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Athenians fight for Kypseli park February 1, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Environment.
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Residents of the most densely populated area of Greece – the Athenian neighborhood of Kypseli – revealed yesterday that they are planning to take legal action against the City of Athens over its plans to build an underground parking lot on the site of a park.

There is only 2 square meters of green space for each Kypseli resident and the locals appear determined to halt the plans to alter the park on the corner of Patission and Kyprou streets, which has 44 trees that are more than 100 years old. Work on the site is due to begin in March.

Campaigners began collecting signatures for a petition this week and plan to appeal to the country’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, as soon as a building permit for the parking lot is issued.

The neighborhood’s residents have a successful record of taking action against construction in Kypseli as they recently prevented plans to demolish the old municipal market on Fokionos Negri Street and replace it with a parking lot.

Building is shrinking November 8, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Business & Economy.
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Construction activity continued its decline for the seventh month in a row in August, reflecting the general picture of the domestic housing market.

It posted a 13.5 percent decline from August 2006. The high prices of newly built houses have brought about a considerable decline in demand for them, so the annual decline of 4.2 percent in construction permits issued over the first eight months of 2007 was no surprise. Property market professionals say the decline will continue at an even higher pace, although they stress that the sector is not at all frozen and activity in this period appears satisfactory.

The housing market is showing signs of weariness, dominated by the oversupply of ready products. Foreign firms note in their reports that during 2007 there are expected to be just 40,000 new houses constructed, down from 125,000 in 2006, a decline of 68 percent. That deficit has not harmed the activity of construction firms at present, which are proceeding at a slower pace with the completion of buildings so as to manage the slower absorption of their product.

However, over the next six to 12 months this slowdown is likely to affect the growth rate of the economy, given that the construction sector feeds more than 40 professions. According to the Greek Constructors’ Association President Dimitris Kapsimalis: “There are many permits being issued and, given the picture of the market, no new constructions are required. This shrinking will affect the economy. As for the tax measures being studied, they can help the market if they are voted in immediately. The problem lies in people’s income, as builders cannot reduce their rates any further given the rising cost of materials and the expensive cost of land.”

Parthenon Restoration Project at the University of Sydney November 1, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Hellenic Light Oceania, Vote For Return Greek Marbles.
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A 30-year campaign for chips off an old block > The verbs may vary, chiselled, chopped, pillaged, but the fact remains that more than 200 years ago, the English ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Lord Elgin, used the Royal Navy to transport marble sculptures from the Parthenon to England, where they were sold in 1816 to the British Museum.

Now, with the vast restoration of the Parthenon nearing completion, along with a new Acropolis Museum due to open next year, the time has come for the Elgin marbles, as they are known in England, to go home. But don’t call them the “Elgin marbles” any more.

To Maria Ioannidou, the Director of the Greek Government’s Acropolis Restoration Service, they are simply the “Parthenon sculptures”, and they must be returned to Greece.

“The Parthenon is not a ruin,” she insists. “It stands on its own, and therefore, to see it in its completeness, the sculptures should be returned to complete the Parthenon in its entirety.”

Ms Ioannidou will arrive in Sydney on Monday as part of the Parthenon Project, an initiative of the University of Sydney’s architectural faculty. The project includes exhibitions, a debate on cultural heritage and the annual Wilkinson lecture, co-presented next Wednesday by Ms Ioannidou and Nikolaos Toganidis, the architect responsible for the restoration project.

Ms Ioannidou, 56, has spent more than 30 years working on the Acropolis restoration project, which is funded by the Greek Government and the European Union. In 1975, as a recent graduate in civil engineering, she worked with a committee on the restoration of a small temple on the Acropolis monument, which is topped by the Parthenon temple, built in the 5th century BC. By 2000, she had responsibility for all restoration on the Acropolis, including the Parthenon.

