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Suburban digs for devoted urbanites August 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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Mod apartments emerge amid the arty-cool atmosphere that now defines the once-poor districts of Metaxourgeio and Gazi in Athens.

suburban.jpg

In Kerameikos new homes once only seen in posh districts such as Mets or Lykavittos are under construction.

A modern apartment complex in Kerameikos, in the heart of a quiet, somewhat abandoned pedestrian street, is the type of building that 20 years ago would have been a dream home for thousands of middle-class families in Kypseli or Pangrati.

What is astonishing is that no one would have looked for it in Kerameikos but in Kifissia, Glyfada, Vouliagmeni and other bastions of Athenian suburbia. The suburban dream, identified with the city’s entry to the world of consumerism and prosperity, has come full circle to land in anonymous streets and badly lit alleyways in forgotten neighborhoods as part of a new dream that appears to be as powerful as the earlier one.

The colonization of the city’s historic center stretching from Omonia Square to Metaxourgeio and Gazi is not new. It has been 10 years since the trendy restaurant Mamacas opened in what was then an unknown side street of Gazi. A few courageous artists followed, setting up their studios in the neighborhood. Theaters, galleries and a few cafes and bars frequented by intellectuals drifted in after them, creating a new identity for the area.

Gazi, and much later Metaxourgeio, began to evolve into a new focus for nightlife, but without new residents to bring life into the decrepit neighborhoods during daylight hours.

Major change

That is now changing, and fast. In June, the construction company GEK SA announced the results of a Europe-wide architectural tender for a model complex of residences and commercial premises in Myllerou Street in Metaxourgeio. The response surpassed all expectations – over 100 firms submitted entries, when architectural tenders in Greece are as rare as total eclipses of the sun. Secondly the choice of the property in question also says something.

Construction firms know where to invest their money. GEK’s “experiment” is perhaps the most organized effort of its kind in the wider area, but it is not the first. In Gazi a high-tech apartment house in Vitonos Street stands out among old houses and car repair shops.

Demand is so strong that contracts are signed even before the first layer of plaster is applied.

“We are talking about apartments no bigger than 70-80 square meters, with one bedroom. Their great advantage is the high quality of construction, the architectural design and technological infrastructure,” said Giorgos Stamatakis of Alpha Land Development.

The description of the apartments alone shows the new market for design studios is not young families.

“Our customers are mostly singles and young couples who find homes in Gazi to their taste and to suit their pockets,” added Stamatakis.

Prices begin at 2,500 euros per square meter, cheaper than in Kolonaki. Stamatakis said that the demand for new apartments in Gazi and Metaxourgeio chiefly came from artists and young people.

“The news is spread by word of mouth; one person starts the ball rolling and it goes on from there,” he said, adding that new homes will do a lot to change the districts’ image. “The more permanent homes are built, the more these districts will feel like neighborhoods and less of a place for nightlife. There will be fewer new bars and more traditional uses of the neighborhood, adapted to the lifestyle of the new residents.”

Stamatakis drew attention to the fine line between the past and present. Building new homes in entire districts west of Omonia Square is a catalyst for redefining their character but only the construction of new homes can ensure that in 10 years’ time the area could become unrecognizable.

There is the view that even if Athens didn’t have districts like these they would have to be invented. A considerable sector of the population are young men and women aged 25-45 who are devoted to their careers and with few or no family obligations. Life in the suburbs is not for them. Kolonaki, meanwhile, is far too expensive for what it has to offer and no longer has its finger on the pulse. All the action has moved long ago to below Syntagma Square and now below Omonia.

Moving axis

If in 1990 an apartment on Kolonaki’s Patriarchou Ioakeim or Haritos streets guaranteed a privileged view of Athens’s high life, now the axis has moved southwest.

The sudden attraction for neglected byways has also resulted in collateral damage. Although changes in Athens follow their own lazy rhythm, there is always the risk of rent and property prices skyrocketing, as has happened in New York, London and Paris.

Katerina Tsigaridas’s winning entry in the GEK competition proposes a complex around an inner courtyard.

“We wanted to reproduce the typology of the old Athenian home in the most modern way possible while avoiding any retro references,” explained Tsigaridas. “We did not want to make something deluxe or overly pompous so as not to clash with the urban environment. We believe in continuity. We do not see the complex as a ghetto for intellectuals or the rich.”

Old neighborhoods enlivened through surrounding restoration works

Metaxourgeio and Kerameikos became trendy neighborhoods for many reasons, not just because Athenians simply needed another type of urban environment.

The still-pending restoration of Pireos Street and the opening of the Technopolis arts center in the Gazi site of the old gasworks in the 1990s began the neighborhoods’ rebirth.

Then came work on unifying the city’s archaeological sites and the conversion of the southern part of Ermou Street into a pedestrian zone, at the level of Kerameikos. An enjoyable 10-minute walk from the Thisseion metro station takes you to the gate of the old gasworks. Last year the Korean Market (a group of shacks and old houses) was demolished, freeing a one-hectare area which has since become a park.

