry of Public order as well as military hospitals from some 900m above the ground:
Also, of particular importance are the head offices of the Greek Telecom Ogranisation (OTE) which, along with the Atrina Centre were the only tall buildings completed in Maroussi before stricter laws were imposed.
-The Greek Telecom Head Offices building with the new suburban rail station in the middle of the junction of the Attica Road- Kifissias Avenue.
Also, among others, one should not forget the Hygeia Hospital and the Athens Police Headquarters, which are well known structures in Alexandras and Kifissias Avenues respectively.
The above mentioned few highrises were built with building permits taken from the years of the military junta and many were completed after the military fell from power. They are located –in their majority- in big avenues and almost all Athenians know them.
However, there is another bunch of highrises that are difficult to chart and/ or observed and are probably not known that much. They have not been built by prominent architects and since they are not accommodating any public functions or services, they are difficult to spot, especially when they do not stand out in prominent locations but are lost deeply into inner city neighbourhoods or the Athenian suburbia. Ladies and gentlemen, for the first time in the web and probably in any form, be it printed or electronic, I present you with:
b. The Lost Residentials.
The main paradox with Athens highrises is that many of them are not corporate glass towers built by big construction companies in order to show off or impose his capitalist ideal seen in ALL cities with a decent skyline. , or simply for Actually, as mentioned above, in contrast to what one might expect, a large number of these high-rises are residentials located in the periphery of the city, away from main avenues or other arterial roads. Surprisingly, we are talking about a couple of dozens of these babies, maybe more. Most of them are between 10-17 or 18 storeys tall. Their contractors are not known and are not mentioned anywhere, after all, the Hellenic architectural community would like to see those buildings probably demolished, so don't expect any mention. It for this reason that I call them "lost", since most of them are literally "hidden" located, as mentioned above, deeply inside residential districts, away from the centre of the city or the places of tourist or business interest, as if their builders literally wanted to hide them from the public eye. So, the only way to spot them was from… above, and in the absence of a private helicopter , I resolved to the next best alternative, that is, climbing to the top of hills or to elevated locations. The following pictures are the product of such expeditions… Click on links to explore further:
-Residentials in Palaio Psychiko seen from the mount Hymettus.
-Various residentials ( Chalandri tower, Efterpi Tower, Cholargos Ventouri Street Tower )seen from the neighbourhood of the Athens Olympic Complex (OAKA)
Efterpi Tower and Erato Tower in Cholargos (800m from my place) from Lycabettis Hill (VERY distant view but I like it)
-"Lost" Residential Tower in Nea Ionia, somewhere in Athenian suburbia:
-Residential Twins in Aghios Nicolaos Acharnon
Actually the last picture is from a very densely populated area from inner city Athens, between the streets of Acharnon, Patission as well as Galatsiou Avenue. There are actually two pairs of twins in Athens. This is the first pair, and we will visit the second in a moment. In a 1km radius you may also find the Aghias Lavras Street Tower, and the Tower in Kato Patissia.
And, for those that may not know, even the lowrise and luxury suburb of Kifissia has its own highrise block, as seen from Kifissias Avenue:
The above building as well as the "Dhifros" Apartment Complex that we will examine below, were built by Alexandros Tombazis in the mid-70's when the architect was experimenting with the patterns adopted by the Japanese "School of Metabolists" of the late Tadao Ado, thus the polymorph design of the buildings.
Today, these buildings, look either like isolated islands lost in a sea of concrete (like the ones in Ahios Nikolaos Acharnon or Kato Patissia) or hidden in exotic streets in the suburbs (Chalandri, Cholargos, or even the high-class Kifissia!!!) perhaps giving us, according to some, an indication of how bad things might have turned in the law on "free construction" had not been abolished in 1978 and the already packed urban fabric of Athens had accommodated large numbers of these "vertical" protrusions" which, according to the views of many would have resulted in Athens looking like a small, version of Hong Kong or Sao Paulo.
According to others, when used with careful planning, residential highrises may help saving valuable space both in urban as well as suburban areas, especially when combined with greenery. Well, allow me to surprise you by saying that regardless of my passion about tall buildings, I really don't like them that much for residential use. I mean, I believe that the idea of a traditional lowrise neighbourhood like the one I was raised in is the best for raising kids and having a family. On the contrary, highrises are perfect for bachelors. I mean, what could be a better setting for luring in your love interest :naughty: and creating (for the boys here) a romantic atmosphere with the unbeatable view of the city some 20 (or 30… ) storeys above the ground.
In any case, regardless of the bad or good critiques that they may have received regarding their ugly or indifferent designs, these buildings still constitute a significant part of this city's highrise construction, they are inhabited by people who enjoy the view from there, are not afraid of the earthquakes and most of all, are the best representatives of another time when contactors were more daring regardless of the awkwardness that some of these earlier designs may have had back then…
c. The Athenian Tower Blocks (and Commieblocks!!!)
