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Elliniko: the tacit demolition of the Girls’ College

“If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, will it make a noise?” Says the famous quote. “No”, is the categorical answer of the empiricist philosopher George Berkeley (1685 – 1753), who argued that something exists only if one has a perception about it. In this case, the tree did not even exist.

Nowadays this idea has spread mainly in the field of media: a news becomes news when it is broadcast as such by the media. Otherwise it is not news, it may never have happened. Somehow, the click from the demolition of the building complex of the former American College of Athens Girls in Elliniko was not heard by anyone. Its demolition, since it was not broadcast by any media, television, print or electronic media, was not recorded as news. It may never have existed.

A “barren field”, free of weights and memory

In contrast to the start of the demolition, which was solemnly “inaugurated” with the presence of Kyriakos Mitsotakis himself in early July and gathered the spotlight for obvious communication reasons, the evolution of the demolition remained almost in the dark. The government had absolutely no reason, at this stage, to make public the demolition of a monumental complex of buildings, such as that of the College, an action that would inevitably cause negative impressions on it.

The only, also vague, reference to the progress of the demolition work in Elliniko can be traced to the statement of Adonis Georgiadis on October 13: October. We are already on schedule. If you take a ride in the car you will see a barren field ready to welcome the excavators to start the main works “.

The goal of the government and the investors has been achieved and not much detail is needed. “A barren field”, an empty plot free of weights, free from history, memories and monuments, is ready to be handed over for use…

The responsibilities of the SYRIZA government

After all, the monument we are talking about was not even officially a monument. The previous government took care of that. On its own day, in October 2016, and under its own suffocating political pressure, the Central Council of Modern Monuments (KSNM) issued an opinion on the historical significance, but also the typological and morphological significance of the building complex of the former American College of Girls, work of architect Stuart W. Thompson, were not elements capable of rescuing it.

It should be noted that at that time the competent directorate of the Ministry of Culture had suggested to KSNM to characterize as a monument the building complex of the College, as well as the shell of the original building of the Western Airport (arrivals-departures hall) and the old Aeros control tower. That suggestion was not accepted. As the bodies that advocated for the rescue of the monuments were not listened to, namely the School of Architecture of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA), the Association of Higher Education Architects – Panhellenic Association of Architects (SADAS-PE) ICOMOS committee, the Greek section of TICCHI, the Cultural Center of Olympic Aviation Workers (POLKEOA), the Alumni Association of Athens College, etc.

For the conditions under which the meeting of KSNM was held in October 2016, the comment made in a relevant announcement made by the Committee for the Struggle for the Metropolitan Park of Elliniko is indicative: “the discussion that took place characterizes the sliding of the body into procedures decisions that are inconsistent with its scientific objectivity and autonomy ”. As the Committee noted, “the HRDH that had been invited, as well as Elliniko SA, made an extensive counter-presentation with the signatures of three Architecture professors, who prepared a paid study for the Fund. Until today, the proposal of the competent Directorate is submitted to the KSNM, while the members of the body and the invited bodies are placed orally and / or in writing. The intention to overtake the service and to be replaced by the HRDH’s suggestion was clear “. Since then, this practice has been generalized both to the KSNM and to the corresponding council for antiquities, the Central Archaeological Council (KAS).

That is why the media close to the current official opposition preferred the silence for the demolition of the building complex of the College in Elliniko. Why, the final actions for its demolition may have been done by the current government, the countdown for this development started with the decision not to designate it as a monument, a decision signed by the Minister of Culture of the SYRIZA Lydia government Koniordou.

The history of the monument that was demolished

The complex of the American College of Girls was located in the southeastern part of the Elliniko area. The decision to build it is linked to the destruction of Smyrna, where the foundation operated since 1875 as the American School for Girls. As mentioned in the extensive Exhibition of historical, architectural and technical documentation of buildings and facilities ”for the newest monuments of Elliniko airport, prepared in 2016 by the Laboratory of Urban Environment and the Research Laboratory of History of Architecture NTUA and from which we draw the data quoted here. In 1922, in Piraeus, the students of the American College of Smyrna were included, “mostly naked and barefoot due to the hasty escape”.

In October 1923 the College reopened in Paleo Faliro. A few years later, the land in Elliniko was bought at a low price and with donations from the USA, while part of the land was donated by the Greek government and the Refugee Rehabilitation Committee. The support of the Greek government and Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos himself at the College was strong. The complex was inaugurated in 1931. Two buildings were built, initially in 1931-1932 and then the rest, and the outdoor space was designed, based on the original design of 1930, which provided for the construction of twelve buildings and a park environment.

