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Rena Sakellaridou

Rena Sakellaridou, along with Morfo Papanikolaou, is one of the most widely acclaimed Greek architects. Among other achievements, the team boasts joint contracts which the two architects co-signed with Marios Botas for two highly popular buildings in Athens: the National Bank administration building on Aeolou Street and the new Ethniki Insurance headquarters on Syngrou Avenue. When asked to say a few words about her home city, Thessaloniki, it is obvious we struck a nerve. «With all that has happened, Thessaloniki has declined to the level of a political cartoon,» she said in reference to the political situation, the feeling of disappointment that has nagged at the city ever since it was Cultural Capital. «It began as a project based on dreams to end up a game of millions, where one side blamed the other.» Profound problem But, she agreed, the problems of the city cannot be blamed entirely on the Cultural Capital. «On a very profound level, Thessaloniki is still suffering the problem of not having come to terms with the loss of its status as a major city. Furthermore, it was unable to find a role when the Balkans opened up, the area of services has never been fully developed and the Olympic Games taking place in Athens did not help either. The result was that the city’s dreams and hopes shriveled and died,» said the architect. The city of Thessaloniki has been known historically to attract the voice of the avant-garde. «These voices are leaving now,» she said. «The number of them leaving for Athens has really been huge these past few years and it is rising.» She is no exception herself, as she shares her time and work between the two cities. Nevertheless, she does feel hopeful for the future. «I believe that things go around in cycles, so I also believe that this situation will not last forever. The city was not always like this. I am not sure whether I can see something happening right now, but what I do know is that there is no way we will agree to don the Byzantine robes again,» she said, stressing that Thessaloniki will not go back to the past.