Over the years, the setbacks have been many. “Every day we see something we’ve never dealt with before,” Ms Ioannidou said. Yet the rewards have been remarkable. One day, “we got to a wall on the Parthenon that had never been touched for 2500 years. You could see the chips of the tools used by the original builders. We could touch something that had never been touched, moved or restored for 2500 years. I felt very touched to witness and to be part of that.”

Ms Ioannidou still works 10 to 12 hours a day on the project, but luckily her family understands the commitment. Her husband is an architect, her 24-year-old son is a mechanical engineer and her 21-year-old son is studying applied mathematics at university.

What will she do when the restoration is completed? “I will have a lot of work to do, not only for the Parthenon but the management of the archeological site. The surface of the rock was excavated during the 19th century, so now we have to restore [the] surface of the rock in order to face problems on the monument and enhance the site. It is a never-ending problem.” After she retires, “I would like to stay close to the Acropolis and do a lot of writing, which I haven’t had the time to do because I’ve been so busy”.

If and when the Parthenon sculptures are returned, they will not be placed on the Parthenon itself, but in the new museum, to protect them against the elements. Until then, the artworks will be represented by plaster casts made using the originals.

The Parthenon Project in Sydney is the brainchild of Theodora Minas, a lawyer and graduate of the University of Sydney. Michael Turner, the senior curator of the University’s Nicholson Museum, said Ms Minas was “getting out and spreading the word, the absolute desire of the Greek people to see the Parthenon marbles returned by the British Museum to Greece”. “She’s representative of a new generation of Greeks looking to right this perceived wrong to Greek cultural history and identity,” he said.

A Parthenon restoration exhibition will be on display at the Nicholson Museum until mid-December.

Related Links > http://faculty.arch.usyd.edu.au/parthenon_project_2007/events.html

Cyprus opens bids for Greece’s Artemida village reconstruction October 31, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Cyprus, Architecture Greece.
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The Government of Cyprus will assign the project of the reconstruction of the village of Artemida in Peloponnesus which was razed by the disastrous forest fires last August, after the opening of bids around mid December.

This was stated by the Interior Minister Christos Patsalides, after a meeting at the Presidential Palace. He added that the cost of rebuilding of the Greek village, is estimated to reach 14.5 million euros. “Our goal is to move on with the work, which concerns the rebuilding or the reconstruction of houses in the area, as soon as possible and with view to do a high quality work”, Patsalides said.

The Minister said that the feedback received from the people of Artemida is very positive. Asked if the companies, which will undertake the work will be Greek, Patsalides said that the bids involve companies, which will be able to undertake the project in Greece. “We can not make a commitment that the companies will be Greek or Cypriot. Our goal is to do the work as soon as possible and with quality”, Patsalides concluded.

Intrakat contract October 30, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece, Business & Economy.
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Eurokat, a subsidiary of listed construction company Intrakat, is the winning bidder for the construction of the central library of the Athens School of Fine Arts at Rendi, Piraeus, for a total budget of almost 5 million euros.

No construction before presidential decree October 26, 2007

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How can the Municipality proceed with the agreement reached with the Zografou family when the Council of State’s decision clearly stipulates that “no construction or issue of building permits is allowed” until promulgation of the Presidential decree clarifying the status of the land? And why does the Municipality not support the appeal of most inhabitants for the Public Works Ministry to designate the estate as a green area?

Municipal councilor Costas Costopoulos believes “the solution is to cancel the Municipal decision and expropriate the land with state funds.” In such a case the cost will not be as great, as the prices determined in court for classifying plots as green areas are much lower. “There is also the so-called ‘green fund.’ So many multistory buildings have been built in Zografou. What has happened to the money from the charges levied?” wondered Varkirtizis.

If the expropriation goes ahead, the Municipality will deposit the money in a special fund and will have to prove lawful ownership of the property. Do the family’s successors indeed have strong claims to the property?

