Hope for Omonia: A new study finally puts greenery in the square

An initiative by the mayor of Athens concerning Omonia Square is in progress. Almost a month ago, Dora Bakoyianni received the four architects concerned (Ariadne Vozani, Grigoris Desyllas, Marialena Katsika and Thodoros Tsiatas) in an attempt to open up a channel of communication that would lead to a commonly acceptable solution. The outcome was more than encouraging; the atmosphere was one of consensus and the architects left, promising to return with a new study in two weeks. And so they did. The new proposal has raised hopes, because it satisfied the mayor and her colleagues. Now the fate of the square is in the hands of Environment, Planning and Public Works (YPEHODE) Minister Vasso Papandreou and the president of the Unification of Archaeological Sites of Athens (EAXA), Yiannis Kalentidis. Last Wednesday, both of them attended a meeting to discuss the new ideas. If they do not agree with Bakoyianni and her team, it is almost certain that further work on the square will go ahead without the architects. The story goes back to the spring, when work on the square was completed and received a highly negative reception from the public and the media. Papandreou and Bakoyianni decided to set up a committee to work on ideas for improving the look of the square, but the committee never got off the ground. Intense opposition from architects in general discouraged other architects from intervening in work done by colleagues. This led to inertia. Meanwhile, the state of the square has gone from bad to worse. In the daytime’s blazing heat, the lack of even the most rudimentary shade and the scorching asphalt makes it unendurable, and walking across it at night can be dangerous. Acknowledging the obvious, that this situation could not continue, the mayor and the four architects decided to take action. The architects made their views known (pointing out yet again that the final result bore no relation to their original plan), and Bakoyianni laid stress the most problematic aspects of the square in its current state – the lack of greenery, shade and lighting at night. The new study which emerged from the meeting has borne fruit. For a start, it allows for small areas of low-lying greenery (probably grass), according to Dimitris Zafeiriadis, manager of the mayor’s office, at the following points: the center of the square, around the two water points, and around the edge of the square, near the palm trees. The bulky installation which blocks the view of the Acropolis from 3rd Septemvriou Street will be lowered by a meter (it is now 3 meters high) and it has been suggested that plants be grown on the sloping surface. A roof for a screen which had been removed from the study but which offers shade will be constructed. And it is suggested that large trees be planted around the square with the existing palm trees. The wooden walkway, which has been in a dilapidated state ever since it was first put to use, will be covered with suitable material. Time will tell, but the new study at least offers hope that the current unacceptable state of affairs will be overcome. It has the official backing of the mayor and does not exclude the people most responsible, the architects.

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