CULTURE

Example of architectural modernism is demolished

It was one of the most important examples of modernism in Athens. But the Kyriakopoulou House, located in the Nea Smyrni district, was razed early last week. The lack of legal protection – the State insistently focuses its efforts on neoclassicism – and, particularly, the Greek government’s inability to understand why architectural treasures of the 1930s deserve to be safeguarded, are creating conditions similar to those that led to the destruction of prominent neoclassical buildings in Athens and other urban centers during the interwar period. Though the circumstances leading to this latest example of unfortunate loss in Nea Smyrni may now be superfluous, they are indicative of the methods used to overcome even the least resistance. Built in 1932 on the corner of Voutza and Tralleon streets, and designed by Thoukydidis Valentis and Polyvios Michailidis, the Kyriakopoulou House was set to be listed for preservation prior to its destruction. The initiative had been taken by the Ministry of Culture’s Department of Contemporary Monuments on May 11, 2001. Moreover, local public building authorities at a branch in nearby Argyroupolis responsible for granting both building and demolition permits in the region, including Nea Smyrni, had been informed of the development in writing. All form of work on buildings belonging to that category is forbidden. «We were close to the end of procedures when the property’s owners applied for a demolition permit which was withdrawn the following day, as we informed them that no work could be conducted from the moment a building is set to be characterized [for preservation],» said Vasso Roussi, an architect commissioned by the ministry to conduct research and compile data for the preservation project. Roussi said that she arrived on the scene the day after demolition work had begun and managed to halt the work but that it was too late. She now acknowledges that the building’s owners had made an effort to save the Nea Smyrni house, but, nevertheless, insists that its demolition was «illegal.» Niki Zamenopoulou, a director at the Culture Ministry’s Department of Contemporary Monuments, told Kathimerini that charges would soon be filed against all responsible parties.