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Greece places returned marble frieze back into the Parthenon September 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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Greek Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis placed an ancient piece of marble returned by Germany’s University of Heidelberg into its rightful home on the Ancient Acropolis in Athens on Tuesday.

The piece of marble, a carving of a man’s heel measuring 11 centimetres by 8 centimetres, belonged to the eighth block of the Parthenon’s northern frieze.

‘This is an especially moving moment since this small fragment is the first piece that has returned home to the Parthenon, among many which remain scattered around the world,’ said Voulgarakis.

Escorted by Ministry officials, Voulgarakis flew to Heidelberg on Monday to attend the handing-over ceremony.

He hailed the day as ‘momentous’ since it marked the first time ever that the demand for the return of the Parthenon Marbles to their birthplace was met.

Greece’s culture minister praised the German University for taking such a radical decision that ‘breaks the silent agreement of museums that possess such items in London, Paris, Vienna, Rome, Palermo, Copenhagen, Munich and Wurzburg.’

‘Our duty to restore the Parthenon Marbles back to their rightful place is the duty of all of mankind towards civilization,’ said Voulgarakis, noting that smaller artworks from the temple will be offered in return.

‘We are willing to proceed with lending ancient artifacts to enrich exhibitions carried out in the world’s biggest museums,’ he said.

Greece has launched a crusade for the return of the so-called Elgin Marbles from Britain to the 2,500-year-old Parthenon and has enlisted help from government leaders, diplomats and artists to no avail.

The British Museum in London currently houses the marbles, comprised of 17 figures and parts of a 160-yard frieze.

The marbles were taken in the early 19th century by Lord Elgin, the British ambassador to the Ottoman Empire.

British leaders have refused to relinquish the collection and certain supporters of keeping the marbles at the British Museum contend that returning them could set a precedent for other countries to demand indigenous objects scattered around the world.

The University of Heidelberg is Germany’s oldest museum and its has been one of the leading centres studying ancient Greek culture for over two centuries.

Museum officials said the fragment in question had never been on display in Heidelberg, though its existence came to light in 1949.

Source: © 2006 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur

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China, Greece hope to launch direct air link soon September 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in News Flights.
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China and Greece on Monday signed a memorandum of understanding that could soon lead to direct air links between the two nations.

The new route, operated by Air China, will link Beijing and Athens in the new future. Air China is now approaching related departments for early preparation before a final date is decided.

The new route will benefit people from both nations. As bilateral relations have been enhanced in economics, trade, cultural and Olympics, more convenient air service will gain popularity among the nations’ citizens. China can also transfer Chinese goods to central and eastern Europe, via a port in Greece, said Michalis Liapis, minister for Transport and Communications here.

In the past two years, traffic between the two nations has been growing remarkably. The number of Chinese travelers to Greece grew 21 percent in 2005 compared with the previous year. In the first seven months of 2006, the number of Chinese travelers to Greece has already surpassed the 2005 figures.

Star performers get together to raise funds for homeless September 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Ballet Dance Opera, Hellenic Athens Festival.
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mariosfrangoulis.jpg  Opera star Mario Frangoulis is one of several performers who will be taking part in the fund raiser tonight at the Herod Atticus Theater. The show, based on works by the Nobel Prize-winning poet Odysseas Elytis, includes the respected Cretan singer Manolis Lidakis as well as the actor-director Grigoris Valtinos. A team of high-profile singers and actors have joined forces for a charity performance at the capital’s Herod Atticus Theater tonight in support of the homeless people of Athens.

Dubbed “When I Speak of the Sun,” the event’s cast includes Greek opera star Mario Frangoulis, the Cretan vocalist Manolis Lidakis, whose fine renditions over the past couple of decades has established him as one of the country’s most sought-after singers, as well as the respected actor and director Grigoris Valtinos. Their show will be based on works by the Nobel Prize-winning poet Odysseas Elytis. The production is directed by Ilias Malandris.

All proceeds raised by tonight’s performance will be donated to the City of Athens’s Homeless Reception Center, an establishment focused on offering support to people with no fixed place of abode.

The 39-year-old Frangoulis took his first formal musical step by studying violin before attending London’s Guildhall School of Music and Drama. After his graduation, he became active on the musical theater scene, eventually landing a series of roles in London’s West End. It was during this time that Frangoulis turned to opera after a suggestion by a friend, a soprano who told the Greek artist that he was ”a pure tenor and had to study opera.” He wasn’t convinced, believing that opera was an art that attracted little interest these days. But he was eventually drawn to the discipline, and went on, in 1993, to win the Maria Callas Prize, an international opera competition, and a scholarship to New York’s celebrated Juilliard School of Music. Frangoulis has since helped draw younger people to opera.

