A new culture triangle in Athens

It’s one of the most problematic areas in Athens. Repeated announcements have promises a cultural revamp for the triangle formed on Patission Street by the ghost of the Acropole Palace Hotel, the National Archaeological Museum and the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA). It is a challenge and a trap for politicians, especially when the plan is to turn the NTUA into a museum, while expanding the Archaeological Museum and making use of the Acropole Palace, which is listed for preservation. And all of it is apparently the next target of Culture Minister Antonis Samaras, following the work on the palaestra (wrestling school) at Aristotle’s Lyceum on Rigillis Street. The ministry’s plans for the triangle will improve an area that has seen riots as well as the degeneration of nearby Tositsa Street into a gathering place for drug users and dealers. The minister has held discussions with NTUA authorities but one major obstacle stands in the way: The NTUA building is a legacy that does not permit its change of use. As for the Acropole Palace, successive ministers have had plans for it and vast sums have been spent on it but it remains a ghost behind the netting. The homeless seek shelter there at night. A fire broke out recently, damaging the basement and ground floor. European Union funding of 12 million euros has been secured through the fourth National Strategic Reference Framework (ESPA) program to save the art nouveau building, designed by Sotiris Magiasis in the 1920s. Once associated with the glittering evenings of Athenian society, the Acropole Palace sheltered many students during the uprising against the junta in 1973. Now subject to severe static problems, the seven-story, 6,500-square-meter building is due for restoration. The latest study by the Restoration Directorate for Modern and Contemporary Monuments, which has the approval of the Central Archaeological Council, is the beginning of yet another attempt to save this grand postwar hotel.