NEWS

Neglect leads to virtual collapse of Ziller’s former home

Local residents who live near 6 Mavromichalis Street, in downtown Athens, looked on in horror last week at what had been one of the caryatids that adorn the facade of the abandoned buildings. The neoclassical mansion, which was until 1923 the residence of the architect Ernst Ziller, has for many years been the property of the Greek Ministry of Culture (YPPO). It was donated by the Loverdos family for the use of the Christian and Byzantine Museum. Although the project of restoring the building has been included in the European Union’s Third Community Support Framework, work has been delayed to such an extent that the building is literally on the point of disintegration. To a certain extent, the abandonment of this building echoes the fate of other well-intentioned donations which private individuals have made to the State. It turns out that the structure, which had its Athenian heyday in the era before the Balkan Wars, has become more of a burden than a gift. Athens neoclassical It is a noble example of the Athenian neoclassical style. The interior of the mansion, which can be seen in photographs, some of them taken recently, is remarkable, with features including impressive fireplaces and stained-glass windows. This treasure, which is a part of Athenian history and of its modern architectural heritage, has met with the indifference of successive Greek governments for many a decade. Its abandonment is an insult, not only to the memory of Ziller, who strove to offer Athens some urban beauty, but also to the Loverdos family’s intellectual tradition. Caryatids The facade of the building is adorned by two pairs of caryatids. One of the four caryatids came crashing down last week (fortunately, it fell onto a garbage container) and shattered. The entire facade of the mansion is on the point of collapse and the building looks shabby. Given the concern that the Culture Ministry evinces for so many other matters that are either of minor significance or offer instant payoffs, it is possible to get an idea of just how priorities come to be decided in Athens. With the State – the cultural advance guard – as its owner, the former residence of Ziller is perishing, right in the center of Athens, while dumbfounded local residents watch it collapse.