The Municipality of Athens decided to continue the program of redevelopment of the center of the capital in order to once again change the appearance of Syntagma Square. It is noteworthy that the project is positioned as a continuation of the program that failed miserably “The Great Walk”…
As stated in the statement of the mayor’s office of the capital, the reconstruction of the lower part of Syntagma Square will be the first of the implemented projects of the “Big Walk” (but what about last year’s statementsthat we have completed the project? Editor’s note). It is noteworthy that the municipality of Athens did not start a new competition, but instructed the winners of the architectural competition, which took place 20 years ago in the context of the unification of archaeological sites, to update their research.
It is noted that the mayor’s office of the capital plans to start the project already this year, using previously selected contractors (but what about the competition provided for by law, which in fact did not exist last year?). As a result of the reconstruction, two of the six traffic lanes will be replaced with sidewalks from the side of Ermou Street, and the central square “will change its face, acquiring an aesthetic appearance, appropriate to the image of the central square of the country.”
The reconstruction of the entire Syntagma Square was the subject of an architectural competition held in 1999 by the Association of Archaeological Sites of Athens SA. The competition was won by the proposal of architects Dimitris Manikas, Doras Papadimitriou and Leonidas Georgiadis. However, the proposal was only partially implemented and with many differences from the architectural design. “Our research included the main square, its connection with the monument to the Unknown Soldier and the lower part of the square, from the Ermou side,” explains Ms. Papadimitriou to “K”. “At first, the idea to connect to the metro was abandoned, although it was very interesting. In the top square, the study was implemented, but with many differences.
The reconstruction in the lower part of the square was never implemented. Several years ago, Anaplasi Athinas SA held a new architectural competition in which the lower part of Syntagma Square was considered. It was completed in 2019, but the winners’ project (Tense Architecture Network office) was never implemented. In 2020, the lower part of the square was included in what the municipality of Athens called the Great Walk, and the blocking of two lanes from Filellinon Street began in pilot mode.
Trees and gazebos (left) will aesthetically enhance the sidewalk from Mitropoleos to Karagiorgi Servia (below is the same section today).
Finally, the Municipality of Athens chose this site as the first of the Big Walk projects to be implemented, as it was found that the interventions were in the right direction and did not create problems. The municipality commissioned a 1999 group (Manikas – Papadimitriou) to update the award-winning study, which has been completed and is now in the approval phase.
What can we expect?
Vehicles will move in three lanes. 1 lane is reserved exclusively for public transport and taxis. Two “cleaned” lanes will be given to pedestrians. In the section between Karagiorgi Serbia and Ermu, the area stretches for 7.8 meters, and in the section between Ermou and Mitropoleos – 5.2 meters.
This will update the entire area of the lower square. “This is a very special place, an important gateway to the historical / commercial center of Athens,” says Ms. Papadimitriou. “The first goal is aesthetic integration with the top square. The land on it will be paved with marble slabs, and the paving stones of Ermou Street will be extended to the road of the square itself. 28 large trees will be planted, the European scarlet (κουτσουπιές) and the grevillea (γρεβιλέα), four on each side, and two rows of trees in the central part, on either side of the Ermou exit. The goal is to create a vivid impression for guests and passers-by. “
Between the rows of trees, two gazebos will be built, in which cafeteria tables will be located. The roofs of public transport stops will also be redesigned to match the aesthetics, and large residential benches will be placed near the trees. A very interesting proposal for a study of the passage connecting the upper square with the lower one. “The border will run along Ermou, that is, its width will be 18 meters. “On both sides of the passage there will be special light boards that will not be visible during the day, but as soon as it gets dark, they will light up simultaneously with the pedestrian traffic light,” noting “its width”.
“The expansion of the pedestrian zone in Syntagma Square is an important first step towards the restoration of public space and sustainable urban mobility in the center of Athens, which should have been implemented a long time ago,” says transport expert Georgios Yiannis, who provided scientific justification and support for the Great Walk “. “Pedestrians will have more room to stand and move, passengers on several buses and trolleybuses can now comfortably get on and off without switching between illegally parked taxis, and vehicle traffic will be better since there will be no taxi stops there. only disembarkation and embarkation of passengers are allowed. “
“The lower side of the square will breathe”
“Thanks to the rigor and functionality, as befits the most important city square, the new renovation restores the continuity of Syntagma Square to its natural limit of perception, which is the façade of the building to the west of the stadium extension to Filellinon,” says Kostas Serraos, Professor NTUA … “We have been waiting for the completion of the construction of Syntagma Square for years. The lower side, which is directly connected to the pedestrian street Ermou, will breathe and reflect the architectural character of the central square, ”says Panagiotis Turniotis, NTUA professor. “This award-winning proposal will allow a large part of the city to clear what has been accumulated by the lazy actions of lazy government bodies and various individuals, it will be equipped with exactly what it needs. The Municipality of Athens fulfills its responsibilities with the authority of good architectural design. It’s time for those in charge. for the abandoned buildings around the perimeter, do the same, restoring the original familiar image, ”comments Giorgos Panetsos, professor at the University of Patras.
Lower part of Syntagma Square after the implementation of the “Big Walk” project
Critics of the project have so far frozen in bewilderment from the audacity of the capital’s mayor Kostas Bakoyannis. Recalling the miserably failed last year’s Big Walk project, on which 2 million euros were spent, critics of the perestroika project, Syntagma, ask: “Well, weren’t these works completed last year?”
How to deal with yourself with stillborn project The “Great Walk”, which was actually phased out just 4 months from the start?
I think that in the near future the opposition will try to find out the reasons and driving forces of this project. Although, however, even without this it is clear: there is only one reason – greed.