CULTURE

Berlin property condemned

It’s one of those stories without any logic, which, for this very reason, makes it a very Greek story! The splendid old building in Berlin that housed the Greek Embassy in the prewar years has long been abandoned and left to rot. This black spot in the German city’s revived diplomatic neighborhood on the southern edge of Tiergarten Park stands idle and dark as the district regains its lost glamour now that diplomatic delegations are returning. Following 1990’s reunification of Germany, most countries in the developed world, and certain less developed ones as well, informally agreed to build impressive new embassies and also to restore the buildings that had survived Allied bombing during World War II. World-renowned architects, such as the Frenchman Christian de Portzamparc and Dutchman Rem Koolhaas, were recruited by their respective countries to contribute to a wider initiative that ranks as one of the previous decade’s most ambitious in the field of architecture. Greece opted to remain an observer, even though its position as compared to those of most other nations, was favorable at the onset. The Greek State owned – and still owns – a wonderful mansion dating back to the early 20th century (1905, G. and C. Krause). It is both historically and architecturally significant, and a rare survivor of World War II. «The old Greek Embassy in Berlin was one of just five buildings in the neighborhood that remained standing after the bombings,» Professor Eleni Fessa-Emmanouil, an architectural researcher, told Kathimerini. «Moreover, it is one of the few remaining examples of the Jugendstil style of architecture in all of Berlin,» she added. An attempt to restore the neglected building was made in the mid-1990s when then Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos commissioned Athens Technical University Professor Constantinos Papaioannou to design the decaying building’s restoration plans. Besides the envisaged refurbishment, the addition of a new four-story wing was also included in those plans. But the work has since been shelved. Greece has consequently found itself exposed as a negligent component in the district’s wider diplomatic revival plan. The impact also reaches the Greek taxpayer. Monthly rental costs for Greece’s diplomatic services in Berlin amount to 60,000 euros as idle Greek property on German soil remains unexploited. This negligence has not remained unnoticed. According to Eleftherios Economou, the director of the Hellenic Cultural Foundation in the German capital, Lithuania’s diplomatic corps, whose premises is located near the run-down Greek building, has reacted blatantly. The abandoned building, the Lithunianians contend, is causing problems for its neighbors. The building’s interior has suffered serious damage as a result of a fire, while its collapsed roof has allowed wild plants to take root inside.