A special category of the above-mentioned residential buildings, probably constituting a sub-category of (b) are the highrises built in an organised fashion on a few of locations in the city in order to constitute tower blocks.
Specifically, during the years of the military junta, there have been a couple of attempts to provide organise housing both from the private sector as well as the government. Although (like most of this type of mass-produced buildings) they are not the best artefacts of architectural design, still, they exist, idle representatives of an era that came and went without leaving its permanent mark on anything.
-Tower Block in Messogeion Avenue. This block includes according to the author's humple opinion the only real twin towers in Greece, built some 4 years apart. It is located o Messogeion Avenue, on the borders of Cholargos and Neon Psychikon Suburbs. Here is a picture of the buildings of the block taken with a strong zoom lens from Lycabettus Hill, some 10km to the south of the complex.
Of particular interest are the 18 and 16-storey twin towers right on Messogeion Avenue (some 1.5 km from where I live )
Another addition to the complex is also a 15-storey block built by the teachers association of Greece in 1974, next to the twins.
-The next complex is of some importance, primarily due to the existence of the "Dhifros" Apartment Complex which, as explained earlier, it constitutes an attempr to incorporate the teachings of the Japanese "School of Metabolists" into the Greek reality. This building, along with the rest of the buildings of this comples is in the area of Aghia varvara (Santa Barbara) in Paliaon Psychikon.
-Picture of the complex in Cholargos and Psychikon as seen from the mount Hymettus
-Japanese metabolism and its impact in suburban Athens skyline as seen from the mount Hymettus
-Organised mid-rise housing in Peristeri: The Athenian Commieblock!!!
This is a complex of mid- to low-rise residentials located around the church of Aghios Antonios (St Antony's) in Peristeri, above the metro station of "Aghios Antonios".
Interesting sample of mid-70's mass housing, probably built by the Workers' housing organisation but without any follow-up.
Pictures, depicting the church as well as the Ethnarchou makariou Avenue
To sum up, as mentioned before, the completion of the Atrina Centre in 1980 might have constituted the beginning of a new era of tower construction where most of the obvious mistakes (including the above ) would have been eliminated and-most important – the new edifices would serve as corporate head offices, bearing in them the latest in design and building technology, instead of becoming the characteristic of anonymous and mediocre buildings on remote locations where nobody would take any notice (and being an experienced building "spotter", I can tell you that with regards of some of these buildings, one needs to be very patient in locating them… )
…and, that was the time when builders were not afraid to call their creations "skyscrapers" as seen in the following advertisement of Pafilis constructions in the "Architecture in Greece" (Αρχιτεκτονικά θέματα ) review:
So, there was the time for a change for the better…a change that never came…
4. The Middle Ages, 1975-2000
After the military junta collapsed in 1974, the first democratic elections were held giving a vast majority to the conservative party. One of the major concerns of the then government was to revisit the state of the existing building and construction laws. True, at that time, Greeks were fed up in their vast majority with the works of the previous regime and they started to tear down whatever they thought was reminiscent of the old days. And unfortunately, as it appears with the benefit of hindsight 30 or so years later, skyscrapers was one of them.
In addition, the new breed of teachers in architecture schools seemed to totally dislike anything big, equalling the idea of smallness with the one of "human" scales, whatever that meant. With the passing of time, an absurd propaganda associating big and tall buildings with the works of the hated junta or the works of the equally heted capitalism (as if in the Communist countries the biggest building they ever built was of the size of a cottage) started appearing in the specialised press, as well as in wide circulation papers. Even in conservative newspapers like "Vradyni" in 1977 you could see for instance a picture of the frame of Atrina Centre which was still under construction accompanied with the legend "A skyscraper under construction in the Northern Suburbs – Democracy has been incapable of stopping them"!!!
To this day, or even back then that I was of such a young age, I never understood –- what democracy or absolutism had to do with the height of buildings. I don't think the originator of this stupid comment had either.
On the government side, in 1976 the then conservative government introduced the law 360/76 "on urban planning and environment", which imposed very strict limits on the construction of buildings and practically limited the construction of tall buildings to the ones that had been given permits until the day the law came into effect. Also, in 1978 the new master plan (Ρυθμιστικό Σχέδιο ) for Athens became effective, primarily emphasizing the zoned use of the land but strictly punishing height violations.
On the side of the scientific world things were equally bad. In the official Greek architecture annual review called "Architecture in Greece", where a few years back you had dithyrambs about new constructions and reviews of proposed skyscrapers ( :yes: wait till you read about this :yes: ), all of a sudden, articles bashing the "vertical protrusions of the Attica landscape" referring to a few 15-storey buildings in Kifissias Avenue (Aghia Varvara area) where the only thing they didn't ask was to demolish these buildings (see the article on the "Development of the Greek apartment blocks"in Architecture in Greece Annual review Vol. 12/1978 (I hope this is the one since I don't have it unfortunately but I remember the year, thank God).