Mayor Kazakos hopes the Public Works Ministry will reach a decision, but has since proceeded with the loan, applying the agreement reached with the Zografou family. However, no action has been taken by the Public Works Ministry, although the issue is indeed urgent.

In contrast, the committee to save the estate has taken action and has shown that the environmental aspect is of major importance to the inhabitants. Initially there were only a few dozen inhabitants willing to take up the cause but 5,000 signatures have since been collected and hundreds of residents and local associations took part in a recent demonstration.

Zografou estate is threatened by shopping mall October 26, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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Large retail center in pipeline for last green space > Despite the encroachment of developers in recent years, the site of the Villa Zografou remains an oasis of greenery, the only one in the area. Plans to build a shopping mall there have met with opposition from local residents.

The decision by the local authorities of Athens’s Zografou district to proceed with an agreement reached with the Zografou family to build a shopping mall on a large piece of land has upset local inhabitants. The Mayor claims that most of the land will remain unused as the plans are for the shopping mall to be constructed underground. Local residents meanwhile are opposed to the idea of a terraced garden. The Public Works Ministry has shown no interest in the issue. The Zografou property is the last green space left in one of Europe’s most densely populated Municipalities and local people have asked the Public Works Ministry to intervene so that the 1 hectare may be expropriated.

Seen from above, Zografou is a sea of concrete with the only oasis of greenery in the center, where the Villa Zografou is located. Over 150,000 inhabitants are crammed into 350 hectares with just 5.9 hectares free of buildings, a ratio of 0.4 square meters per inhabitant, when the international requirement is 10-12 square meters. The current state of affairs is dire for inhabitants in the area, which has been built up with eight and nine-story apartment blocks. Though small, the Zografou estate is precious, despite its current run-down state.

“We wanted a dense green area, a leisure park with open expanses to provide a breathing space and allow youngsters to undertake creative activities,” said Liana Kalogridi, a member of the committee set up to save the estate. “The estate has been an issue for the inhabitants for over 30 years and the authorities have either taken no action or resorted to unfavorable measures,” she added.

Half of the 1 hectare was turned over to the Municipality in 1976. In 2003 the prefecture, after a proposal put forward by the Municipality, designated the plot as a communal green area without securing the necessary funds. The Zografou family appealed to the Council of State, the country’s highest administrative court, to overturn the decision. The court’s decision was still pending when the Municipality went ahead with the purchase of half the plot, reversing the previous decision to preserve the estate as a communal green area (12/04/2006).

The agreement reached between the Municipality and the Zografou family envisages a two-story shopping and leisure mall with a total surface area of 14,325 square meters and a large four-story underground car park of 23,000 square meters. Due to the gradient, the mall will for the most part be underground but not its facade. “The top of the building will be 2 meters below the villa’s ground floor so it can be covered with soil and turned into a green area,” said Zografou Mayor Yiannis Kazakos.

Stamatis Varkirtizis, a member of the committee to save the estate, is of a different opinion: “We gave the estate and got a terrace. How can it become a park with a high density of greenery as we requested with just 2 meters of soil?” The inhabitants that are protesting have highlighted that the “terrace” will not be completely free as “it must not impede the operation of lighting and airing systems for the shopping mall” in compliance with building requirements. A further 300 square meters have also been set aside for the shopping mall’s exit in exchange for just 313,000 euros.

What is certain is that such a large retail park will aggravate traffic congestion in an area with narrow side streets. During construction work the whole area will be a nightmare to circulate in. Exhaust fumes from trucks and cars as well as vehicles that will supply the retail center, will be considerable and on top of the emissions from the building itself.

The Municipality has pledged 19.4 million to the project and has taken out a 25 million loan from a Cypriot bank. Not only has the Municipality gone into debt, it will not even be able to take any action without the bank’s consent. Kazakos believes it is the best solution, and when the decision was made, the majority of the opposition also gave its approval. Today, though, all factions in the Municipal Council, except for the one aligned with the Mayor, are against the decision.