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Wind power farms face protest June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Energy, Environment.
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Environmental groups in Greece urged the government yesterday not to grant licenses for wind power parks on two Aegean islands, claiming they would damage the environment and affect income from tourism.

Heavily reliant on fossil fuels, Greece wants renewable energy to cover as much as 20 percent of its overall energy consumption by 2010, with wind parks earmarked for the lion’s share of green power.

Greece’s Regulatory Authority for Energy (RAE) is evaluating two separate applications to construct wind parks on the Aegean islands of Skyros and Serifos, but the move has prompted protests rather than applause from environmentalists.

“We are all in favor of wind energy but in both these cases they do more bad than good,” said Kriton Arsenis of the Hellenic Society for the Protection of the Environment and Cultural Heritage.

RAE’s ruling will be put to the Development Ministry for a final decision. RAE could not give a time frame for a final decision on the two parks but said the file for Skyros was more advanced.

The wind parks, if constructed, will damage recognized nature reserves on both islands as well as spectacular views of the white sun-baked houses that are a magnet for thousands of tourists annually, environmental groups said. “For Serifos the plans are to build dozens of tall windmills which will basically ruin the view on the island,” Arsenis told Reuters. “They will be built above the main village, each at a height of over 100 meteres, and they will be the first things you will see coming in from the ship.”

Many locals on both islands have opposed the plans, saying they want to protect their main source of income which is tourism. Tourism accounts for about 18 percent of GDP and roughly one in five jobs. “It is a huge plant that by itself will cover about 14 percent of the country’s wind energy production target for 2010,” the Hellenic Society’s Daphne Mavrogiorgou said of the Skyros plant. “Some 80 percent of that plant’s land, owned by a Monastery, is inside a recognized NATURA 2000 nature reserve.”

Endesa Hellas, a joint venture with Spain’s Endesa and Greece’s Mytilineos, said it will not negotiate with the local community on its Serifos application but would simply await the authority’s decision.

State tourism properties set to be privatized June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Infrastructure, Tourism.
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The government intends to invite expressions of interest for seven assets of the Tourism Development Company (ETA), as Tourism Minister Fanni Palli-Petralia and Haris Kokkosis, ETA’s Chief Executive, move rapidly ahead with plans to utilize state tourism property.

The assets to be utilized include properties at varying degrees of maturity: three hotels, a casino, a marina and two areas of land. The state Corfu casino will probably be the first asset to be privatized. The Xenia hotels of Vytina, Skiathos and Kalambaka are also considered to be at a sufficient level of maturity to be utilized. ETA wants the main architectural features of these hotels to be preserved, a fact which prospective buyers must take into account.

The second wave of privatizations may include the marina at Neo Faliron, near the Peace and Friendship Stadium, if the tender goes according to plan and is complete by fall, along with one area of land at Afandou on Rhodes and one at Anavyssos, in Attica. However, the land cannot be privatized before consultations have been completed and the special zoning plan for tourism prepared.

The government has also decided to renovate the installations at Kaiafas Baths in the Peloponnese.

New Hellas-On-Line corporate identity unveiled June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Internet & Web, Telecoms.
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Hellas On Line presented yesterday its new corporate identity and, with it, its logo, in the company’s efforts to become the second-largest telecommunications provider in Greece after OTE.

HOL also announced its new product line, featuring double-play, telephony and Internet, services, fixed telephony and other high-standard corporate services.

Greece’s National Gallery expands to meet modern demands June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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Addition of a third floor is under way

national_gallery1.jpg  national_gallery2.jpg  A model from the study by Constantinos Mylonas and Dimitris Fatouros for the extension to the National Gallery. Above Left: A view from the staircase from Building A to Building B. Also visible is the slope, a water feature, a glass roof over the temporary exhibition space in Building C, the graduations of the surrounding area toward Vassileos Constantinou Avenue and the outdoor area of the cafe in Building A. Above Right: A partial view of the temporary exhibition hall.

The National Gallery is bursting at the seams and has been for years. The unfinished building, designed by Pavlos Mylonas (1904-2005) and Dimitris Fatouros, can no longer meet the most basic requirements of the country’s leading gallery. The National Gallery has a closed-in, almost provincial air that does not suit its role or the city of 4 million people that Athens has become.

