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An emblematic apartment block falling into decay September 20, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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Designed postwar by Takis Zenetos, now suffering neglect

emblematic_apartment.jpg  Corner of Amalias Avenue and Daidalou Street, Athens. The 1959 apartment block designed by Takis Zenetos in collaboration with Margariti Apostolidi.

In 1960, when the apartment block on the corner of Amalias Avenue and Daidalou Street was completed, it was an innovation, with its chessboard-like facade and the glass sunscreens at the front of the balconies. Viewed from the outside today, however, all that gloss of a new era has dimmed.

The now dilapidated-looking building was the brainchild of Takis Zenetos, in collaboration with Margariti Apostolidi, with whom he had worked on the Fix factory on Syngrou Avenue. Some renovation work has been done but only to the first floor, and there is no indication whether there is any intention of returning to the original spirit of Zenetos’s design.

Meanwhile, the block looks like it is falling to pieces. “Most of the sunscreens on the facade were removed long ago, and unlicensed alterations have been made to the ground floor and elsewhere,” said architect Panayiotis Tsakopoulos.

The dilapidated state of the apartment block, which offers a fine example of what lighting can do to create atmosphere at night, in downtown Athens reveals how many basic steps remain to be taken to save certain emblematic Greek modernist buildings that are capable of holding their own on the international stage.

It comes as no surprise: Postwar architecture in Athens has been decried and amid the anonymous mass of commercial architecture many notable buildings from the 1950s and later are being spoiled instead of leaving their mark on the historical map of the capital.

But the location of the apartment block, right on a prestigious avenue opposite the National Gardens and close to Parliament, demands better treatment. Besides, all of Amalias Avenue and its many interesting buildings are worth an architectural stroll.

The new office building for Parliament, designed by Stefanos Kalligas, in the square of the Russian Church, painted in warm ocher and terracotta, opposite the Bodosaki Mansion, is a starting point. Then there is the Amalia Hotel, also a late 50s building, designed by Nikos Valsamakis, and recently renovated by Alexandros Samaras, and the Mavromichali Mansion, a mid-19th century neoclassical structure housing the European Parliament’s offices in Greece. Along the same architectural front are also a building by Alexandros Tombazis, modernist 1960s apartment blocks and St Paul’s Anglican Church, an ensemble in which the Zenetos building should shine.

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