Zappeion Gardens, train station at Thiseion to be smartened up

The Olympic Games will reshape the Zappeion Gardens. Last Thursday, the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) approved a Public Works Ministry study on the makeover of the gardens surrounding the Zappeion Mansion. But it did not agree to sinking Vassileos Constantinou Avenue in order to create a new square stretching from Zappeion to the Panathenaic Stadium. The first part of the study, which deals with sprucing up the gardens, involves numerous superficial works in those parts of the gardens bounded by Akakion Street (which separates the National Gardens from Zappeion), Vassilissis Sofias, Irodou Attikou and Vassilissis Olgas Avenue. Mild interventions The interventions planned to enhance this area are mild and can be started at once. They are due for completion by 2004. The project includes changing the road surfaces, installing lighting fixtures and new plantings, all of which will also be examined by the Council for Modern Monuments as well as by KAS. In addition, there are plans for a general tidying up of the pathways in the gardens, and whenever necessary, conservation work on any visible antiquities. KAS approved the first phase of the study, but rejected the second part concerning the creation of a new square because it would have required a massive intervention. KAS members objected on the grounds that there are significant antiquities in the area, including the sanctuaries built by the Ilissos River. As Liana Parlama, director of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities at the Culture Ministry remarked, there is not a square meter in that part of Athens without antiquities. That part of the project would not have started until 2004-5, but archaeologists seemed wary of embarking on a new series of excavations that may take many years to complete. The rush to tidy up everything for 2004 includes Thiseion Station on the electric railway line. The study called for underground installations of 210 square meters which would have entailed large excavations, but the local ephorate of antiquities has approved only the aesthetic side of the project, on the grounds that any excavation begun there would not be complete even by the time of the Olympic Games in Beijing. The entrance to the station will not be changed, but the plan calls for another entrance on Apostolou Pavlou and Eptahalkou streets, as well as an elevator, escalators, a small canteen and the replacement of the old iron bridge and platforms.