Seven buildings at ex-army hospital listed and saved

Preservation order from the Environment Ministry has saved a piece of Athenian history for future generations. The order will save seven main buildings out of a total 14 that housed the former 401 Army Hospital in Kolonaki. Local residents and architects have been campaigning for more than 20 years to save the old buildings, whose owner, the Orthodox Church of Greece, had wanted to demolish them. Environment Minister Tina Birbili signed the preservation order, which was drawn up by the ministry’s department of traditional structures. One of the 14 buildings had already been knocked down, and the structures along Deinocratous Street, which have undergone considerable alterations, were not deemed of significant architectural merit to make them worth saving. Sources say that the decision, which allows new construction on part of the site, both gave the owner an incentive to find a new use for it and also enables it to open onto Deinocratous. In their proposal, the ministry’s traditional structures department described the complex as «an exemplar of late 19th-century military and hospital architecture with stylistic elements influenced by traditional French architecture.» Origins In 1904, the First Army Hospital of Athens (later known as 401) was installed in what had been the Non-Commissioned Officers’ Military Academy (1881-97). When the hospital was relocated to Mesogeion Avenue in 1971, its former site became the property of the Church of Greece in exchange for land in Vari where the Cadets’ School was set up. The campaign to save the buildings began in the 1980s, and intensified after the Church applied for a demolition permit in 2001 with the intention of building a hotel. The Attica Ephorate of Contemporary and Modern Monuments intervened, requesting that the permit not be issued until the Culture Ministry had made a decision. Meanwhile, the Lykavittos organization and the Monumenta group of architects, archaeologists and environmentalists went into action, submitting a proposal to the Culture and Environment ministries to list the site for preservation. They soon gained the support of architects, academics and local residents. «We’ve fought so hard for this; I won’t believe it till I have the decision in my hands,» architect Elisavet Iliopoulou told Kathimerini. «I’m very happy with this development. Of course I would have liked to see greater generosity: to save all the buildings, not to build anything else, and to save all the trees. I hope the Church doesn’t make any other changes. It has so many options as to how to use the land.» Interwar apartment blocks are spared too There is more good news for Kolonaki from the Environment Ministry: In addition to the 401 Army Hospital, another seven buildings in the same area have won preservation orders. Usually it’s a demolition order that promotes an investigation by the ministry’s traditional structures department, but this time the owners wanted the building at 10 Karneadou Street to be preserved. The Culture Ministry had already listed another three buildings in the same area, one of which is the former residence of the statesman Eleftherios Venizelos. The property at 10 Karneadou Street is a four-story, interwar apartment block by Pavlos Michaleas, with some original architectural touches. At 48 Karneadou and on the corner of 50 Karneadou and Marasli streets are another two four-story, interwar apartment blocks which make distinctive use of volume. Constantinos Kyriakidis designed the impressive apartment block on the corner of 3 Plutarchou and Ipsilantou streets in 1933. Known as the Mavromati building, it combines eclecticism and modernism. Eclecticism and interwar architecture meet in the building at 10 Plutarchou, while at 4 Ipsilantou there is a three-story structure in the neoclassical style, and next door is a multistory building in the interwar style.

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