Historic homes to come down

Yet another important part of the capital’s sorely depleted architectural heritage is to be demolished, following a decision early yesterday by top Culture Ministry officials. In a marathon session that started on Thursday evening, the ministry’s Central Council for Contemporary and Modern Monuments (KSNM) approved Public Works Ministry plans to demolish six of the eight 1930s refugee housing blocks on central Alexandras Avenue – overruling strong objections by academics, architects and local residents. The Public Works Ministry intends to create a park in the one-hectare area occupied by the six three-story blocks, which stand opposite the Panathinaikos soccer field and stretch northward toward the Elpis Hospital. The two remaining blocks, boxed between the Aghios Savvas Hospital and the Elpis, are to be preserved as architectural landmarks. Rejecting a proposal by the Culture Ministry’s Department for Contemporary and Modern Monuments for all eight blocks – designed by architects Kimon Laskaris and Dimitris Kyriakos in the spirit of the Bauhaus-inspired modernist movement – to be listed as protected monuments, KSNM argued that the buildings did not comply with modern earthquake safety standards and would be too expensive to conserve and maintain. Over half of the 228 apartments, which weathered the 1999 quake, have already been expropriated. The first four blocks are to be demolished in time for the Olympics. Residents have appealed to the Council of State. Built for refugees after the Asia Minor war of 1919-22, the blocks, which are surrounded by open ground that conservationists want planted with trees, have fallen into disrepair. Residents attribute this to the constant threat, dating back to 1967, of expropriation and demolition.