Work has begun in Monastiraki Square

It’s the best news about the center of Athens to have been heard this year – work has begun on refurbishing Monastiraki Square. Four years of delays have led to an embarrassing situation for the city, but now an end seems to be in sight. The space has been barricaded off, leaving just two passageways to and from the metro station. Work will continue throughout the winter and will hopefully completed next spring. According to the timetable, the contractor is obliged to hand over the project to the office for the Unification of Archaeological Sites of Athens (EAXA) in six months. The turning of the soil marks an end to the troubles of the winners of a Europe-wide competition for the project, architects Nikos Kazeros, Zinovia Kotsopoulou, Vasso Manidaki, Christina Parakente and Eleni Tzirtzilaki. «It is important that the project that is to be finally constructed be very close to our original idea in the design,» said Kazeros. Six years ago, the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) rejected the surface material proposed by the architects – an attractive mixture of marble and stone that was in keeping with the Mediterranean style of the district, full of people, movement, commerce and buildings. The architects had been asked not to use stones but tiles in Plaka’s streets and squares. Four years followed in which nothing was done. Then the composition of KAS changed and the original design was approved after certain recommendations were made. The situation still remains uncertain with regard to tree plantings on the right hand side of the square. However, containers are to be built for new cherry trees, since the station does not allow for much more planting. The area is not large but its symbolic significance and its monuments mean the changes will be extremely interesting. They include a large sunken space around the Pandanassa Church, a view of the bed of the Iridanos River that runs under the square and a new fountain on the site of the historic spring. The metro air vents will be disguised with structures, including sculptures, to blend in with the aesthetics of the square.