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Proud Greeks > $10m donor to MFA drops his anonymity September 19, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Greek Diaspora.
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The Museum of Fine Arts announced yesterday that George D. Behrakis, with a gift of more than $10 million, has become the biggest identified contributor yet to the MFA’s planned $500 million expansion campaign.

Behrakis’s gift brings the total he has given to $25 million over the last five years. The Lowell-born pharmaceuticals magnate broke with tradition in the local arts community, where many of the biggest givers are reluctant to be publicly named. For the donation, the museum will name its Art of the Ancient World wing in honor of Behrakis, 72, and his wife, Margo, the first such naming since 1915.

In 1998, Behrakis sold his last company, Muro Pharmaceutical Inc., and pledged to spend about 10 percent of his earnings from the deal on charitable causes. In 2003, Northeastern University, from which Behrakis graduated in 1957, opened a health and science center named after him. He has given $8 million to the university. Along with the MFA and Northeastern, Behrakis serves as a trustee of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

But no institution has received as much from Behrakis as the MFA. His relationship with the museum, he says, dates to high school, when his uncle, John Zaroulis, took him to see the galleries. Later, when he ran a succession of companies, Behrakis would hold parties at the museum. He became a member in 1989, a patron in 1996, and an overseer in 1998.

Discussing his growing passion for the MFA, Behrakis said he wanted to leave a legacy for his four children and eight grandchildren. He also spoke of his late parents, Drakoulis and Stavroula .

“They came here as immigrants, they taught us values, they taught us about education, and about the arts and culture,” said Behrakis. “They’re looking down on us right now.”

Read this article > $10m donor to MFA drops his anonymity


Tassos congratulates Marcos September 19, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Tennis Squash.
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President of the Republic of Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos congratulated on Monday tennis player Marcos Baghdatis on winning his first professional title in his career in the China Open.

“This big success is a success for the whole of Cyprus,” the President said in an official announcement, wishing Baghdatis to gain even bigger success in the future in his career.

Baghdatis beat Croatian Mario Ancic in the men’s singles final 6-4 6-0.

“It was a great match, I can not imagine that I played this way, winning my first title in career. It’s a great feeling. I don’t know what to say, just full of emotion,” said an excited Baghdatis following the victory.

Cyprus Rally > Endurance and reliability September 19, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Racing & Motors.
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Endurance and reliability in both man and machine will come to the fore when the BP-Ford World Rally Team heads to the holiday island of Cyprus for what many regard as the toughest round of the FIA World Rally Championship. Far from enjoying the beaches and sunshine of the eastern Mediterranean, Marcus Grönholm and Timo Rautiainen and team-mates Mikko Hirvonen and Jarmo Lehtinen will fight scorching heat and boulder-strewn tracks on the Cyprus Rally (21 – 24 September) as they try to secure the squad’s fifth win of this year’s campaign.

Their Ford Focus RS World Rally Car has earned an awesome reputation in arduous conditions, including two victories in Cyprus in six years. The new-generation Focus RS earned its credentials in gruelling conditions when Grönholm won June’s Acropolis Rally of Greece. BP-Ford rated that event as the toughest for several years but there is every reason to believe that the Cypriot mountain roads, parched and baked after a long, hot summer with no rain, could be every bit as demanding.

The gravel roads high in the Troodos Mountains above the resort of Lemesos demand strength and reliability from the cars, which must withstand a heavy battering from rocks. The tracks are also incredibly twisty and speeds are lower than anywhere else in the 16-round championship. Last year’s rally was won at an average of only 64.80kph, and at such speeds there is little airflow to cool hard-working engines and transmission.

With temperatures forecast to hover around the 30C mark during the rally, it is also a tough event for drivers and co-drivers. Temperatures are much higher inside the cars so stamina and fitness levels are important, as is a regular intake of fluids to combat dehydration.

Rally Route
The route is broadly similar to 2005 with the rally centred around the Palais des Sports service park on the northern edge of Lemesos. Most of the action is based in the Troodos Mountains north of the city although the major innovation is a short asphalt stage through Lemesos old town on Sunday afternoon to end the rally. After a ceremonial start on the seafront on Thursday evening, each of the three legs comprises a morning loop of stages repeated during the afternoon. Much of Friday’s opening leg is based in the very north of the Troodos, close to the border with the Turkish part of the island. The stages show several changes to the 2005 edition. The middle leg is based further south, close to Mt Olympus and west towards the resort of Paphos. The final leg is the shortest, covering tests north-east of Lemesos in the hilly and forested Machairas area. Drivers tackle 23 stages covering 331.34km in a route of 1172.74km.

Read the rest of this article > Strength and Reliability the Watchwords for Ford in Cyprus

Silk factory to get revitalizing revamp September 19, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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  Locals hope Soufli industrial complex will attract visitors

Safety measures have to be taken at the nearly century-old factory.

