CULTURE

Urban landmark comeback

The Army Providence Fund building is one of the largest in the center of Athens and the last remaining from the interwar era. Occupying an entire block between Stadiou, Voukourestiou, Panepistimiou and Amerikis streets, it is now being prepped to make as impressive a re-entrance to the capital’s urban life in March as it did when it was first unveiled in the early 1930s to a crowd of awestruck Athenians. What will be impressive this time around is not the sheer size of the building, but the use for which it has been restored: It is due to house an expansive luxury shopping and entertainment complex, called City Link, that leaves little to envy in deluxe European malls. The work of Leonidas Bonis and Vassilis Cassandras, the Army Providence Fund building combines a conservative, yet modern, structure with obvious art deco influences, while the overall oversight of its radical reconstruction is the work of Stelios Aghiostratitis, with the firm of Kizis and Associates signing the architectural study and overseeing the historical architectural features of the complex as a whole and of the Pallas and Aliki theaters, and the Spyromiliou Arcade in particular. The Army Providence Fund building has been an integral part of city life ever since its early days, as it boasted being home to veritable landmarks of urban living such as the Pallas Theater, Zonar’s Cafe and Brazilian. All three will be put back into operation, though only Pallas will keep its name as the other two establishments will be run under new management. Original charm Another plus for the project is that the Central Council for Modern Monuments insisted that the Pallas and Aliki theaters lose none of their original architectural charm in their makeover, so that the Aliki will once again resemble the interwar cabaret club it was in its early days, and the Pallas will shed 500 seats, returning to a capacity of 1,500. Furthermore, the old cash registers have been put back in place along with marble panels and the art deco ceiling, while there will also be an elevator for people with special needs. City Link will occupy a total area of 57,000 square meters, of which 23,000 sq.m. will be occupied by the shopping mall, 15,000 sq.m. by the offices of Pireos Bank, 3,000 sq.m. by the Holmes Place gym and 2,620 sq.m. by restaurants and cafes, while the remaining space is to be used to house luxury stores, the theaters and a nightclub. The shopping mall will be the first section of the complex to open to the public by late March, while the rest of the facilities are expected to follow suit by the end of the year.