With the coming of the Socialist government into power in October 1981, things became even worse as far as the construction of tall buildings is concerned. The new dominant ideology further intensified the abominable nature of the tall buildings as capitalist icons, while angry hairy and bearded commissars appeared in the media talking about "human scale" of constructions, and all public works were suspended "for revision" until further notice. For your information, the Athens Metro had begun preliminary construction works back then but was stopped and so it was for the initial preliminary terrain-flattening works for the new airport in the area of Spata (which was finally completed many years later on March 2001).
No, I don't know what happened to everybody that dared to whisper the word "skyscraper" even in his sleep at that time. He might probably have his tongue cut holy inquisition style or been baptized in burning oil to repent or something :lol:. The essence is that in 1983 the new and updated master plan of Athens was introduced. This was the ULTIMATE tombstone of any hope that new buildings above 10 storeys would EVER be built in Athens, a city of some 4 million at that time. From then on, many buildings were built, some good, some bad, most of them indifferent. However, while many provisions of the building code might have been violated or succumbed to interpretations well in the fringes of the law, the ones regarding the height of buildings were the only that have been religiously followed by big and small contactors alike. Since 1983, building heights and tall buildings are the absolute taboo concepts for all the parties involved in the constructions of buildings. The decision to NOT build above a height of 30m although has been adamantly followed all those years. Occasionally, a 5-10m addition might have been attempted following a "wide interpretation" of the existing laws, and with absolute fear of the neighbouring "NIMBYs" (Not-In-My-Back Yard) and other community interest groups. For your information, the Greek NIMBYs are the most "hardcore" in Europe. Perhaps the UK's "National Heritage" may be a bit more organised but ours are more militant in their instinctive fear against anything taller than 7 storeys, since they belong to the Mediterranean variant of the species….
So, what took the place of potential highrise constructions? Read on
As mentioned previously, in 1983, the possibility of skyscraper or highrise construction has been sealed irrevocably with the last master plan. In addition, many of the companies that had one way or another built tall buildings, i.e. Alvertis and Dimopoulos (Athens Tower… ) or EDOK-ETER, were shut down for various reasons. Also, it is true that although the new restrictions did not allow the vertical expansion as a means for "glam" corporate architecture to flourish, the Greek architects started to experiment with forms and space allocation as a means of creating and "prestige" and "style" into their building constructions.
Although this can easily be the topic of another thread, the above mentioned architecture was evident in two major types of constructions back then. The first type involved the early 1980's booming of the first generation of shopping centres (most of them under 10,000 or even 5,000sq metres and built in many times inappropriate locations in Chalandri or Glyphada, with the exception of "City Plaza" in Ano Glyphada and "Aithrion" in Maroussi, but still, having nothing to do with today's giants in Maroussi, Ilion, Rentis in Athens Greater area and Pylaia in Thessaloniki. (If you want more on this, I can give you my bank account number to pay me; This is to much work to do for free ).
However, the real booming of glam or "prestige" architecture took place with regards to corporate offices. It seemed that the Athens Tower or the Atrina Centre, despite all the bad publicity and the evangelical style admonishments from the supposed connoisseurs about the evil and corruptive nature of capitalist architecture, after all, left their mark. Since 1983, many old and new architects started to use glass in their buildings displacing concrete or marble as the primary exterior cladding materials. However, the biggest impact to what even remotely might resemble the new and modern business quarters of other historic European cities was made by a particular company still bearing the name of its founder, the Bavis Vovos SA .
Babis (or Charalambos) Vovos is one of the type of charismatic persons known with the term self-made. Originally from Filiatra, a town in Messinia, Pelloponese, (where, -unbelievable!!!- there is a scaled-down model of the Eiffel Tower!!!, so, there HAS to be something about this place after all ), this guy made it first to the Athens National Technical University to study civil engineering. He finished his studies while working at the same time and after some years of hard work he started his own company. His early works include among others a 12-storey residential in Pouliou street in Ampelokipi which for quite some time accommodated some departments of the Ministry of Environment and Public Works as well as many others. The most famous of his early works may be the 8-storey "Atrium" business and shopping centre in Charilaou Trikoupi street and others in the late 1970's. However, the real turning point for the man's career came with the completion of the Atrina Centre (1980) which, as mentioned earlier was the last "real" skyscraper completed in Athens. This building signified the movement of Babis Vovos's activities in Kifissias Avenue where, for almost a quarter of a century continued to work on mainly lowrise constructions including the Agora Center (1983), which was awarded an International Construction Award in 1990, the Polis, the Monumental Plaza (1998), and the 1 Kifissias Avenue Complex (2002).
One of the reasons that I like this guy is that he is a NIMBYs buster. He has won ALL the legal battles against him and thanks to him, Kifissias Avenue was transformed into the decent modern 6-lane boulevard which, albeit lowrise, is able to go on the next stage.
