CULTURE

New library at Plessa army camp

The new building to house the National Library is to be constructed on the site of the Plessa army camp on Mesogeion Avenue, opposite the Sotiria Hospital. Until recently, the accepted idea was to find a site for the library on the Athens University campus in Zografou. But sources say that this notion was abandoned during a meeting between high-ranking officials from the ministries of National Defense and Education, making way for a new plan. According to the proposal, the Plessa army camp, currently operational, will soon be released by the Army General Staff from its jurisdiction and subsequently turned over to the Ministry of Education and Religious Affairs, which is responsible for the administration of the National Library. In other words, the model used for the National Sculpture Gallery, which was set up in two old stables on the Goudi army camp, will be also applied here. In the case of the Sculpture Gallery, the agreement between the ministries of National Defense and Culture foresees a 25-year transfer in return for an annual payment of 75 million drachmas (around 220,000 euros), which will go to the Army Pension Fund. A similar agreement is presumably being negotiated for the release of the Plessa camp. The Plessa camp has definite advantages compared to the previous choice. First of all, it is located in an area that is far better served by public transport. The Katehaki and Ethniki Amyna metro stations are only a short walk away, meaning it is within easy reach from the center of Athens (less than 10 minutes). It will also be close to the airport in Spata, if we take into account the proposed opening of a metro station in Spata. Moreover, the fact that the Plessa camp comprises a unified plot of around 8,000 square meters within the urban zone of the capital (and at a prominent point on a central arterial route) will ensure the new structure’s development will stand out and progress without impediments. In contrast, the Zografou proposal (one building among the dozens of others on the University Campus) entailed latent risks of alienation and marginalization. Even so, the agreement of a site for the new building does not in itself signal rapid developments. The rate of the procedures will depend upon the speed at which the inhabitants of the Ministry of Defense turn over the areas of the army camp. Greek experience teaches us that such initiatives move at a dismally slow pace. The announcement of a new architectural competition is also required. Yet the issue is urgent: It is common knowledge that the National Library is today operating with minimum services in the obsolete facilities of the neoclassical building on Panepistimiou Street. Moreover, it is also being forced to pay rent for the housing of its services in other spaces in Aghia Paraskevi and Patissia. Finding the site is just the start. Now follow-up is needed.