Last fall the Environment and Public Works Ministry announced the new zoning plan for the area, which considerably reduces building coefficients (from 3 to 1.8), and encourages residential rather than all heavy duty use including night clubs.

The most decisive factor over the next few years will be the revolution in transport infrastructure in Attica.

There has been a metro station in Metaxourgeio since 2000. The opening of the extension to line 3 in early 2007 includes a station at Gazi, to be named Votanikos.

The applied arts enter ivory tower world of museums August 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Events Greece, Arts Exhibitions Greece, Fashion & Style.
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A variety of objects is available in gift shops
An example is a bracelet made of feathers, cloth and wire by artist Kostoula Kotroni. This particular piece is available at the art shop of the Pireos Street annex of the Benaki Museum, which is probably the museum shop in Athens with the greatest variety of objects and jewelry.

More unusual and interesting objects can now be found at the museum shops of the Benaki’s Pireos Street annex and the Museum of Cycladic Art.

The large shop at the Benaki Museum annex is known for promoting and supporting the work of Greek artists who specialize in the decorative arts and jewelry.

From the onset, the Benaki shop at the museum’s Pireos Street annex was not just a vending point but a gallery for showcasing crafted objects and jewelry.

This summer’s new arrivals include a range of jewelry, some of it reasonably priced at 14 euros and up.

Most of the jewelry is singled out for its unusual combination of different materials and techniques. It is also inspired by the exhibition “Flowers in Contemporary Art,” which is currently on at the museum’s premises.

Mariella Rizou, for example, uses felt and beads for her youthful necklaces of flower motifs. Stamatis Zannos, who works as a decorator and stage designer, has made jewelry and other objects for the home by using gelatin and sheets of silver.

The “Plastic is Fantastic” series by Christina Dara includes cute and colorful necklaces, bracelets and earrings, all made out of plastic.

Other jewelry includes Sotiria Sideridou’s bead broaches or Loukia Richards’s bracelets.

In the Benaki shop one will also find handmade porcelain bowls by Margarita Ekklisiarchou, or ceramics made by traditional techniques and hand-painted by Eleni Kanellopoulou.

Maria Petratou’s elongated decorative objects that resemble turrets or blown-up flowers and plants are singled out for their toylike character, reminiscent of a fairy tale.

In the shop of the Museum of Cycladic Art, recent arrivals include reproductions of ancient Greek toys and games, as well as jewelry inspired by them. Designed and constructed by Yiorgos Karatzas in collaboration with author and researcher Christos Lazos, the toys are meant for children. They are not mere decorative objects but are supposed to be used to acquaint children with ancient Greek culture.

The toys include reproductions of the so-called “astragaloi” (knuckle-bones), which in antiquity were used in divination.

The prices of the games at the museum’s shop range from 18-158 euros.

In Nafplion

Visitors to Nafplion will be impressed with the rich gamut of art works and objects of the applied arts in The Art Shop, a gallery that hosts art works from painting, sculpture and photography, as well as original objets d’art, furniture, jewelry and clothing which are either one-of-a kind or in limited editions.

The Art Shop, which was set up by artist Florica Kyriacopoulos and gallerist Olga Georgantea, also organizes art projects such as window exhibitions and workshops. It also specializes in custom-tailored presents. It includes works by more than 50 Greek and international artists. (www.theartshop.gr.)

Pygi Devetzi stretches August 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Athletics.
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pygidevetzi.jpg  Pygi Devetzi stretches during her jump in the qualifying round of the women’s long jump at the European Athletics Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden, yesterday.

Despite missing the qualifying target of 6.65 meters by one centimeter, Devetzi made it into tomorrow’s final as only eight athletes jumped further than her.

Twelve long jumpers will take part in the final and Devetzi said she was hopeful of collecting a medal. ‘The weather did not do us any favors today,’ said Devetzi after yesterday’s contest. ‘It was cold and it rained and that affected all the athletes,’ she added.

Devetzi won a silver medal in the women’s triple jump earlier this week. Greece’s other female long jumper, Panagiota Koutsioumari, did not qualify for the final.

Anti-smoking laws not novel in Greece August 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Health & Fitness.
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antismoking.jpg  A 19th-century Royal decree one of first bans

The decree signed by Queen Amalia on July 31, 1856, banning the smoking of cigars or pipes by all employees of the state within public buildings. The ban also applied to any other person entering these premises.

Greece, whose citizens are among the biggest consumers of tobacco products in the world, was actually one of the first countries to establish anti-smoking laws.

Today four in 10 Greeks are regular smokers. But 150 years ago, a Royal decree was signed banning smoking in enclosed public spaces – not out of any early understanding of the risks to public health but because of the risk of fire, according to Stefanos Geroulanos, head of the Onassis Cardiology Center’s intensive care unit.

