As architect Nikos Kazeros was walking through Monastiraki Square in central Athens recently, he noticed a group of workers repositioning the colored tiles that pave the western side of the square. “In what order are you repositioning the tiles?” he asked. “It’s all random,” the men replied. Their answer came as no surprise.
Over the past year, the square has seen a drastically increased number of arbitrary interventions. Public utility employees have repeatedly disrupted the pattern of the paving tiles – a key element in the design of the architects who won the competition organized by the Unification of the Archaeological Sites of Athens SA for the square’s renovation: Nikos Kazeros, Zinovia Kotsopoulou, Vasilia Manidaki, Christina Parakente and Eleni Tzirtzilaki.
But that’s not all. In the part of the square which covers the Iridanos River, the metal grates that have been stolen or destroyed have been replaced with different ones. Moreover, the wooden benches have grown shabby and need to be replaced, as does the metro ventilation shaft which is covered with graffiti. Sprawling cafes and food businesses on the eastern side of the square have hampered access to Mitropoleos Street while street vendors selling fresh and dried fruits have set up shop in front of the entrance to the ISAP train and metro station. Finally, there have been a number of random interventions around the Byzantine Church of the Pantanassa which are out of synch with the overall design.
The ravamping of Monastiraki Square, which cost 3 million euros, was completed in 2008. It came with a rule book regulating permissible interventions. The sorry state of the square today suggests that the rules have been mostly ignored.
Only City Hall has the power to halt the square’s deterioration. A number of TV commercials have been shot at Monastiraki, and it might be a good idea to use a part of their revenues to ensure the square’s upkeep in line with the original design, unless of course it would be preferable to throw another 3 million euros out of the window.