City Hall plans restoration of an historic silk factory

The district of Metaxourgeio is showing two faces to the world these days. During the day it is still one of the most degraded areas in the city center. Immigrants now form a considerable sector of the population, giving the district the feeling of a neighborhood, at least during the day. At night the picture changes. The low rents have attracted entertainment businesses. A small but growing number of cafés, restaurants and bars have created a new focus for nightlife which has spread from neighboring Psyrri and Gazi. In the middle of Metaxourgeio, a virtually abandoned row of neoclassical buildings that goes by the same name (literally, a former silk factory) has been unjustifiably unexploited. Only the facade has been renovated (a job that is almost completed) by the organization for the Unification of Athens Agricultural Sites (EAXA). The buildings themselves are in ruins, their roofs either charred or ready to collapse. The municipality of Athens, the owner of the site since 1993, now appears determined to restore the building complex and convert it into a cultural center based on a design by its architecture department. The renovation is likely to be modeled on the nearby Athinais center, which offers a variety of cultural activities. There are proposals for a digital library, an exhibition space, a multi-use hall with facilities for showing films, and a children’s section. The general design is based on combining two of each of the activities. The library and electronic information center will be combined with the exhibition space and the children’s section with the multi-use hall. The first section will be in the part of the building sited on the corner of Leonidou and Myller streets as far as the Germanikou Street pedestrian zone. The second will be at the intersection of Megalou Alexandrou and Myllerou streets. The silk factory, designed by the Danish architect Christian Hansen, ceased operating in 1886, when its owner, Georgios Douroutis, converted it into rental housing. So the building now resembles a row of houses more than a factory. The once continuous building was broken up into sections. Then Yiatrakou and Germanikou streets were opened up. The factory conversion altered Hansen’s original design, causing considerable damage. The current project aims to adopt the original structure as closely as possible, even with an actual silk factory, as this is how it has remained in people’s minds throughout the years.