‘The work belongs to the people’

Kathimerini spoke to the head of EAXA, Yiannis Kalantidis, about the changes to the original designs for the squares. Many of the prize-winning architects have expressed some displeasure with the changes. Yes, I am aware of that. But what could I do? Take Omonia, for example. Unfortunately, the perspectives conceal the differences in height. Now we have a 3-meter-high wall with a fountain under construction. The Acropolis is no longer visible from 3rd September Street, so the wall will be shortened by about a meter. Are you happy with the present results? The results are not a reflection on the original designs. Take Syntagma Square: The designers were insisting on marble paving which is dangerous for pedestrians. We prefer granite, which is not so slippery. Is it true that Athens City Hall is pressing for more greenery in the squares? Yes, it is true. There has been some exaggeration. We are also in favor of greenery but in certain circumstances. For example, we don’t want trees where there is no sun. Shouldn’t the younger generation of architects be given a chance? (Note: Kalantidis often refers to the youth of most of the designers.) I agree, and they have been given their chance. Somebody is now paying for that chance, and that somebody is the city of Athens. In Monastiraki, the entire design was changed. Will the final result bear no relation to the original? You are well aware that the members of the Central Archaeological Council rejected the multicolored paving in the design. By and large, they were right to do so. Why shouldn’t we use material that we will be able to replace in five or 10 years’ time, if necessary? If we allow so many changes, what point is there in holding architectural competitions? Why did you? It was a matter of principle. We had just set up the organization. If we were to start over, I would not hold them. My fellow architects should know that city projects are not theirs. They belong to the people. Our mistake was in not setting stricter specifications. We did not take into account the problem of inexperience.

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