The port’s great past is reflected in some of its masterpieces, which seem to recount memories from the past: the Patsiadou House, designed by Ernest Ziller, the house of the Strigos family that became a painting by Tsarouchis, the stone tower in Pasal High Life Cinema building, built in 1925, screened the first talking film in the city and later became the seat of the Gestapo.
These are just a few of the thousands of buildings in Piraeus that were built during the period 1840-1940 and still stand, some proud and others wounded by time, reminiscent of the varied history of the city. Hidden even in its most unexpected corners, most remain unknown to many – but they will soon be revealed in all their glory: For the first time in history, an ambitious effort to capture the architectural wealth of Piraeus has already begun with the aim of saving this cultural treasure.
The registration was piloted by the Company for the Protection of Natural and Cultural Heritage, Monumenta, which has successfully completed the registration of 11,200 buildings of the period 1830-1940 in Athens and the professor of Architecture at the University of West Attica, Stamatina Malikouti, who has dedicated a large part of her scientific research in the building wealth of Piraeus.
“Piraeus is an architectural gallery for the middle-class, petty-bourgeois but also for lower class residences.” A walk on the coastal route from the port of Zea to Tzavela Street, at the Peace and Friendship Stadium, reveals buildings, one prettier than the other, that represent all the evolution of architecture, of the last 100 years within Greek reality”, says Stamatina Malikouti, who, among other things, has taught in the postgraduate program of NTUA for the Protection of Monuments, in the Piraeus districts. “I estimate that in total within the administrative boundaries of the Municipality there are about 3000-3500 buildings of the period 1840-1940. This is a large number, an important legacy.I would suggest to the public to take architectural walks to unexpected parts of the area, because the surprises really follow one another.”
It is indicative that when part of the city of Piraeus was declared a historic center, about 450 buildings were designated as preservable en masse, while then, in this area alone, there were more than 500 additional individual declarations. “If you ask someone on the street, what do you know from Piraeus? Most will call you “the port”, some “its industrial heritage” and some “the refugees”.
Few people know that the urban part of the city has such rich architecture. And the relevant studies are very few – most of the information comes to us through Athens. “Unfortunately, most of these buildings are in poor condition, some are beautiful and remarkable but they are in danger and this is one of the goals of this effort which is being done completely selflessly, to arouse interest and suppress possible intentions for demolition,” Mrs. Malikouti explained.
The social extension of the buildings of Piraeus is extremely interesting. The typologies of the buildings, the use of new materials, the obvious desire of the people of Piraeus to go beyond the Athenian architecture, the sometimes exaggerated aspects of the decorative elements, all show that the architecture is not without history. “We have already made two pilot recordings and we were impressed with the morphological richness of the buildings and their stories,” says Monumenta head Irini Gratsia. “We also saw how much abandonment places there are and how great the need for restoration is.
At the same time, the registration of the buildings in Thessaloniki and Kalamata is in progress “, she added. “Of the well-known buildings of Piraeus, what stands out is the Municipal Theater, but I would choose the building of Eleftherios Venizelos, dowry of [his wife] Elena, in the shopping center of Piraeus, at the corner of Gounari and Tsamadou Streets”, continues Ms. Malikouti. “It is a treasure that combines the triptych of architectural typology, construction and form without being a eponymous architectural creation. I was lucky enough to get in and it’s amazing.
It has elliptical rooms which are articulated in a central octagon in which holes for heating come out, we are talking about the most perfect heating means of the time, while its ground floor is made with arcades. Of particular interest is also the complex of the naval hospital, the former mansion of Meletopoulos “. The effort will continue in September and those who wish to participate on a voluntary basis can contact Monumenta.