Century-old Kifissia Park now designated as listed monument

Historic Kifissia Park has been officially declared a listed site. An example of the northern suburb’s golden age of the early 20th century, the park was established in 1901 by the Attica Railway Company with the cooperation of florists and gardeners from Istanbul. Grand entrance gates, a marble-edged pond and art nouveau fence hark back to another age, but even here, vulgar interference is evident – new fencing, kiosks, broken railings, patched tiling, platforms for public events, makeshift refreshment kiosks, and the occasional parked cars. These spoil one of the few open public spaces in Attica. According to the Culture Ministry’s Local Council for Attica Monuments, the park is a «typical example of an early 20th century park. Protecting it will contribute to the conservation of part of our architectural heritage, which has not been the subject of attention or study.» The decision to list the site is a radical one, since the honor is usually bestowed on buildings rather than outdoor sites. According to the Florence Charter on the preservation of historic gardens which would bear the name of their town, «an historic garden is an architectural and horticultural composition of interest to the public from the historical or artistic point of view. As such, it is to be considered as a monument.» The listing of the Kifissia Park is the result of a drawn-out struggle with the municipal council which had remained unmoved not only by the Florence Charter but also by a report by the School of Architecture (led by Professor Georgios Sariyiannis), a recommendation by both the Environment and Public Works and Culture ministries. After damage caused during a Beer Festival in 2003, a group of 222 local residents asked the municipality, through the Kifissia Conservation Society, to head an application to have the park declared a listed monument. They found that the municipality was the greatest opponent of the move; the council claimed that if the site was listed, the municipality was at risk of losing one of its most valuable properties. So the victory rests with the ordinary people who waged a campaign through the Kifissia Conservation Society, and a local newspaper, the Platano (Plane Tree), which presented a scientifically documented proposal that convinced the Culture Ministry. Nothing would have been achieved without the personal efforts of the association’s president, Panos Raftopoulos, an engineer-architect who, along with Sariyiannis, saw the campaign through from beginning to end. (1) This article first appeared in the October 9 edition of K, Kathimerini’s color supplement.