The American College of Athens was designed by the architect of the American School of Classical Studies in Greece, the architect Stuart W. Thompson, with projects of schools, museums, hospitals, temples in the USA and in the wider eastern Mediterranean, in Turkey and in Albania. The lover of antiquity Thompson, was the last defender of the neoclassical rhythm, while his leading work in Greece, the Gennadius Library (1923) is considered the extreme landmark of authentic neoclassicism. Stuart W. Thompson is the architect of major buildings such as the State Tower Building in New York, the Crucible Steel Building in Chicago, the Sterling Drug Plant in Mississippi, the Connecticut Airport Terminal, and the Sterling-Winth Research Center in New York. York.

From the original plan of the College and the construction of 1931-1936, the section of the four large buildings, the six smaller auxiliaries and the surrounding area of ​​the originally designed park were preserved until the demolition, in excellent condition. The park envisaged by the plan was formed by the old big trees and the bushes of Glyfada existing on the plot. The space was completed with new plantings along the axes and around the buildings. Most of the plantings, which were part of Thompson’s composition, were preserved until recently throughout the southern area and in the central alley of the complex.

The College continued to operate until December 1940 when, due to the war, all schools in the country were closed. The complex was converted into a military hospital, and after the German invasion was ordered on June 2, 1941. The Germans looted the College property, but continued to operate as a military hospital until the spring of 1943, when it was abandoned due to Allied airstrikes. facilities of Elliniko.

With the departure of the Germans, the complex returned to the College, but the school could not operate in the area until 1946. In 1958, due to the development works of the airport, part of the plot was expropriated by the Greek government, while in 1959, it was expropriated. the rest of the department to house the headquarters of the Civil Aviation Authority. The College left the plot permanently in 1965 and moved to new facilities in Agia Paraskevi, where it operates to this day.

According to the “Exhibition of Historical, Architectural and Technical Documentation of Buildings and Facilities”, the “college” architecture, which characterizes the American College of Greek Girls, is also found at the American Agricultural School of Thessaloniki, the construction of which began in 1922 at the College. Of Athens in Psychiko, the first wing of which was completed in 1928, and in the Anargyrio and Korgialenio School of Spetses in 1927,  and in the Anargyrio and Korgialenio School of Spetses of 1927. These four complexes that were built during the same period, are associated with important historical moments of the place, but also with the international presence in Greece, as well as with the Greek community. All four (now three, after the loss of the College of Hellinikon) are characterized by extensive use of neoclassical engravings and rules, architectural elements and layouts, both inside and on the facades and the surrounding area.

The next day

The building complex of the American College of Greek Girls should have been declared a monument, it should have been saved. The responsibility for its destruction, which will be recorded in black in the history of the protection and promotion of the country’s monuments, lies with many. The monumental ensemble was leveled quietly and few learned about it, from sporadic posts on social media.

The complex of the American College of Girls in Elliniko was sacrificed on the altar of a dubious investment plan. Lamda Development, which has been scandalously given a huge public space, plans to build a skyscraper on the site of the demolished historic school, which will include a casino, luxury hotel, conference and exhibition center.

The College did not fit into the plans of Inspire Athens, as the specific project was named, part of the wider planning of “utilization” of the former Hellinikon airport.

On the whole front of this project, the expected announcement on October 13 of the Gaming Supervision and Control Committee (GSC) about the appointment of a temporary contractor for the casino license of the GEK TERNA – Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment consortium, allows the government to raise the issue.

Of course, the pending issues continue to exist. The casino agreement needs to be ratified by the Parliament, the agreement of the GEK TERNA – Mohegan consortium with Lamda for the “rent” to be paid by the former needs to be ratified, the decision of the Council of State on the appeal of residents for ownership of public and public spaces that was adjudicated on March 6, but also to adjudicate, on November 4, the new appeals that have been filed against the Joint Ministerial Decisions with which the government tried to accelerate the implementation of the project.

At the same time, reports insist that the development of the project should not be taken for granted, not only because of the pandemic impact on Mohegan’s business and consequently in its financial position, but also because of the difficulties in finding loan resources that are likely to will face GEK TERNA and Mohegan Gaming & Entertainment, already loaded with loan burdens totaling 4.5 billion euros.

Source:  kosmodromio.gr.


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