OK, here's the man at work 15 years ago in front of the then under construction "Polis Centre". I bet that probably this is one of the pics that he would like everybody to remember him:
And indeed, thanks to Babis Vovos, Ioannis Vikelas (Babis Vovos main architect and, as mentioned above, architect of the Athens Tower), Iason Rizos (Athenaeum Intercontinental Athens), Stelios Aghiostratitis, and MANY MANY OTHERS, Kifissias Avenue and Syggrou Avenue became the new poles of expansion. As mentioned many times in this forum to the information of , Kifissias Avenue leads to the northern suburbs while Syggrou Avenue leads to the South. The characteristic of both sides of these two avenues in part (as well as in many others) are that they indeed
Kifissias Avenue Shots;
- "Polis" complex, in Kifissias Avenue, partial view
-"Babis Vovos" Lowrises in Kifissias Avenue – watch the sign on one of the buildings
Atrina Centre and lowrises seen from the backyards of Kifissias Avenue
-From the Olympic complex yards:
-Aerial of the Junction of Kifissias and the new Arrica Road (Athens main ring road) © Athens 2004 Olympic Games Committee
Two shots of Syggrou Avenue (although there can be many more – also these are old from 2002- but remastered for their presentation here. However, if I find myself in the area, there will be updates
As one can see from the above pictures, what we have in Athens is strange: Because of the very strict laws, many architects created buildings whose design philosophy correspond to much taller structures. I remember many times in the Greek papers, people referring to these buildings as "the glass towers" (οι γυάλινοι πύργοι ) etc. Well, I would like to tell those journalists that they call these buildings "towers" that yes, these are heartbreaking and very heart-touching efforts to imitate taller buildings given the miserable constraints that these guys were allowed to build, but "Towers", ehem, sorry, they are not.
Just imagine those buildings (side roads of Kifissias Avenue) being just two times taller:
…or see the desperate attempt of the architects here to give just a bit more height to these buildings in Syggrou Avenue, literally exhausting all the legal limits bit still, just as the buildings reach the "critical" height of some 30m, the law doesn't allow to go even a centimeter higher. Pity…
Syggrou Avenue buildings seen from Profitis Ilias hill in Piraeus with a MEGA ZOOM…
5. Athens Olympic Games: The day height and size came in from the back door
But there's always a back door to everything, and this includes large-size constructions too. One of the reasons that in essence I was a fervent supporter of the Olympic games since before Greece took them in 1997, it was because I was expecting that AT LAST something of a grander scale might be built than 8-storey buildings. Well the end result was at least partly vindicating for me.
Few people know that the Athens Olympic Stadium (originally completed in 1982 but planned years and years ago by the Doxiadis Bureau and Konstantine Kasramanlis the elder in the early 1960's) was not initially meant to undergo so many changes and such a metamorphose from its initial and original design for the 2004 event. Also, few people know that it was because of its existence that Athens beat a number of other candidate cities in organising the year 2004 summer games that day in September 1997. Funny thing is that there IS a whole story behind the dramatic changes that this complex underwent until it was finally given for use to the International Olympic Committee in June 2004 were not part of the original plan for the installations. There were supposed to be some renovations in the original site, yes, after all, there have been many years since the gigantic complex was completed, but still, nothing at the scale we finally witnessed. But fate sometimes works in mysterious ways.
In 2001, four years after Athens was given the games, and just three years before the games, the then renowned and now famous all over the Greek speaking world, mainland as well as overseas, Spanish architect Mr Santiago Calatrava, was in Athens. The purpose of his visit was to promote an exposition taking place in the Athens National Gallery regarding his architecture and his work,. At that time, Mr Calatrava was yet another unknown high class visitor in Greece, whose work was unknown to the general public. However, the then minister of culture, Mr Venizelos took notice of Mr Calatrava's visit and he took the chance "to approach" him, as the press put it during his stay in Athens.
The architect responded positively and hours later the two found themselves in a tête a tête (face to face) meeting at a restaurant where, as the relevant urban myth puts it, Mr Venizelos proposed to Mr Calatrava the redesigning of the Athens Olympic Stadium from a mere athletic centre into an architectural landmark. The architect (obviously having "felt" the smell of challenge and opportunity in the air), really proved to be in a fully vigilant state of mind, since he immediately designed a preliminary sketch of his visualisation on a piece of napkin, which included the well known arches of the Athens Olympic Stadium. It seems that Mr Venizelos instantly fell in love with the design since he offered Mr Calatrava his full support and endorsement and with lightening speed, compared to not only the Greek but even for the so-called "western" standards, these plans were immediately adopted and a whole mechanism was put at Mr Calatrava's disposal who for three years became an Athenian, body and soul, despite the critics from the inside the government, the opposition, the country's architectural community (which in many cases wake from their lethargic state only to criticize others that they want to produce), you name it.
There might have been delays, and in cases, the stress created from the stalling of the works was said to be impossible to handle. Actually, few people knew that the earth below the Olympic Stadium has long been used as an old lignite mine and the ground had to be injected with cement so as to sustain the colossal weight of the Olympic Stadium's arches. My mother at some time pointed out that some of my uncles (long gone but not forgotten) would go there to buy lignite back in the mid-1940's in order to trade it. However, the bloody thing was uncharted and at some point in 2002 or something the Calatrava design team found that the area below the stadium was like a Swiss cheese!!!.
