Struggle to save Ioannina Xenia

In 2003 the architects’ association mobilized, demanding that the Xenia hotels built during the period 1950-1967 be preserved and maintained according to the original designs, and be organized independently of their ownership status into a tourism infrastructure network of high-quality architecture. But damage has been done to the Xenia hotels of Poros, Larissa, Xanthi and Nafplion. Others, such as the Xenia at Ioannina, are at risk of demolition. Still others, such as the one in Kalambaka – which, like those of Myconos, Olympia and Poros, is a reference point for Greek and foreign architects – have been waiting more than 18 months for a decision by the Council for Modern Monuments on whether they are to be listed for preservation. The Ioannina Xenia was designed by architect Philippos Vokos in 1958. As head of the studies department at the Greek National Tourism Organization (GNTO), Vokos also designed Xenias in Kos, Karpenissi, Spetses, Platamonas and Kalamata. «The Ioannina Xenia, the park, the Oasis restaurant and building, and the archaeological museum – the latter two the work of Constantinidis – form an integral architectural unit,» says attorney Angeliki Harokopou. «The hotel and park together comprise a public space of 2.6 hectares, the only green space in the city.» In 1955 the Municipality of Ioannina took over the hotel from the GNTO. Apart from a vague obligation to «maintain its use for tourism,» the city was forbidden to allow any third party to use the building for any purpose. «In 1988,» said Harokopou, «the building was completely refurbished with the help of 240 million drachmas (704,000 euros) in Interior Ministry funding ahead of the European summit. In recent years it has not been maintained or repaired. Even though the hotel had 80 percent occupancy, the municipality decided to hand it and the surrounding 1.3-hectare area over» to a private company. In place of the current 60-room, 100-bed hotel, the firm plans a large, 250-room, 500-bed hotel. It will use the park for private purposes, effectively destroying the historic Kourabai area where locals used to meet. On June 8 the Council of State ruled in favor of preserving the hotel, which may trigger appeals to save other Xenias. It appears that the state must decide which Xenias are worth preserving so that businesses don’t get involved in murky legal situations and the right firms are interested.

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