Three Greek projects awarded by Europa Nostra

The difficult task of preserving cultural heritage while at the same time giving it new life is being quietly achieved by people and organizations all around Greece, and three such initiatives were recognized by the European Commission and the Europa Nostra Pan-European Federation for Cultural Heritage during its annual awards ceremony this year.

Greece received three awards: for the Antouaniko Mansion on the island of Chios in the Conservation category, and for the restoration of Lasithi Plateau’s windmills with perforated sails on Crete and the Hermes: Hermoupolis Digital Heritage Management project on the island of Syros in the Research and Digitization category. The three projects were among a total of 28 winners from 263 applications submitted by individuals and organizations from 29 countries.

The Antouaniko Mansion is located in the area of Kambos on Chios, in the northeastern Aegean Sea, among vast citrus orchards and tall stone walls. It is a beautiful estate, with the main building, the mansion itself, dating to 1893. The work at Antouaniko included structural repairs, conservation of the main house and conversion of auxiliary buildings into residential spaces, mostly for holiday use, as well as restoration work on the irrigation system. According to the Europa Nostra announcement, the judges appreciated “the high quality of the restoration work, which comprised the recovery of traditional building techniques and pre-industrial agricultural systems, the employment and enhancement of local craftsmanship, as well as the renewal of the original relationship between built and natural environment.”

The Europa Nostra awards committee also expressed admiration for the “ingenious idea” of mechanical engineer Giorgos Hatzakis to bring back to life a “forest” of windmills on the Lasithi Plateau. More than 10,000 windmills were erected in the area between 1910 and 1950 to help irrigate the shallow soil, though most have fallen into a state of disrepair due to lack of maintenance. Hatzakis has revived about 20 of these windmills by making small holes in their sails so that they can operate in low winds. The holes grow in high winds, reducing the drag on the sails and the machinery.

“It is clear that the renewed use of these windmills, spinning round across the landscape, would not only improve local agriculture and aesthetic, but also provide an ecologically sound technique for mill restoration and reuse elsewhere in Europe,” the experts concluded.

Lastly, the Europe Nostra jury distinguished the Hermes digitization project in the town of Hermoupolis (Ermoupoli) on Syros. The town is some 200 years old and unique due to the fact that almost its entire stock of more than 1,000 buildings has remained intact from its foundation to the present day. The project has developed a model for the assessment and monitoring of nearly all these buildings, recording data in up to 192 fields in each building, creating multiple dimensions for extracting, and then understanding and interpreting, a building’s history, location, condition, present and past purpose, ownership, pathology and architectural quality.

“The project is a model to promulgate the value of digitization in the collection and maintenance of intelligence about Europe’s architectural heritage, and ways in which our understanding of the complexity of the past and our response to it in future can be developed and become a basis for action,” the jury noted.

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