Since 1856, a number of similar anti-smoking laws, decrees and rulings have been issued – the most recent a ministerial decree in 2002 – but a total ban in Greece is only imposed on public transport. Smoking bans have also been imposed on passenger flights and that’s because of the high cost of changing air filters.

Geroulanos, who is also professor of surgery at Zurich University, said the ban is not even fully imposed in hospitals, since doctors themselves still smoke in their offices.

“In Greece we have anti-smoking laws but most of them are not observed since they are not policed,” he said. “The state is not only in no position to impose the ban, but we could even say it is unwilling, since it stands to lose enormous revenue from taxation on tobacco products, and so many people’s livelihoods depend on the tobacco industry.”

New metro stations in pipeline August 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Transport Air Sea Land.
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The construction of three more metro stations in northern Athens moved a step closer yesterday as the consortiums taking part in the expansion of Line 3 were invited to submit bids for the project.

Barring any problems, the construction of stations at Holargos, Nomismatokopeio and Aghia Paraskevi will begin early next year. The three consortiums have until October 16 to submit their bids.

The operating company, Attiko Metro, said it hopes Nomismatokopeio station will be open by the end of next year. A parking lot with 470 spaces will also be built at the station.

Commuters will probably be able to use the Holargos and Aghia Paraskevi stations sometime during 2008. Aghia Paraskevi station is the most complicated part of the project as no foundations for the station have been laid, meaning that part of the metro tunnel must be knocked down.

Therefore, the metro’s service between Ethinki Amyna and stations from Halandri to the airport will be suspended for a while.

Action on Acropole Palace August 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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Refurbished hotel will be used to house many Culture Ministry services

The now-refurbished Acropole Palace will soon house Culture Ministry services, giving the strategically located building on Patission Street new purpose after a spell of disuse.

The Acropole Palace, a hotel which sits opposite the National Archaeological Museum and close to the ministry’s headquarters, was built between the wars by architect Sotiris I. Magiasis (1894-1966) and has belonged to the ministry since 1999. It will now serve many needs, including offering accommodation for distinguished guests of the ministry.

On the ground floor will be the Archaeological Receipts Funds sales outlet and a cafe. The second floor, with its high ceilings and the chandeliers that are the sole relics of the hotel’s heyday, will be a main hall used for events. The first five floors will be for purely administrative purposes, “for cultural organizations supervised by the ministry,” said the ministry’s general secretary Christos Zahopoulos. The consolidation of these services in one building is expected to save money, he said.

The sixth floor will be divided into two areas: a restaurant and a performing hall. On the seventh floor, with the hostel, there will be a reception room for the culture minister.

Efforts are being made to get Community Support Framework funding for the preliminary restoration study. But the hopes expressed by then-deputy culture minister Petros Tatoulis in September 2005 that the project would be completed in 2008 seem overly optimistic.

Besides, there is a legal matter pending with Acropole Hotel Businesses (AEXE), a company owned by former PAOK football club president Giorgos Batatoudis. The company is claiming millions of euros from the Greek state in relation to a contract AEXE had to renovate the hotel. The Culture Ministry considers the matter closed, since the company was paid an amount corresponding to the purchase price of the building.

Kalymnos museum will open with or without its best relic August 12, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Arts Museums.
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kalymnos.jpg  Kalymnos is rich in terms of antiquities

Kalymnos, the small Dodecanese island known for its significant archaeological finds, will welcome another archaeological Museum in 2008.

Officials who confirmed the opening added that it has not been decided whether the new Museum’s displays will include the celebrated Lady of Kalymnos kore, which was dragged from the sea in 1994. The Central Archaeological Council (KAS) has postponed discussion on the fate of the statue, which is seen as one of the most important archaeological discoveries in recent years in Greece.

Its size, good condition and rarity have earned it pride of place at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, which hopes to hang on to the artifact even though the Kalymnos Museum wants it.

With or without the Lady of Kalymnos, the Museum is expected to contain an array of impressive displays dating from the 5th century AD to the Christian period. Plans include an area to display a magnificent statue of Asclepius, god of health, which has been reassembled.

The Museum will be housed in a new, two-story building of 386 square meters in Aghia Triada in the town of Pothia, near the Vouvali mansion, which has been used to exhibit a number of archaeological finds.

The Museum project is funded by the Third Community Support Framework and KAS has already approved the museological study. Current plans outline that the first hall will be dedicated to prehistoric finds made mostly in Kalymnos’s numerous caves. The same hall will also contain luxurious vessels of the local and imported ceramic crafts of the Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations, among other displays.

The second hall will contain finds from a Hellenistic settlement located in a gorge during a recent excavation at Damos that brought to light numerous finds that allude to the daily life of residents at the time. Should the Lady of Kalymnos be returned to her island, she too will go on display here.

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