A few weeks ago, Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis officially announced the expansion of the National Gallery and its inclusion in the Fourth Community Support Framework, to the tune of 30 million euros in funding. The Minister also said that 2.8 million euros for the final implementation study plus a further 400,000 euros would go to the studios of Constantinos Milonas, son of the late Pavlos Milonas, and Fatouros, who will update the original 1970 design.

The new preliminary study has received the approval of the Central Council of Modern Monuments, but the architects’ fees and inclusion of the final study in a reliable funding program had not been settled. The addition of the third floor will add 6,000 square meters to the National Gallery.

“We’re talking about new exhibition space, an amphitheater, a sales point and modern storerooms,” Gallery Director Marina Lambraki-Plaka said. “We’ll have a lovely cafe with a view of the Acropolis, and the building will be stabilized in accordance with the new anti-seismic regulations.”

The updated study includes additions that did not appear in the original study, such as two new basements and a spiral staircase that will inject dynamism into the facade on Vassileos Constantinou Avenue.

“The Ministry has been working hard on this for the past six months and the Prime Minister himself has made the extension of the building a top priority in the government’s culture policy” Lambraki-Plaka said.

As for the timetable, she thinks it unlikely that work will begin before 2010. It will take two-and-a-half years and the existing building may continue to operate while work is in progress. Part of the gallery’s activities will be transferred to the National Glyptotheque in Goudi. Lambraki-Plaka hopes that the gallery will be given two more buildings in Goudi. “There are two more buildings, one identical to the Glyptotheque and a large bakery. We could put our Collectors’ Museum there, an area we are planning for items donated by collectors.”

At present, the National Gallery lacks such an area, which is why the Papaloukas collection was lost, and collectors want, at the very least, an independent, named area for their donations. The buildings belong to the National Defense Retirement Fund, and only strong political will and satisfactory trade-offs will persuade the veterans to drop their objections.

Lambraki-Plaka has long-term plans in mind. “An older plan of sinking Vassileos Constantinou Avenue would allow the gallery to be united with Rizari Park and our extension, albeit underground, toward the park. It is a feasible plan and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias has shown an interest.”

The National Gallery was originally housed in the main building of the National Technical University of Athens, where it remained until 1940 when war came. Its unification in 1954 with the legacy of Alexandros Soutzos significantly boosted the gallery’s development, but the gallery still did not have a real home. In 1956 an architectural competition attracted the architectural elite of Greece. The younger generation, Milonas and Fatouros, won. The winning entry, to which Nikos Moutsopoulos had also contributed, was a five-story building in the brutalist style.

What is not generally known is that the original competition was for the gallery to be located on a plot of land next to the Byzantine Museum. Eventually the new building was erected on the triangle formed by Vassileos Constantinou and Megalou Alexandrou Avenues and Michalakopoulou Street, opposite the Hilton Hotel. The study took 13 years till 1970, with the foundation stone being laid in 1964.

Only the basic idea was retained from the original study. The building was lowered by two floors to create the long, narrow, two-story parallelogram of the main building and the single-story cube of the Alexandros Soutzos Museum, joined by a bridge to make an asymmetrical H shape. It was opened in 1976. The missing third floor, which is to be added now, became the subject of rumor. Gossips claimed that the management of the Hilton at that time took steps because it didn’t want its own view impeded.

National Art Gallery and Alexandros Soutzos Museum, 1 Michalakopoulou Street and 50 Vassileos Constantinou Avenue, Athens, tel 210 7211010, 210 7235857, 210 7235937-8, fax 210 7224889.

Related Links > http://www.greece-museums.com/url.php?id=10

A Grand new Cultural Center for Athens June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Architecture Infrastructure.
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Niarchos Foundation to build new home for Greece’s National Opera and Library on Faliron seafront

A deal was agreed upon yesterday between the government and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to build a 300-million-euro seafront cultural complex in the Faliron Delta in southern Athens that will finally provide the Greek National Opera (GNO) with a permanent home.

Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and representatives of the charitable foundation signed a memorandum of cooperation that will see the area around the crumbling racecourse in Faliron completely transformed. According to the plans, two 60,000-square-meter buildings will be constructed on the site to house the GNO and National Library of Greece. The GNO has been troubled in recent years by the lack of a permanent base and funding. A 12-hectare park will also be built on the land, which has hardly been used since the Olympic Games in 2004.

«It is a visionary project which will cost some 300 million euros and will operate as a modern educational and cultural center,» said Karamanlis. «I hope that very soon we will have the joy of signing a contract for the start of construction.»

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, named after Greek shipping magnate Stavros Spyros Niarchos, was founded in 1996 and has supported a number of projects that promote Greek culture and heritage. The deal between the government and the philanthropic organization was due to be signed this fall but there are a number of administrative steps that need to be taken before work can begin.

The park will be handed over to the local Municipality of Kallithea, which means that the Greek Public Real Estate Corporation (KED) needs to complete the relevant paperwork for the ownership of the land to pass to the local authority. A separate body will also need to be set up to oversee the project and approve all the blueprints before work can begin at the site in southern Athens.

The Municipality of Kallithea has also negotiated the handing over of another 2.8 hectares of land from the area around the racecourse as part of the deal to allow the cultural complex to be built on its doorstep. The government has agreed to build a sports complex on the land.

The signing yesterday of a memorandum of cooperation between the Greek state and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for the construction of a new National Library and a new National Opera at the Faliron delta could mark the dawn of a new era, not only for Athens as a metropolis.

It also signals a new era concerning the manner in which we Greeks perceive deeply misunderstood notions, such as subsidies, benefactions, culture projects, public spaces and National identity.

The significance of the donation as an act by far exceeds that of the 300 million euros. The buildings and the adjacent park should be welcomed as necessary additions to the Parthenon-centric image of Athens. The new building complex will hopefully convey a fresh face to the world, featuring characteristics of creativity, confidence and historical self-knowledge.

At the same time, the new library and opera buildings and the ambitious goals that come with them will set an example of how private wealth that is produced in the highly competitive international market can be returned to the public domain for the good of the country. National governments have an obligation to create the requisite conditions and environment for works of similar historical magnitude.

The new metro map of Athens June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Transport Air Sea Land.
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It appears that the extension of the Athens metro and suburban rail network have brought about those essential changes that had not been achieved, at least at such speed, by decades-long social changes.

The extension of Metro Line 3 to Aegaleo, which is scheduled to reach Haidari in the near future, appears to have had a profound effect, both political and social, on the geography of Athens. This is not just because it has reduced the travel time from the western suburbs to the center or even to the east, but because it has erased the boundaries, both physical and psychological, separating different spheres of Athenian life. Naturally, the tools we now have at our disposal are much different to those available 10 or 15 years ago. Aegaleo today is not the same as it was in 1990 and the same can be said of Gazi, Patissia and Mesogeia.

This reversal of the Athenian “hierarchy” is possibly the biggest change that the capital city has undergone in recent decades. Economic activity has spread to the suburbs, which until recently depended on small-scale retail and real estate activities, narrowing the divide between working and middle-class areas, irrespective of other criteria.

To take the example of Peristeri, house prices are almost the same as those in the eastern suburbs. Demand for new housing that meets a certain set of standards, in any part of the city, has upended entrenched biases and had an impact on the movement of people and capital.

However, the movement of boundary lines is not always a smooth transition. In London, for example, the aged Underground network never succeeded in upgrading the eastern parts of the city. But Athens is not London. Its social structures are different and there is much greater mobility between the different social strata.

For example, the way Peristeri now looks is indicative of the progress, or its lack, seen more or less in every part of Attica, as the entire region rapidly expands beyond the city boundaries. As the limits of the broader area are pushed even farther, the older, central and historical districts of the city, those that convey the mood and trends of the city’s core, will have to redefine their roles. As access to the heart of the city gradually becomes easier, so the competition between its suburbs will increase.

Citizens’ information and service centers upgraded June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Greece News.
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The seven citizens’ information and service centers (KEP) in the City of Athens have all been upgraded so the they are part of the e-kep network that links them to the Interior Ministry and the other 1,047 KEPs around the country, it was revealed yesterday.

Athens Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis announced the news at an event at the KEP in Sepolia, western Athens. He said that this development would allow the centers to offer more services to residents.