But they finally did it and the result was the one we all know and saw during the games.
Anyway, 8 months after the games were finished, and while driving on the Spyros Louis Avenue direction Kifissias Avenue (my favourite Sunday afternoon drive) I fully appreciate the significance of this stadium (which too, is in Maroussi: D). It familiarised again the Greeks with big-scale works and made the word "vision" commonplace and applicable for things bigger than 8-storey buildings. The 80-m tall and 300-m long arches of the Olympic stadium kid of "legalised" discussions about grand scale constructions in Greece, despite the many voices of negativism who were regurgitating their usual miserable mantras about "the scales of the Attica terrain" as if Pericles and his predecessors didn't make the biggest intervention by literally flattening the Acropolis rock and building the site seven times until they reached perfection in the 5th century BC.
So, here is a very limited view of the stadium from the junction of Kifissias and Spyros Louis avenue, the road that passes in front of the stadium:
…and, in any case, the Olympic stadium and the smaller structures added much to the otherwise barren suburban skyline of Athens,
-View of the Athens Olympic stadium (OAKA) from a nearby hill
-View of the OAKA from Penteli mountain, also depicting the Atrina Centre
-View of the Messogeion twins from a rooftop in Papagos, with the velodrome roof !!!
Also, too bad, an 110m-tall sewing needle shaped mast that was supposed to be erected close to the stadium underwent a last minute deletion for budgetary and time-constraints reasons. In any case, the fact alone that Greeks learned to re-read the book on height and size, not only with this and the other Olympic works, but also with the new bridge of Rion-Antirrion, whose pylons have a total height of 220m from the bottom of the sea and some 160m from the surface of the water, is encouraging.
But, why is it that the Greeks are considered to be that much indisposed to the big and tall constructions? Was it always like that? Where did this dominant ideology came from, the one that claims that low is good even if it looks like this:
…and tall is bad even if it looks like this?
And when on earth did all this ideological terrorism about 30m being the absolute cutoff point which has tantalized architects, builders, contractors and made Athens being as expensive as… mid-town Manhattan (since they build …five storey office "complexes" in Kifissias Avenue and consequently, the value of the land for premium office space goes sky-high)? Was it always like this? Well… read on
Here's the time to disclose you what I knew for a long time now, being probably the most ancient and the most FANATIC Greek highrise freak in this forum (as well as an editor in emporis.com, or skyscrapers.com as the old forumers here know , for those –especially Greeks that managed to come this far: Dudes we've been played like puppets (κοινώς, μας δουλεύουν ψιλό γαζί )
6. The NEVER BUILT Athens Skyscrapers or, what they don't want you to know about them
Conspiracy theories in today's Urbanism
…a long time ago in a Galaxy far, far away…
…there was a city that was lucky enough to have people with visions and unlucky that these visions came in the wrong place and in the wrong time as these plans were envisaged by people working for or being entrusted by the then oppressive regime in power… When a change in the ruling authority took place, the new rulers associated the plans of the previous rulers with the ultimate evils that might possibly happen to this city. One of the symbolisms of these previous rulers was the building of tall edifices to be used for accommodating state agencies of residences alike. Thus, building heights became the ultimate taboo in the Newfoundland of Democracy and all the plans for something taller that 30m became the object of contempt and public resentment. Schools and Universities started talking about "democratic", "human scale buildings" which would not be provocative with their dimensions and especially, their height. Over the years, the few opposing voices that dared to oppose this ideological and scientific fundamentalism ism have been isolated and scorned when not being subjected to angry attacks.
At the same time, armies of fanatic brainwashed NIMBYs were patrolling the neighbourhoods looking for undetected "behemoths", the term referring to whatever was taller than 6 floors. These species of fundamentalist janissaries have been trained to develop automatic reflexes against anything constituting a novelty and going beyond their aesthetic conceptions, which were limited to what is known in Greek as "polykatoikia", i.e. "block of flats".
Trough all these years a small boy managed to save some of those designs and keep them for the eyes of the future generations to come as he knew that after the age of unreason and backward fundamentalism where judgement would be clouded by anger as to the works and deeds of the past regardless of wrongdoing, perhaps the younger generations might see things with new vision, undistorted by the hating filters of the last 30 years.
Take for instance the blasphemous scrolls containing plans about an area they used to call "The Faliron Delta" and which, although it was located in the most privileged part of town, between the city and the sea, right on the coastal avenue, it remained a dumpster until the city was given the Olympic games. Yes ladies and gentlemen, the coastline between the two "Phalerons" old and new, a 2.5km piece of seaside urban zone for which other cities WOULD DIE FOR, served by three highways, a metro line (and now a tram line too) remained a barren and unused piece of reclaimed land until the Olympics.
