Architect issues warning over Syntagma plans, where more haste could mean less speed

Renovation work on Syntagma Square is in danger of going the way of Omonia Square (which is about to be changed again), according to architect Dimitris Manikas, one of the three designers (with Leonidas Georgiadis and Theodora Papadimitriou) who won the Pan-European competition for the square. Manikas, who lives and works in Vienna, arrived in Athens two weeks ago to monitor progress and has openly expressed his displeasure at the fact that work had begun even though he had not been briefed on the recent changes imposed by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) and the Central Council for Contemporary Monuments. He said his displeasure was not due to professional pride but because the Unification of Athens Archaeological Sites (EAXA) had originally assigned the supervision of the project to the designers. He warned that hasty work on such an important project (completion within five months) could lead to a repetition of what happened in Omonia Square (shoddy work) and everything that entailed. Manikas is in a rage at the sight of bulldozers razing the entire surface of the square. «We had agreed to maintain certain zones, particularly around the fountain and between the flower beds, as well as the old tiles, both for historic reasons and because it would give us the desired design result,» he said. The architect attributes the «indiscretion» to the pressure of time. «They could have carefully removed some of the very good tiles that were in the square and then put them back later. Obviously there is no time for this kind of care.» The latest changes, implemented just a few weeks before work began, had mainly to do with limiting the height of the water features around the perimeter of the square, as well as the type of lighting and benches. Manikas admits that even a prize-winning architectural design can be changed. «Even abroad this practice is accepted, but the architect participates in the process. In this case, I read it in the newspaper,» said Manikas, who believes the supervision of a project is of the utmost importance. «We could have had a good meeting with the technical adviser and contractor and helped the situation, but we were not invited. Dimitris Pikionis was at the Acropolis project nearly every day, for example. If the new look of the square is not good, EAXA will blame the architects, as happened in the Omonia Square project. I have put my signature to this design, I have a responsibility. Moreover, we are not talking about just any square, but the center of Athens, the center of Greece.» he said. EAXA’s information officer Fotis Yiannopoulos claims that since the original design team had broken up as such, the company could not assign it the task of supervising the project. Manikas has declared his willingness to undertake the job, even if it means traveling back and forth from Vienna.