Adrianou gets a makeover

The renovation of Adrianou Street was ready on Wednesday, just in time to greet the 25 leaders of a new, enlarged Europe after the pedestrianization of Plaka’s main shopping street was carried out in record time, less than two months – though not before Prime Minister Costas Simitis had personally intervened. Clearly, the model of Adrianou Street will meet with an enthusiastic reception from other city bodies, given the delays to the facelift the city is scheduled to undergo in the runup to the Olympic Games. The picture on Tuesday, of municipal employees planting flower beds, workers painting houses without a break and engineers coordinating last-minute works is one we’re sure to see again in the summer of 2004, when things must be done that have not been done for the past seven years of Olympic preparations. Not that the final result betrays the stringent time limits the Unification of the Archaeological Sites of Athens (EAXA) labored under in order to deliver the work on time. Adrianou Street, privileged with a view of the Ancient Agora and the Acropolis, was pedestrianized along the same lines as Dionysiou Areopagitou and Apostolou Pavlou. Exactly the same materials were used: the center of the street was paved with natural stone, while, as in Apostolou Pavlou, a beaten earth track was formed next to the Ancient Agora fence. At the end of Adrianou, outside Thiseion Station, the revamp of the area was not quite ready before the Accession Treaty signing ceremony. The two months also proved too short a period to renovate the buildings along Adrianou. While many things were finished, others were not. As a result, four buildings were covered with special banners displaying works by four artists: those of Tassos Vrettos, Giorgos Gyparakis, Ilias Papailiakis and Nikos Haralambidis. With the opportunity provided by the historic enlargement ceremony at the Stoa of Attalos, works within the archaeological site of the Ancient Agora were also speeded up. There have been three basic changes: the new fence on the Adrianou Street side, the renovation of the Adrianou Street entrance, and the construction of a new entrance off Thiseion Square, at the level of Irakleidon Street. The Ancient Agora will be closed to the public until after Easter. Aesthetically speaking, the pedestrianization of Adrianou is pleasing, but the danger of immoderation should not be overlooked: This successful model should not now be applied everywhere in Athens, without an examination of alternative solutions. Architect Dimitris Antonakakis came up with alternative ideas even for Adrianou, but these never materialized.