However, the old jedi remembers that back in the days he was just a young padawan there already plans to transform this piece of land and sea into this!!! …and remember the year is 1974…
This is the model of the then proposed Athens Intercontinental Hotel in the Faliron Delta. Looks a bit better than the one we have now, which was built some 9 years later and which is beautiful but some 6-7 storeys shorter as the Mujahendin of urban flatness had already taken over…
I repeat, the year is 1974…
this is the "Four Seasons Hotel" and Casino In the Phaliron Delta. Also never built
I repeat, the year is 1974…
This is the Holiday Inn, which was supposed to be built in the current location of "Intercontinental" Hotel being some 3 storeys taller.
Now this is a tpurist complex that was supposed to be built at the Varkiza bay on the greater coastal zone of Athens (for the Greeks: It is right on the straight section of the coastal highway off Varkiza).
These are the designs for a home for the… incurables proposed for Korydallos, to the west of Athens. Yes, this is from 1974
Wanna see more? Here samples of two architectural competiotions that took place in 1972 to accommodate the head offices of the Gtrek Telecom Organisation (OTE) and the Hellenic Power Corporation
This is the runner-up building that won the prize in the architectural competition for the OTE Head Offices Building which took place in the –I repeat- 1972 In the absence of a first prize, this solution was adopted the building was completed in late 1978, albeit with some modification (for the worse in my view) from the original design as follows. Thanks to it though, the suburb of Maroussi looks somewhat impressive at this spot.
This is the building that won the prize in the architectural competition for the DEH Head Offices Building in 1972 . designed by the A. Tombazis Architecture office.
I repeat: In case you haven’t noticed the year is 1972:
Now the funny thing: This is another entry for this competition that didn't even get a prize!!!. The architects are Molfessis and Pagkalos and I believe that they need a mention somewhere at least once for their proposal.
I want you to stop here, take a close look at the above picture and think:
If the above building was built in 1972 in La Defence especially close to the RER station, wouldn't it be seen as a worthwhile addition to its skyline? Yet this was proposed for Athens in 1972.
But there were not just the professionals and the accomplished professionals thinking about tall buildings back then. Last but not least, here is the summary of a final year dissertation of a student of the National Technical University of Athens, as appearing in "Architectonika Themata Vol6/1972. The topic of his thesis is the "Renewal" of the then (and even more now!!! ) dense inner district of Athens called "Kypseli". The supervising professor is Mr Aravantinos and the year is, er… 1971. In the beginning I wanted just show you the picture, but the text, both in Greek and English – is equally interesting and indicative to the spirit of the times.
And the obvious question comes next:
What happened to all those heroic, never-heard-of architects that were visualising buildings or regenerations of whole districts and coastal fronts even on a case study basis 35 years ago and at a time that projects of such a scale and magnitude were possible only in areas such as La Defence (and even there; with the exception of the RER station, the rest of the structures were boxy modernist NY-style 1950's towers in their vast majority, being the "first generation towers" or "Les tours de la première génération", as they are known). Why the above designs were and are systematically kept in the dark by the mujahendins of an ill-conceived "traditionalism" which is exhausted in everything being mediocre and equal in size and height? Why there had to be a Spanish architect to teach us-again the meaning of the word "grace" and "grandeur". Why in today's architectural magazines we see the works of even the smallest interior designer and "trendy" decorator, and yet, I repeat, the works and projects of those daring men both proposed and/ or realised- have never been displayed in the open? Why all this cover-up?
7. The Last Drama
Actually, Athens is one of the few cities in the world where the sheer number of highrises was [reduced by one since in the early 1990's, the old 15-storey unfinished Red Cross Hospital was bought by the "Vakon" construction company. The building was demolished in early 1996 and in its place were built two other (how typical) lowrise complexes, namely the new Errikos Dunant Red Cross Hospital and an 11-storey complex "Politeia Business Centre".
The whole case received extensive coverage from the news and thus the pictures below which are EXCLUSIVE captures of the coverage by the "Antenna" TV channel.
-Two pictures of the building before its demolition:
You can see the people on Messogeion Avenue waiting for the event in this picture:
Big Bang time as the building implodes after a series of controlled explosions from demolition charges… I did the collage using captured frames from the Antenna Channel news reel video
And this is the cloud of smoke which covered the area after the demilition. In a symbolic manner just one year before Greece took the Olympic games, it signifies the end of an era that came and went without any significant changes taking place since, neeedless to say that the thought of building something of equal height probably never crossed the mind of the developers… after all, the building codes are much stricter now …
On the other hand, an old building located in Syggrou avenue, the head offices of the Insurance company "Interamerican", have completely re-clad their head offices.
This is what the building looked like before the recladding:
…and his is what it looked after the recladding:
In essence, this 14-storey building is probably paving the way for others to follow, and in a sense, in the absence of others, one may say that this is the first Greek skyscraper of the new millennium!!!