For a little over a year now, the City of Athens has operated a soup kitchen just off Omonia Square, the downtown location that attracts a considerable number of the city’s homeless, with hundreds of free midday and evening meals.

Tickets for the show, which starts at 8.30 p.m., have been priced at 20, 40, 50, 60 and 80 euros.

Music > Placebo return for latest round of fire September 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Music Life Live Gigs.
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Popular gender-bending act plays Athens tonight > Just three shows into an extensive world tour that ends a little before Christmas in Germany, Placebo will perform tonight at the Terra Vibe venue in Malakassa, on the Greek capital’s northern outskirts.

placebo.jpg

Just three dates into their latest world tour, the multinational rock outfit Placebo, a regular and popular visitor here, will perform in Athens tonight at the Terra Vibe venue in Malakassa, on the capital’s northern outskirts.

With a new album, their fifth, released last spring, Placebo reminded critics and fans of their determination to keep providing fresh-sounding material. “Meds,” the group’s latest work, provides yet another round of the act’s bare-sounding musical honesty, vulnerability and sense of danger.

Formed in the early 1990s by frontman Brian Molko, a Scottish-American musician raised in the UK, and Swedish bassist Stefan Olsdal, Placebo took little time to draw a following. Their self-titled debut album in 1996 produced a series of hit singles and the act found itself on major stages opening for celebrated acts, such as the reformed Sex Pistols and U2. A year later, the act was invited by David Bowie to perform at the superstar’s 50th birthday bash at New York’s Madison Square Garden. It was not a one-off venture for the band with Bowie. Not long afterward, the legendary rocker, whose androgynous style during the glam-rock era of the early 70s had an impact on Placebo years later, made a special appearance with the band at a New York show. Bowie and Placebo also gathered for a rerecording of the title track from the band’s 1998 album “Without You I’m Nothing” which was issued as a single. For their third album, Placebo injected hip-hop and disco elements to their restive rock sound.

In 2003, Placebo returned with a harder-edged sound for “Sleeping With Ghosts” their fourth album and an international chart success. Placebo’s career-spanning compilation “Once More With Feeling: Singles 1996-2004” reaffirmed the band’s hard-to-pinpoint style and tendency to progress naturally with each album. The band’s latest release, “Meds,” for which frontman Molko has put aside his glam-era fixations, includes a duet with REM’s Michael Stipe.

Delos relics to be rescued, restored with EU funding September 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Archaeology Greece.
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delos.jpg  The House of the Lake and the House of the Diadoumenos, which are both in the ancient sanctuary of Delos, are expected to be restored and maintained through a project funded by the EU’s Third Community Support Framework and managed by the Central Archaeological Council. The two relics have been ravaged by nature and neglect.

Two monuments at the archaeological site of Delos in the Cyclades will be restored and maintained with European Union money, after the Greek Central Archaeological Council (KAS) approved two studies for the relics’ upkeep earlier this summer.

Delos, which mythology says is the birthplace of Artemis and Apollo, is considered one of the most important archaeological sites in the Cyclades.

The project will be funded by the EU’s Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII) and will focus on repairing damage caused by bad weather and a lack of maintenance.

The two monuments of the ancient sanctuary, the House of the Diadoumenos and the peristyle of the House of the Lake, date to the 2nd century BC and were destroyed in 88 BC, during the Mithridates Wars. The so-called Diadoumenos House is at the northern end of the site, northwest of the lake. It is an impressive complex which consists of rooms facing a central atrium. The atrium used to have a mosaic floor, under which two cisterns existed – the smaller one was a well.

The studies that were carried out revealed structural problems, including issues with the walls, parts of which have collapsed into one of the two cisterns.

Experts also detected some damage – limited, fortunately – due to the overgrowth of vegetation. Damage has also been caused by archaeological excavations.

Humidity, strong winds and a lack of any upkeep have caused bits of plaster to fall into the structures. KAS approved the initial studies and it is now hoped that experts will seriously tackle Delos, since the two monuments are now on UNESCO’s World Cultural Heritage list.

New delays at Fix museum site September 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Arts Museums.
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fixmuseum.jpg  If not completed by the end of 2008, funds from CSFIII are likely to be lost

The design by 3SK Stylianidis, Tim Ronalds and I. Mouzakis and Associates for the renovation of the old Fix brewery on Syngrou Avenue as a National Museum of Modern Art. Though it was supposed to be finished in time for the Olympics, work has yet to begin due to legal squabbles.

Plans for the reconstruction of the old Fix beer factory on Syngrou Avenue to house the National Museum of Modern Art have met with further obstacles. The Aktor construction company has taken legal action to block the second, final phase of the competition which was won by the BIOTEP firm at a considerable discount.