Standing at 34 meters high, the chimney of the landmark silk factory is hard to miss. The largest in the town of Soufli, in northeastern Greece, the factory is an industrial architectural complex, imposing not just in terms of size but also aesthetically.

Initially erected in 1909, the complex came under the ownership of the Givre brothers in 1920. Today the structure, which belongs to the Municipality of Soufli, is about to receive a serious facelift. The call to tender is scheduled to take place this Thursday at a cost set at 930,000 euros, a sum already approved by the regional authorities of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace.

“This is a huge step,” said Yiannis Kakalis, President of the Municipal Services for Soufli’s cultural and tourist development. “We have a proposal for the complex’s utilization. Future visitors will have an opportunity to go back in time. They will be able to experience, through the use of sound and color, what life was like in the factory. At the same time, the premises could also be used as a conference center,” said Kakalis.

Silent space > Today, the 9,000-square-meter complex is a silent space filled with memories. The machinery lies intact, tangled in cobwebs and the sun streams onto the floor through the damaged roof. One feels the shadows of all those who spent their days working here. Only a fraction of one’s imagination is necessary to visualize what this complex could give back to the local economy and boost the locals’ self-esteem.

The upcoming work is vital for the complex’s survival. Based on a study made at the initiative of the local Municipality, the building ought to be properly resupported, while access to the entire complex must also be made safe. Following a competition, the Municipality now has architectural studies for the complex’s entire revamp. For the time being, however, priority must be given to eliminating the danger of collapse, looting or further dilapidation.

Like a whisper, one single fairy tale runs through Soufli: the wonderful story of silk. The area’s longstanding tradition as a silk maker is still evident today, with visitors purchasing all kind of silk products during their stay. This tradition, however, is now looking toward some kind of expansion as well as into ways for boosting the local economy.

The Givre factory could lead the way, in the same way that To Koukouli, the impressive Municipal Hotel, was restored by the local authorities.

Built by the architectural firm of Ceriano Fratelli of Milan, the complex is perhaps one of the most important factories built in the southern Balkan region. Today, it seems to be Soufli’s ticket toward a more dynamic present and future.

Koulis Panayiotakos and the Thirties Generation September 19, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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The Blue Apartment Building was a great creative moment for Panayiotakos, who designed a number of noteworthy buildings in the 1930s, such as the school on the corner of Liosion and Sparti streets, the Spourgitis residence on Philopappou Hill, and the apartment block on the corner of Socratous and Satovriandou streets (where he lived in a space with furniture he had designed himself).

“He was my mother’s first cousin,” said Kardamitsi-Adami. “He was one of the two people who initiated me into architecture. The other, Achilleas Spanos, was also an architect.”

Panayiotakos’s archives are in the Benaki Museum’s Archive of Modern Greek Architecture, of which Kardamitsi-Adami is the director. “I often think about what happened to the Thirties Generation,” she said. “It is a big question why its high-quality work was not continued after the war. It was like a geyser that was swallowed up again.”

The Blue Apartment Building is still standing, but a thorough refurbishment is needed for this monument of urban Athens.

The famous Blue Apartment Building September 19, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Books Life Greek.
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Created by an eminent architect who longed for innovation, it recalls the heroic avant-garde that was crushed in the tragic 1940s


The apartment building on the corner of Arachova and Themistocleous street in Athens.

The Blue Apartment Building isn’t blue anymore; a pale, grubby azure-gray covers what was once the vibrant cobalt blue that made the building famous 73 years ago. The building has earned the right to be written with capital letters since it belongs to the history of the city, with sentimental ties reaching back to the interwar period.

The flagship of the modern apartment blocks that began to be constructed with greater frequency from the early 1930s on, the Blue Apartment Building on the corner of Arachova and Themistocleous streets in Exarchia area was one of the most striking, daring and modern residential buildings built in Greece before 1940.

The monograph > Designed by architect Kyriakoulis (Koulis) Panayiotakos (1902-1982), the building owes its original name and color to the artist Spyros Papaloukas (1892-1957), whose studies of vernacular architecture and post-Byzantine icon painting had a truly revolutionary expression in its blue facade. The Blue Apartment Building became a popular legend, not only because its many inhabitants loved it so much, but also because it recalls the heroic avant-garde that was later crushed by the tragic 1940s.

The monograph of the Blue Apartment Building, which has just been published by Libro with photographs by Giorgos Gerolymbos, is a welcome addition to the literature on Greek modernism, and is also the fulfillment of a debt by Maro Kardamitsi-Adami, who researches and teaches Greek architecture at the National Technical University. Panayiotakos was her uncle and the Blue Apartment Building is his best-known work.