8. The future… Are there any chances?
Despite the fact that the previously mentioned "fundamentalism" was utterly dominating, there have been some voices of reason trying to state the obvious truth: what beauty is, lies in the eye of the beholder. Voices for instance like the one of N. Margaris who is a professor of ecosystems (which means that he knows abut ecology much more deeply than most of the Taleban NIMBY's and their ignorant mentors). Yet this guy is asking (click here to read the full article in Greek) in contrast to may of his counrterparts: "What was the reason for not building skyscrapers in Athens?", while Mr Andreas Zoulias points out: "Every Saturday, most of the Greek architects as well as the students of architecture go to specialised bookstores to keep up to speed about the masterpieces created by their foreign counterparts, (where) most of these creations have been built with much more lenient building codes and height restrictions than ours" in other words, they want to learn about buildings they admire, yet they won't be able to build in their home country, not unless they fight with the absurd laws, the Taleban NIMBYs (who are probably the most militant in Europe, after all these years of continuous brainwashing) and the backward academic community…
But could there be any places, or better, are there left any places for skyscraper construction in today's Athens? The answer is not hypothetical since what we have all learned to believe that Athens is, is a small area or few blocks between the Acropolis, the Constitution Square, the Ononia square, and the picturesque district of Plaka.
However, modern Athens is a conurbation with 5,000,000 inhabitants quickly expanding outside the Attica Basin known by the physical boundaries set by the mountains of Hymettus, Pendeli, Parnitha and Aegaleo. Most of the lowrise fundamentalists talk about the 150m-tall Acropolis rock whose sight must remain unmolested from ALL spots around it. However, nobody would argue that to build scrapers NEXT or even NEAR to the Acropolis would constitute an act of sacrilege and blasphemy. In fact, the Athens tower in my view is somewhat close to it at a distance of some 5 km, as well as at a dangerously close distance of about 1km to the 270m Lycabettus hill. However, there are still places where the Acropolis will not be offended and they are right in the middle of the new developments. In the map below I have marked with circles three proposals for areas pointed out by various city planners.
Area #1 (blue circle) : This is located around the roundabout junction of Kifissias and Attica Road junction, in -where else?-Maroussi. What makes the area the best candidate for the construction of tall buildings is the access by all means of transport, i.e. Metro, Suburban rail, car and buses and its direct connection with the new Athens airport via the Attica Road. The openness of the space, the existence of many unbuilt estates would allow for a 160+m-tall, 40-something storey slim, "pencil" tower with a cluster of half a dozen buildings between 100-14m height and a few satellites between 50-100m. Ideally, the planned extension of a branch of the metro line #3 there can make the area a dream business district with three lines of metro and suburban rail connecting it with the airport, Athens city centre, Piraeus, and even the city of Corithos (the Korinthos – Loutraki extension of the suburban rail will be operational this June .
Area #2: Kifissos Avenue (a.k.a. national Road #1, Athens-North, green circle) between the junctions with Kavalas Avenue and Peiraios Avenues, where also the famous "elaionas" is located. Foe there, I would envisage something of high density and up to 120m heights. Well?
Area #3: This is the area of Drapetsona close to Piraeus and to the best of my understanding they were planning to build a shipping business centre there. The area is perfect since it is hidden from the Acropolis, but it also can provide for a dramatic "by the sea" mini-skyline as I wouldn't think that anything above 80m would be necessary there.
Areas that I WOULDN’T build anything tall:
1. The old airport which is to become a metropolitan park, Hyde-Park style (part of it was used as the "Hellenikon Olympic Centre"-see map). The tallest structure could be a 12-storey hotel and Casino as well as convention centre, using the existing installations.
2. Anywhere between the Acropolis and the sea as this would destroy one of Athens's major advantages, i.e. the aphitheatrical view of the seaside. This includes Syggrou avenue where probably there can be a couple of some locations for 2-3 15-storey buildings.
3. Anywhere between the Acropolis and the Lycabettus. Both are natural monuments and anything above the existing building heights would ruin the view.
Also, how about a 220-m tall TV-observation tower in the main Athens Olympic Complex in Maroussi-Kalogreza?
In any case, and to cut a long (VERY LONG in fact) story short:
-Do NOT listen to the propaganda about the total need for "flatness" in a big city of 5 million people with diverse needs of all sorts because of it's antiquities. It is urban planning discipline and good organisation that matters, not the absence of tall buildings. On the other hand, a real metropolis has to look like a metropolis and I just pointed some places where hundreds of square metres of office space can be built without any serious harm to the environment. Nobody said that we should build 40-storey towers next to the Acropolis.
