January 26 th , 2018
That was the title of my speech which took place on 31 May 2014 at the Acropolis Museum,
on the occasion of the proposal I had sent to Unesco to celebrate the 180th anniversary of
Athens as the capital of the Greek state. It was the first time that such an anniversary was
celebrated in our country since 1834, when Athens was declared the capital of Greece. The
initiative for the organization of this event, especially at a time when the image of our
country is being damaged internationally, focused mainly on the promotion of modern
Greek culture at a time when Greece was holding alternately the presidency of the Council
of the European Union.
Therefore, wishing to give this anniversary a wider cultural flavor but also to avoid any
person-centered approaches, inappropriate and inconsistent with the historicity of this
celebration, I included in the proposal interpretations of ancient Greek tragedies by
prominent actors, recitals of Greek poets of the 19th and 20th century as well as choral
music. Finally, the proposal included the awarding of people who have well promoted Greek
culture and music internationally, such as those of the conductor Loukas Karytinos, the
internationally renowned piano solist Dimitris Sgouros and the internationally renowned
violinist Leonidas Kavakos.
Except for the description of the most historic buildings of the city of Athens and its
historical retrospection from 1834 onwards, the lecture was also a dithyramb for those who
were a shining example of morality and became the beginning of an enhancement towards
which the society of Athens was tending, in the first and second decades of the rule of King
George A’. People who were mostly inspired by noble ideals and aimed only at the common
good of their country. Our great national benefactors to whom I dedicated this speech. I am
deeply convinced that, apart from the legislation, the element that lacks mostly in our
country is the example of man. With such examples of men, we can find a way to remind
Greek citizens of the duties they have, not only to themselves but also to the society in
which they live; and I serve this request.
Although I have travelled a lot in my life, I am not aware of any European capital – perhaps
with the exception of Berlin – the body of which has been attacked with as much ferocity as
the body of beautiful Athens, the city that once was "the sapphire stone on the ring of the
Earth" as Kostis Palamas would say or as V. Kornaros very proudly says in "Athens, which
was the consumption of knowledge, the throne of nobility, and the river of knowledge". The
criminal act of burning the historic building of the cinema ‘’Attikon’’, the illegally raised
Hilton hotel or the chapel of the Holy Force that was ‘’swallowed’’ by the old building of the
Ministry of Education, were never a matter of lack of funds for the creation of a
distinguished historic center, but primarily a matter of lack of criteria.
The demolition of the neo-gothic style masterpiece house of the Greek constitutionalist I.
Saropoulos in 1957, the destruction of the Aktaion hotel on Faliro beach in the place of
which the Metropolitan Hospital was built, the tearing down of Villa Margarita located at the
junction of Mesogeion avenue and Vassilisis Sophias avenue in Sophia’s Ampelokipoi, the
demolition of the cosmopolitan Patisserie ‘’Zavoriti’’, one of the oldest masterpieces of the
Ottonian period located in Syntagma square, at the corner of Ermou street, and many other
remarkable buildings destroyed in the name of contractual consideration and the rationale
of party wall, having as a result the building of an Athens-Bangkok, the architecture of which
even a low-level resident from the German suburb Luben would disdain.
My opinion is, that today there is an obvious need for a profound change in the field of
urban planning and for the creation of a new architectural movement that would combine
the old with the new in a plain but aesthetically perfect and affordable way and would
breathe life again into the history of the city of Athens, restoring the sense of space with
new squares and public spaces for Greek citizens. A return to tradition, as Aristotle Zachos
would say. An architecture that would live in the present but would never deny the past.