Monastiraki Square no longer on the list for refurbishment

Monastiraki Square has received the thumbs-down. One of four Athens squares included in the Unification of Athens Archaeological Sites (EAXA) is not to be refurbished. Due to long delays in beginning the work and faced with the risk of losing EU funds, EAXA had to transfer the funds approved by the Third Community Support Framework toward upgrading the Zappeion Hall area. Athens will probably host the Olympic Games with Monastiraki Square still in its current poor state. Souvlaki stalls surround Pantanassa Church, souvenir shops spoil the look of the recently restored Tziskaraki Mosque, unattractive ventilation shafts top the recently completed metro station. Stray dogs and illegally parked cars complete the scene. The trouble began in the summer of 2001 when the Central Archaeological Council rejected the multicolored stone and marble paving proposed by the architects (Nikos Kazeros, Znovia Kotsopoulou, Vasso Manidaki, Christina Parakente and Eleni Tzirtzilaki) to surface the square, part of a prize-winning design in the 1998 Europe-wide architectural competition. The designers were asked instead to use tiles «in the manner of other squares and pedestrian precincts of nearby Plaka.» The architects submitted four revised, detailed proposals, of which two were constructed. They were later rejected and EAXA eventually decided to cancel the project. The risk of failing to absorb the EU funding was not the only reason for the stalemate. Recently two of the designers, Kazeros and Tzirtzilaki, pressed charges against EAXA and Attiko Metro. The case is scheduled for hearing in the summer of 2004. «The company (EAXA) decided that it could not work with people who were taking legal action against it,» said its president, Yiannis Kalantidis. At the same time, however, he defends the design, which cannot be implemented. «I was one of those who supported their design. However, there was the decision of the Central Archaeological Council which we could not ignore. We had to abide by its decisions,» he said. Kalantidis emphasized that EAXA does not have the resources to carry out the project but that it should be done, as the current state of the square is nothing to be proud of. The designers themselves did not want to comment.