-All historical cities in Europe are resorting to solutions reminiscent of La Defence: Preserving their historic core and creating a second financial centre outside the main city centre where economic pragmatism does not interfere with the need to preserve a city's history. In Paris – La Defence, in London –the City and Canary Wharf, in Mardid - the Azka district, in Istanbul – ( ) Levent, Maslak and Kozyatagi, in Vienna: DonauCity and Wieneberg and I don't know the names of of the places where things are moving in Bratislava, Warsow, Vilnius, Prague, Brussels, Rotterdam, you name it. Even in Italy, which does not have tall buildings in proportion to its economic size they are seriously reconsidering and we should not forget the Centro Direzionale in Naples where I wish we had have these babies in Elaionas for instance . After all, Rome has the EUR district since 30 years ago and Milan hosted the Pirelli skyscraper, one of the first outside US Soil!!! Almost same as Athens which had the Athens Tower in 1971
-Truing to artificially scale down the city's constructions in dimensions suitable to small towns and villages only managed to result in a fragmented urban development where, instead of streamlined urban and societal functions we are now in parts faced with anarchy, caused by the many conflicting uses of land – i.e. residence vs economic activity. In essence, cities have their own dynamics and this is proven by what happens in Maroussi where out of the blue and without any direction from the state, Kifissias Avenue, became in 20 years a business centre. Keeping building heights low only results in high real estate prices on specific locations of highly valued and prominent pieces of commercial property. This very moment, commercial property prices in Athens are equal to mid-town Manhattan which, after all is an island in one of the biggest financial centres of the globe. Also, Athens is in places equal to London, more expensive than Hong Kong and equal to Paris. My understanding is that in the next decade development cannot be stopped. It may be possible to regulate it (as the case is anywhere) but to try to quell it would be wrong-unless we want the buildings tenants, i.e. companies that employ hundreds of qualified Greek employees to leave the city for a more friendly destination. And you know what this means…
-It is rather unlikely for a new generation of highrises-even for residential purposes, to be built in the same fashion that their older cousins were built… Technology and a new breed of Greek architects that more and more are posing the same question along with everybody else: "why don't they build skyscrapers in Maroussi or other suitable place away from the Acropolis?
And I leave the potential bomb for the end:
It's been quite some time-since the beginning of the millennium- that I was reading scattered articles of people –architects, journalists, etc asking the very same question.
Looks like this time, there was a listening ear from the other side: Mr Souflias, Minister of the Environment and Public Works (isn't he) very seriously stated that "the existing master plan (meaning the 1983 one) served its goal but is nowadays outdated and in serious need of an 'update' (using the awkward Greek word: "επικαιροποίηση" ) to be in par with the needs of contemporary society". This is a statement that doesn’t come easily and by itself entails a hope for many changes.
Also, in the pro-government newspaper "Kathimerini" there was an article by an architect-urban planner whose name eludes me, that also talked about the need for "updates" in the master plans of Greece's major cities, especially with regards to the "coefficients" of production-utilisation.
And, I feel something may be changing. Now of course it may be early to tell but things may be moving really fast in a few months. Of course, years and years of negativism may be difficult to be washed away in just a few months… But life works in mysterious ways… Well, this day may not be that far away after all. After all, who would believe ten years ago that the Olympic Games would change this city so much…
Just imagine telling your girlfriends: My office is in the "Atlas Towers" block B, 25th floor…
So, before we end this presentation, I leave you with a part of an old Athens postcard which I edited by scanning this part (a very small part of the original postcard) in very high resolution and then by making it look like an antique using special effects…
The way it was when few thought that it could have happened what never came…
But who says it's all over ????
Grand Opening – Olympic Towers Athens
Friday 23 April 2010(Reuters)
Gm2263 reporting from Athens, Greece
Following a four-year frantic pace of construction, the new Olympic Towers complex comprising a 44-storey, 167m-tall office tower and a twin 33-storey, 135m-tall hotel and Casino open their doors today to tenants, guests and visitors in a grand opening ceremony, 30 years after the last highrise was completed in Athens. The highrise complex also hosts the biggest dedicated convention centre in the country with some 12,000 seating capacity, as well as a night club at the top of the hotel the SkyCity which is expected to become one of the top hot spots of the Greek capital in the years to come. Also, the new 5,000 capacity parking ensures that here will be plenty of parking spaces for all users and guests of the complex.
The complex is located in the booming suburb of Maroussi, which has now taken the lead from the historical centre of Athens as the premier business centre in this metropolis of 5mn inhabitants. According to market experts, it is the first of a new generation of highrises to be built in the area, which until the year 2020 is expected to look like similar highrise business districts in Europe.
According to the mayor of Maroussi "we expect that the new complex will further upgrade our city's position as the leading business centre in Greece. Our motto is: Go to the Acropolis for tourism, come to Maroussi for business". As to the concerns about this new wave of highrise construction from some interest groups, he also pointed out: "All contactors are committed to regenerate parks and squares in the region for free. We expect an increase of 10% in the overall green spaces in Maroussi for the next five years, not including the existing regeneration projects. For us, building tall means going green all the way up".
Also, the president of LandScope constructions is back in Athens to finalise the details for a new 220m-250m-tall TV tower to be built in the Olympic Sports centre, now turned into a sports and architecture theme park.
Seems like Greeks rediscovered the art of building Parthenons again, who knows?
Suggested reading (in English)
Zoulias N – Architect, Article, "Architecture - Building Coefficient and Buildings' Height -
Peri-urban Land Management, click here to access the article in English.