The rebirth of a beautiful building

The shutters were opened and the light allowed to flow back into the former residence of the late poet Napoleon Lapathiotis (1889-1944) on the corner of Koundouriotou and Economou streets in Exarchia last June. But the rebirth was short-lived and the residence was again boarded up as soon as a series of plays titled «No, We’re Pretending» stopped being staged there. The plays were based on the verse of the avant-garde poet. With no inhabitants for several decades, listed for preservation by the Ministry of the Environment, Physical Planning and Public Works, and falling apart due to years of neglect, squatters and arson, this once-beautiful neoclassical home, with its courtyard and garden, seemed doomed to the same fate as so many other attractive buildings in the Greek capital. The omens, however, were wrong and the Lapathiotis residence has been given a new lease of life. The residence was bought by private citizens and will be renovated to serve as a home once more. A study by architect Yiannis Saitas was warmly praised by the Council for Modern Monuments which passed a unanimous resolution for its renovation. But the praise should be shared with its new owners too. There are very few people willing to become involved in the time-consuming and risky adventure of Greek bureaucracy and who also display such sensitivity toward the architectural side of the renovation. They aren’t even seeking to sell the building for a profit or lease it out to a bar or restaurant. The Lapathiotis residence has a long history. It was built in the early 1880s, a transitional period for Athenian neoclassical architecture, involving experimentation with new complex forms. This mature phase of neoclassicism is evident in this residence in the angularity of its facade, the marble balconies with wrought-iron railings, the paintings on the ceilings and the exceptionally rare painted gable. All of these elements will be returned to their original form. The modernist – for that period – composition of the architecture has been married to more «old-fashioned» styles: The external staircase and inner courtyard make the residence very similar to those in Plaka. The architectural study has focused on the courtyard, making it a central feature in the house.

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