NEWS

Foundation stone laid for new Thessaloniki City Hall, ending a protracted delay

When the foundation stone of Thessaloniki’s new City Hall went into place on September 5 in the presence of Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias, it marked the end to a delay that had dragged on for nearly eight years. Work has begun, according to a plan designed by leading Athenian architects Tassos Biris, his late brother Dimitris and associates. The building is scheduled for completion in 2008. The new City Hall will be on the corner of Vassileos Georgiou and Tritis Septemvriou streets in a central location already replete with notable architecture, including the Archaeological Museum designed by Patroklos Karantinos and the Museum of Byzantine Culture designed by Kyriakos Krokos. Though the proximity of two buildings of such symbolic significance from different eras is appealing, it did raise concerns for the architects who, in any case, have avoided creating a pompous ensemble. «We wanted to design a non-invasive building complex that would have a direct connection to the city,» said Biris, «so we created an internal walkway between the two basic units of the complex that will join Vassileos Georgiou to the neighborhood to the rear.» It looks more like a passageway, but it is a sizable outdoor area, which visitors can easily access. «It is both a courtyard and a garden with seats and greenery, and there is an amphitheater as well,» he said. The two main buildings, loosely linked, are designated to meet different needs. The first, which overlooks the Museum of Byzantine Culture, will house all municipal authorities and services, while the second will be used for recreational and social activities, The total area is 14,000 square meters, yet the building does not look massive due to the way it is shaped and distributed. Biris explained they had aimed «for the feeling of a complex rather than a single block.» The laying of the foundation stone coincides with the completion of two more city halls, both in Attica: The new Gerakas City Hall (designed by the office of Dimitris and Liana Potiropoulou) and the new city hall in Peristeri. Sadly, architecture is still undervalued in Greece. It is almost impossible to learn the names of the architects of the new city halls. Though municipal websites will mention the most minor politician who attended the inauguration ceremony, there is no reference to the people to whom we owe the design of the buildings. It’s like a cinema showing a film and failing to mention the director’s name.