CULTURE

New life for the Nikoloudi Arcade in the heart of Athens

Stoa Nikoloudi, one of Athens’s best known buildings, has received a new facade, completed a few months ago, and is to be opened this week. This historic building, which is associated with the interwar period and the commercial and social life of the city, will be officially opened on Friday by Alpha Bank, the owner of the arcade on Panepistimiou Street. Freshly painted in a simple peach color that replaces the pale greenish-gray, the arcade brightens up Panepistimiou. In its key location opposite the National Library, it is a glimpse of the future for downtown Athens. Alpha Bank has included the restoration of this building, which had become very dilapidated in recent years, in its building program. The construction a few years ago of the bank’s main branch on Stadiou Street, designed by Nikos Valsamakis, was part of the same project. That large building took over part of Stoa Nikoloudi (the Stadiou entrance), which had housed the Estia book shop and the Loumidis cafe until its demolition in 1977. The restoration of the arcade on the Panepistimiou side by architect Alexandros Kalligas virtually unites the two buildings into one complex. Nearby, the former Ionian Bank, now the property of Alpha Bank, is a notable building designed by Anastasios Metaxas and built in 1926. Though in a different style, it forms a harmonious triad with the other two. Stoa Nikoloudi was built in 1936, and was a late work by Alexandros Nikoloudis (1874-1944), one of the most famous architects in prewar Athens. The building is not a typical work of his, even though the architect designed his own residence on the top floor. The interior of the residence is decorated in the Beaux-Arts style, of which Nikoloudis was the main representative in Greece. He was the favorite architect of the bourgeoisie, and one of the first to break away from rigid neoclassicism. The recently restored Livieratos Mansion on Patission and Ipirou Streets, built in 1908, is an example of this style. Nikoloudis was sometimes in favor with the statesman Eleftherios Venizelos, to whom he suggested the construction of an ornate neo-baroque court building in Makriyianni, along the lines of the Palais de Justice in Brussels, though in slightly better taste. The name of Nikoloudis is still in a prominent position over the arcade, which now begins its new life in modern Athens.