Battle of the paving stones

Relations are strained between the Unification of Archaeological Sites Company (EAXA) and the team which won first prize in the Europe-wide architectural competition for the redesign of Monastiraki Square. EAXA advised the five architects of its decision to return the final design and the implementation plan as «defective.» Friction has arisen over what type of paving is to be selected for the square. In summer 2001 the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) rejected the original proposal, but according to the architects, efforts were made in collaboration with EAXA to reach a mutually acceptable solution which would be in the spirit of the design that won the competition and would satisfy KAS. The paving – cobblestones of multicolored stone and marble – was the key feature of the original design for the competition in 1998, but it met with strenuous opposition from KAS. The designers (Nikos Kazeros, Zinovia Kostopoulou, Vasso Manidaki, Christina Parakente and Eleni Tzirtzilaki) were then asked not to use cobblestones but «paving stones that joined like those in the squares and footpaths of Plaka.» Speaking on behalf of the architects, Kazeros claims «that EAXA’s own guidelines were not to follow the spirit of KAS but to construct a new sample based on our original idea which KAS could re-examine – which we did.» The architects submitted four detailed designs for the paving, of which two were constructed. Both of them were rejected. «What must be clarified,» adds Tzirtzilaki, «is that EAXA disagreed with the KAS decision from the first. And they worked together with us in an attempt to change the council’s mind. Now they’re returning the study to us because it doesn’t conform to KAS’s suggestions. It’s outrageous.» EAXA’s press officer, Fotis Yiannopoulos, counters that EAXA is bound by the KAS decision. «Indeed there was close cooperation with the designers following the KAS decision. This yielded three new samples, but KAS insists on its original decision, which mentioned Plaka-style paving.» Should the architects not accept the paving demanded by the archaeologists, EAXA «will have to proceed alone,» concedes Yiannopoulos. This incident raises the issue of respect for the results of architectural competitions and of institutional safeguards for them. When Athens won the right to hold the 2004 Olympic Games, there was much talk about what a great opportunity it was and the example of Barcelona. Six years on, the return to reality has been somewhat painful. A relatively daring proposal for a small city square cannot be implemented. At least the experience has taught us our limitations.