An edifice of shame

Thessaloniki is one of the least green cities in Europe. The city was built and continues to grow in a way that harms its citizens’ quality of life, driven by capitalizing on every inch of free space to the benefit of contractors. The result? Not only do citizens see no improvement in their day-to-day lives, but what little spots of beauty are left in the city are gradually disappearing. The worst thing is that the authorities themselves set the tone, one recent example being the construction of the new City Hall in the city center. The municipal authorities touted the new City Hall as one its top priorities, and this in a city that suffers greatly from traffic congestion and increasing levels of smog. It bombastically announced the location – the former Tsiroyiannis army base, one of the few free plots of land in the city. The municipality even organized elaborate celebrations for the breaking of the ground, presenting the new City Hall as a major coup. This is not to say that Thessaloniki did not need a new City Hall, but it certainly did not need one in this manner. Some people protested this crime against the city, but we basically ignored them – this writer as well – as the usual colorful reactions of permanent protesters or of opposition representatives. Passing the site just recently, I realized how right those people were – that handful baying in desperation. Thessaloniki City Hall is a monster that threatens to destroy the entire city center. It is an aesthetic aberration situated beside two gems – the Byzantine Museum, designed by Kyriakos Krokos, and the Archaeological Museum by Socrates Karantinos – which, together with the White Tower and the wonderful Ottoman structures of the Third Army Corps, are the city’s greatest treasures, the jewels in its crown. One shudders to think that this municipal monstrosity (because that is what it is), will henceforth cast its shadow over the entire architectural and archaeological image of Thessaloniki and will also block the only view from the Seikh-Sou Forest to the Thermaic Gulf. And if you think I’m being overly arty, there’s more: The new City Hall will attract a lot of traffic, contributing even further to the already asphyxiating situation. I’m afraid that none of this matters to those who made the construction of this building possible. All they want is to go down in the annals of history. And so they shall; the question is in what light will they be cast.