“The idea for the book came from seeing similar affordable editions in France about buildings that are of importance, such as Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoie” explained Kardamitsi-Adami. “The market in Greece is small and most good architecture books are expensive. I thought that a series of small monographs about key buildings would be attractive to both architects and the general public. The Blue Apartment Building is the beginning, and after that I’ve thought of doing Kolonaki Square in all its historic phases, the Hilton, Iliou Melathron and the Byzantine Museum.”

With the Blue Apartment Building, Panayiotakos became an innovator, not only by presenting a new middle-class residence, but with a complete rearrangement of the household. He designed everything, down to the smallest drawer and closet. In the early 1930s, household management was undergoing rapid changes as technology made housework easier.

“He paid attention to every detail,” said Kardamitsi-Adami. “Panayiotakos had in mind the convenience of the housewife of that time. Everything was well-arranged and he made everything to perfection for her.”

The apartment block is in fact two buildings connected by shared light wells. Panayiotakos had originally planned to put a swimming pool on the roof terrace, with its marvelous view of Lycabettus and Strefi hills. It didn’t happen, but it was a revolutionary idea for the Athenian lifestyle of 1933.

Born in Athens with its almost entirely neoclassical style, Panayiotakos had adopted Le Corbusier’s philosophy of revitalizing tired cities and, like many of his generation, embraced the radicalism of the new architecture. When Le Corbusier visited Athens, he saw the building shortly before it was completed and he wrote in the entrance, “C’est tres beau.”

An archival photograph reproduced in the book shows the Blue Apartment Building at the time it was built. Its bulk looks almost overwhelming, surrounded as it was by neoclassical houses and simple one-story domiciles.

“I have the feeling that people at that time didn’t understand what it meant to fit in with the environment,” commented Kardamitsi-Adami, half-jokingly. “The Blue Apartment Building struck a blow to the fabric of the city. But those people had courage and the belief that what they were doing was good. They had ideals.”

It was an era with different priorities: In the interwar period, middle-class apartment blocks usually belonged to one landowner or entrepreneur and the were usually named after their owner. The Blue Apartment Building belonged to the Antonopoulos family. “It’s worth noting the decision by the entrepreneur Antonopoulos, who dared to assign a major project to two young men, Panayiotakos and Papaloukas. They had the freedom to do more or less as they pleased. And the architect wasn’t afraid of telling the artist, ‘Come along now and paint my work.’”

Papaloukas painted the building a deep blue, which probably retained a lot of heat in summer. Nobody recalls precisely when later layers were painted in a lighter blue. Kardamitsi-Adami does not remember ever seeing the original color, but one of the present residents, architect Nikos Moiras, found some of the initial blue under flaking plaster. It is a surprising blue, a deep, solid, Renaissance blue. Gerolymbos took a photograph of that scrap of the original color and included it in the superb illustrations that tie in with Kardamitsi-Adami’s text. Gerolymbos, a photographer who has a degree in architecture, has become a specialist in architecture books, which he pursues at the same time as his own creative photography.

Greek winegrowers toast good year September 19, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Wine And Spirits.
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Wine producers expect this year’s harvest to be of very good quality but supply is outstripping demand in some parts of the country as price concerns in the industry linger, according to sources.

Data from the National Professional Association of Vineyards and Wine (EDOAO) show that in some areas, such on as the northern Aegean island of Lemnos, producers are reluctant to move ahead with the harvest due to the low prices offered for grapes last year.

Problems in the industry could also be recorded in the Peloponnese’s Nemea region, as experts point to the different maturity rates among grapes hanging on the same branch.

Producers have been putting off the harvest waiting for better weather conditions in September but it looks like nature is unlikely to help out, a source said.

Data show that this year’s harvest is expected to produce “good-quality to exceptional” grapes on the Aegean Islands and Crete.

“This year Santorini’s production, especially in the red varieties, will be slightly higher, up by 10 to 15 percent over last year” oenologist Christos Kanellakopoulos said. The harvest on Santorini, an island with a developed wine industry, was completed earlier than normal this year due to warm weather at the start of August. Similar conditions existed on the fellow Cycladic island of Paros.

Grapes produced in Crete this summer appear to be more plentiful than last year’s crop and of very good quality. Efforts have been made on Greece’s largest island to increase the types of grapes grown in a plan sources said is starting to pay off.

According to estimates, there are more than 300 types of native grapes grown in Greece but only 15 are used in modern winemaking.

The produce in Attica is also expected to be good this year, but there are doubts as to whether the demand will be able to match the supply of wine on offer.

Excess wine production in the countries of the European Union has prompted Brussels to introduce sweeping changes in the industry over the next few years as producers are offered cash rewards to dig up their vines.