Mont Parnes, facing demolition, may get last-minute reprieve

Plans by the owners of the Mont Parnes casino-hotel to demolish the structure and rebuild another in its place may have to be re-evaluated following a forthcoming decision by the Archaeological Ephorate for Modern Monuments which is to recommend that the Culture Ministry designate the building as a listed monument. Designed by the architect Pavlos Mylonas (1915-2005), the building changed hands again in January after the British venture capital firm BC Partners acquired 51.57 percent of Hyatt for 480 million euros. In 2003, Hyatt Regency had bought 34.4 percent of shares in the firm that owns Mont Parnes as well as 100 percent of shares in the firm that manages it. Hyatt had announced a decision to demolish the building, although no one seems to be aware of the British firm’s intentions. The ephorate is likely to recommend the listing of the main building. Between the time the building was opened in 1961 and its acquisition by Hyatt, a number of additions were made that spoiled what had been, at the time, an innovative modern design. More recent construction revealed serious structural problems caused by the 1999 earthquake, whose epicenter was right under the mountain. In fact, the highly seismic nature of the area was one of the strongest arguments used by those in favor of demolishing the casino. However, the main building has proved to be extremely stable, and the casino has continued to operate. Mont Parnes is not just any hotel. Although normally identified with postwar optimism and the beginnings of mass tourism, Mont Parnes was something more. It rallied the country’s intellectual avant-garde of the time. Artists from Yiannis Tsarouchis to Nikos Hadzikyriakos-Ghika and from Giorgos Mavroidis to Yiannis Moralis all contributed to the interior design. Moreover, the construction of such a building on the edge of the Parnitha plateau marked a giant leap forward for Greek engineering, since it entailed what were at that time considerable technical challenges. Plans to demolish Mont Parnes prompted artist Panayiotis Tetsis, who had worked with Mylonas on the original project, to write to this newspaper in protest against what he called «hubris.» «And to what end? Is there an answer? These buildings have been paid for by us, the taxpayers. Is the work of a master and so many of his co-workers to be destroyed by a bulldozer?» he wrote.