Athens’s first office building set to come out of retirement

The decrepit Triandafyllakos Mansion at 15 Lykourgou Street, which was for many years at best invisible, at worst an eyesore, has now been given a new lease on life following a decision by the Unification of Athens Archaeological Sites (EAXA) to make it its headquarters. The building was in fact the first office building built in Athens, part of a move to modernize the city’s planning and architecture, according to Assistant Professor Eleni Fessa-Emmanouil of Athens University in her «Essays on Modern Greek Architecture.» «The property on Lykourgou Street belonged to the first generation of office and shop buildings that emerged as part of the city’s rapid development after the Asia Minor catastrophe. It was, for its time, a brave private investment in a relatively new type of building: the French ‘immeuble de rapport,’ designed to accommodate shops on the ground floor and offices above.» According to Fessa-Emmanouil’s research, the building’s founder, the politician, landowner and investor Nikoalos Triandafyllakos (1855-1939), who was prime minister after the collapse of the Asia Minor campaign in 1922, commissioned the design from architect Dimitrios A. Fotiadis (1984-1974). Born in Istanbul, Fotiadis was, along with Costas Kitsikis (1892-1969), one of the main arbiters of the Europeanization of Athenian urban housing, designing mostly individual homes but also office blocks, banks and hotels. The mansion on Lykourgou Street was built in two phases. Construction of the first section, on the corner of Cleisthenous and Lykourgou streets, began in 1924, and the extension toward Socratous Street five years later. As with many of the buildings going up at that time, the Triandafyllakos building reflects the transition from one period to another. The classical style of the divisions on the facade coexists with art deco elements, a precursor to modernism. Apart from its undoubted aesthetic value, the restoration of the Triandafyllakos mansion reminds us of the contribution to Athens by a distinguished architect, somewhat underestimated due to a fixation on neoclassicism and the persistent search for a much-touted «Greekness,» with the attendant marginalization of urban architecture that kept channels of communication open with the rest of Europe in the interwar period.