Athens architecture


I still remember when a few years ago, a dear German friend and I visited the Acropolis museum, remarkable in every aspect both with its exhibits and its architecture (designed by Bernard Tschumi Architects). While sipping our drinks later that day in some bar downtown, she commented that she couldn’t see any other remarkable contemporary buildings in Athens. I froze, I suddenly realised she was right. Athens, both downtown and in the suburbs, has either some really beautiful “neoclassic” houses and public buildings or an abundance of ’70s cement blocks of apartments and ’80s glass office towers. I could only think of a few modern buildings, like the Bauhaus American Embassy (Walter Gropius, 1959) or the East Terminal building at the old Athens airport (Eero Saarinen) and the Hilton hotel (Vourekas, Vassiliadis, Staikos and Georgiades) both dating in the 1960’s. And then time stood still.
To make her reconsider:

  • I walked with her downtown to see the head offices of the National Bank of Greece by Rena Sakellaridou, Morpho Papanikolaou, Maria Pollani (as project architects) and Mario Botta (as consultant).
  • We drove down Syngrou avenue during the night to admire the illuminated National Insurance building and its curved walls (created by Mario Botta, Irena Sakellaridou, Morfo Papanikolaou).
  • We visited the Onassis Foundation-Stegi, a project of the French Architecture Studio.
  • During Documenta in Athens, we wandered through the halls of the National Museum of Contemporary Art, a fine specimen of post-war industrial architecture designed by Takis Zenetos (1957) to house the FIX brewery and renovated in the 2000s.
  • And last year I was so happy to go with her to the Niarchos Cultural Center and its park, created by the Italian architect Renzo Piano. I did impress her – yay!

The centre houses the Greek National Opera and National Library, it has a spacious common space, it organises various open events and they plan a new museum at the site to house the skeletons discovered during construction in an ancient mass grave. Book a free guided tour of the centre, it is spectacular – and you may even be lucky enough to dance on the opera’s stage 😜!

Recently, I can’t wait to show her the new building (by Natassa Lianou and Ermis Chalvatzis) right next to where I work, the Orbit, almost finished at the moment. It already houses the head offices of Beat, the taxi app.

This is as far as it goes, according to my own personal taste, and actually all the examples above are large scale projects for more or less public use. It is a challenge to spot progress in private buildings – any suggestions of lesser known projects (with photos) are welcome!

work in progress

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