A court ruling is expected within the next few weeks, at the latest by the end of September. If it finds in Aktor’s favor, the museum’s board will have to issue a fresh tender for bids for the second phase, which will mean a further delay in beginning the work and the risk of losing funds from the Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII) if the Fix building is not completed by the end of 2008, in accordance with CSF regulations.

Considering that the refurbishment will take at least two years, according to past statements by the Museum’s Director, Anna Kafetsi, this is a real possibility. If Aktor wins its case, it will be the fourth major delay in the project.

Initially, the Museum was supposed to have been completed for the 2004 Olympics, but the opening was successively postponed to 2006, then 2007 and then a year ago to 2008. Last spring Kafetsi foresaw “bulldozers moving in by June,” but it seems she spoke too soon. Contractors’ wars are a frequent occurrence in Greece and often exploit omissions and carelessness on the part of rival firms to achieve their ends.

It is no coincidence that the construction of major Museums in Greece often gets bogged down in legal loopholes. Similar problems arose during the makeover of the National Archaeological Museum, again, it was Aktor that took recourse to the courts. Work on the new Acropolis Museum, also being built by Aktor, after the firm which won the contract was unable to complete the job, was also at risk of being canceled. Then there is the farcical situation that has arisen around the proposed construction of a Modern Art Museum by the Vassilis and Eliza Goulandris Foundation, where the Greek state has shown an unprecedented inability to make use of the foundation’s offer.

Since the problems that have emerged at the Fix building are not unprecedented but reflect an almost endemic malaise in the entire system, one would expect the Culture Ministry to take the necessary initiatives to ensure that the procedures can stand up to scrutiny in either Greek or international courts.

According to the architectural design by 3SK Stylianidis Architects, Tim Ronalds Architects, and I. Mouzakis and Associates Architects, an attempt is being made to achieve a symbolic reference to the local topography. The neighboring Ilissos River, which flowed past the site until the 1950s when it was covered over by Kallirois Avenue, is to be recalled in the stone “curtain” on the building’s facade, a reference to the sedimentary deposits on the riverbed. The lack of outdoor areas is to be compensated for by making full use of the roof, with an outdoor sculpture exhibition and restaurant.

Shopping malls dress to impress September 5, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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shoppingmalls.jpg  Big centers cropping up around the city are using architectural talent to make a difference

The Factory Outlet discount superstore was designed by Haris Bougadelis. The wave-like metal sheets used to dress the exterior already make the project highly distinguishable.

Last year was a landmark in the history of Athenian commerce. New mammoth shopping centers, located along the city’s main highways as well as in the downtown district, gained popularity because they catered to changes in both society and consumer habits. Shoppers have turned their attention from relatively limited family-run neighborhood businesses to these gigantic shopping centers whose enormous accumulation of brand names has the power to attract customers for longer periods.

The architecture behind these ventures has been a key aspect of the entire package. Apart from enhancing the shopping experience, architectural design has also been summoned for solutions to complex problems.

Considering the limited attention to good architecture in Greece, and the field’s confined social role, it would be senseless to have high expectations in shopping center design.

But we shouldn’t be too pessimistic. Little changes here and there eventually add up to larger change overall, and the indications are promising.

Despite some reservations in local architectural circles over changes to the Attica shopping center in downtown Athens, the initiative taken by Piraeus Bank, the owner of the Army Pension Fund building that houses the Attica shopping complex, to hire two leading architects in the building’s refurbishment deserves commendation. The project was originally assigned to architect Stelios Agiostratitis before Yiannis Kizis was handed the reins. To be totally fair, even the new building housing The Mall, whose sheer scale and character do not allow for certain details, has some commendable aspects.

The aforementioned examples are both new buildings that indicate architecture is gradually cementing its place, even when it comes to the design of shopping centers.

The architect Alexandros Tobazis has designed a new commercial center that is being built on Kifissias Avenue, not far from the Danaos cinema, in the city’s Ambelokipi district. Tobazis has opted for glass and metal as the building’s main components. It will be interesting to see how his style of bioclimatic architecture blends with the building’s intended purpose.

Moving away from the city center, and toward to the airport’s commercial district, a second Factory Outlet discount superstore is currently under construction. It was designed by Haris Bougadelis. Though the building activity is still at an early stage, the wave-like metal sheets being used to dress the exterior already make the project highly distinguishable.

Incidentally, Tobazis, an established architect here with a leading role in development, and Bougadelis, a popular newcomer whose office is one of the Greek capital’s busiest, first crossed paths several years ago for refurbishment work on the Athens Hilton before the 2004 Olympics.