City squares are still only at the ‘work in progress’ stage

The pedestrianization of Dionysiou Aeropagitou and Apostolou Pavlou streets was done successfully by the company implementing the unification of archaeological sites in Athens (EAXA), but the planned refurbishment of four major squares has not proceeded as smoothly. Work on Omonia Square has been subject to long delays and all the award-winning architectural studies have undergone significant changes. As the spring 2004 deadline draws closer, some progress is being made. Tenders are being called for Koumoundourou Square and the work on Syntagma Square is being finalized. The biggest hold up is at Monastiraki, where a solution is urgently needed. Four years have passed since the architectural competition for Omonia Square was finalized, but work has not reached completion. EAXA recently announced that the project was due for delivery at Christmas, but not even that deadline has been met. Work on half the square is almost ready, on the side facing Athinas Street, and includes a small platform with a view of the Acropolis, as well as a wooden walkway for pedestrians from Stadiou and Pireos streets. The other half, with two water surfaces and a sculpture by Giorgos Zongolopoulos, will be ready by March. The ventilation outlet from the subway station beneath the square has proved to be a major headache for the four architects whose plan won the competition (Eleni-Maria Katsika, Ariadne Vozani, Gregoris Desyllas and Theodoris Tsiatas). An ugly canopy over the outlet protrudes two meters above the surface, but Attiko Metro refuses to lower it. Some progress has been made in Syntagma Square. EAXA and the architects who were allocated the project (Dimitris Manikas, Theodora Papadimitriou and Leonidas Georgiadis) have reached an agreement that retains a number of elements from the study which won the award. The roadway on the lower side of the square will be reduced from seven traffic lanes to three, and Othonos Street will again carry traffic, in a single 3.5-meter lane going one way from Filellinon Street to Amalias Avenue. This should reduce traffic in Syntagma Square and facilitate access to the pedestrian walkway on Ermou Street. All bus stops, terminals and taxi ranks will be concentrated on Othonos Street, with the airport bus terminal on Amalias near Othonos. Acoustic and visual protection of the square (surrounding walls, insulation, water surfaces and trees) will go ahead as planned, despite some early reservations. There is encouraging news about Eleftherios Pavlidis’s design for Koumoundourou Square as well. Tenders were called recently, and the most important change was a decision against making transverse cuts in the square’s surface. The problems with Monastiraki Square began last summer, when the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) refused to approve the preliminary study by the architects who won the competition (Nikos Kazeros, Zinovia Kostopoulou, Vasso Manidaki, Christina Parakente and Eleni Tzirtzilaki). Some KAS members rejected the use of small colored stones, requesting they be replaced by large slabs in the same style used in the Plaka district of Athens. The team working on the study came up with two new paving samples in recent months, but both met the same fate as the original proposal, and were rejected as unsuitable. Now a fourth sample is being prepared in the hope it will satisfy the decision-makers. Meanwhile, a further change to the original plan is under discussion. The square was to have been lowered to highlight the church, but that could have prevented normal water run off. All this is going on while approval for the preliminary study is still pending and time is pressing. In March, the square will be clear of construction work for the metro, when the new double station goes into full operation.

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