Encroachment on Philopappou incenses locals

Last year, Philopappou residents lodged an official complaint about illegal encroachments on the hill with the Illegal Building Directorate, the First Ephorate of Modern Monuments and the Athens Forestry Directorate. They stated: «Near the Pikionis refreshment room, which is an historic monument located in the woodland and the archaeological site of Philopappou Hill, directly behind the refreshment room, a large part of the woodland has been illegally fenced off and covered with plastic ground cover. On the south side of the fence, ugly sheds have been built, which are probably being used for storage by the business running the refreshment room.» That was on March 22, 2004. A year later, the illegal additions still mar the appearance of the refreshment room designed by architect Dimitris Pikionis which, together with the cobblestone paths that link Philopappou Hill, the Acropolis and the chapel of Aghios Dimitris Loumbardiaris, was declared a monument of modern architecture in 1996. The building, known variously as the Loumbardiari Kiosk, Aghios Dimitris Kiosk and the Loumbardiaris refreshment room, is, like the Dionysus restaurant, leased to a private operator by the Tourism Development Corporation SA. «Despite the fact that the Attica Ephorate of Modern Monuments confirmed, in a document issued on April 6, 2004, the encroachment on the archaeological site by the lessee of the refreshment room, noting that it would forward the matter to the Greek tourism authority (EOT), to which the building belongs, the encroachment continues,» Gavriil Papasarantis, a member of the Philopappou residents’ committee, told Kathimerini. «The building has been altered, there is an illegal fence, plastic ground cover has been put down, and makeshift electrical connections have been set up to light the place, which is a hazard for the woodland. Often there are large receptions and other social events on the site and the hill reverberates with loud music. Our efforts so far to find out whether these projects have the approval of the authorities have borne no fruit. The Town Planning Directorate of Athens Municipality has not yet issued its findings concerning the complaints, though the matter has been pending since last March. In the meantime, however, some projects at Dionysus have been given permits.» In December, the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) issued its opinion that a study was needed to highlight the area surrounding the chapel of Aghios Dimitrios Loumbardiaris and to refurbish the refreshment room according to the ephorate’s recommendations. KAS stated that the study should «make provisions for the removal of the illegal fences facing north.» In other words, KAS acknowledges that the work on the refreshment room and the encroachments on the archaeological site are illegal. The Culture Ministry made the same point in a ruling issued a year later. Yet the study for refurbishment of the refreshment room has still not been done. The subject will be discussed at a conference, «The Acropolis-Philopappou projects of Dimitris Pikionis in contemporary Athens,» being held tomorrow by the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage, at the Goulandris-Horn Foundation, Aeridon Square, Plaka. The speakers include Agni Pikioni, an architect herself and daughter of the renowned architect, and Papasarantis, speaking on behalf of local residents. The residents’ committee will ask that the new lease for the refreshment room (the current one expires in August) include all the conditions suited to use of a modern historical monument.

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