Plaka in the newborn Greek state
Since Greece change its capital from Nafplio to Athens, Plaka became what is now Syntagma for Athens. What made that reality is the combination of the Greek rebels that inspired people from all over the world, but also the Greek capital that was created inside (to islands) and outside of Greece, from Greek bankers, ship owners, and merchants. Wealthy Greeks from all over Europe and Asia that had supported the Greek War started to think of establishing back to their homeland. This is how neoclassical buildings were made in Athens.
Consequently, the urban class of the new state started to build brand new buildings in the devastated by war Athens. But since Plaka had many antiquities, the area was protected from Athens’s urban planning. From 1930 the ancient Agora started to be preserved by the state.
Neoclassical Architecture is not only in Plaka, but all around Athens. After liberation, Athens welcomed many architects that made the city as beautiful it was during its classical times.
The first building is Dionysios Areopagitou Catholic church by Lysandros Kaftatzoglou (1812-1885). He also constructed Agia Eirini temple at the same name square, the largest church in Athens during his time and Athens National Polytechnic School in Patision Street (started in 1862). One early structure is also the Koletti’s house at Plaka.
Except Kaftatzoglou, two more Greek architects were Panagiotis Kalkos (1810-1875) and Dimitrios Zezos.
So the Athens National Archaeological Museum was designed by Kalkos, as Athens Town Hall and the neoclassical building of 74th municipality school at Plaka (see Kampanis school). Kalkos also redesigned Athens Old Parliament building.
A project that Kalkos and Zezos were contributors with Hansen, was Athens Metropolitan church. Theofilos Hansen (1813-1891) was a Danish citizen who left his sign in Athens. Hansen moved to Athens in 1837, where he designed his first building, National Observatory at the NOA hill.
In 1856 he started Academy of Athens, a part of Hansen trilogy. After constructed many buildings in Europe, mostly in Vienna, he returned to Athens to design Athens Library in 1888, his final project (the library now is transferred to Stavros Niarchos foundation in Faliro, but the building is still at Panepistimiou).
Construction of Athens metropolitan church, started in 1842. It started with initial plans made from Hansen, but continued with Zezos and Kalkos. Next to Athens Metropolis is the small Metropolis, church of Pantanassa.
Two more amazing buildings is the House of Heinrich Schliemmann and the House of Bouros, both today museums.
The first house, designed by Ziller (1837-1923) in 1878, is the Numismatic Museum of Athens, whilst the second is the Museum of the City of Athens. Ziller also designed Megaro Stathatou, National Theater, the German and Austrian Archaeological Institutes, the Egyptian Embassy in Athens, Olympia Museum and more than 500 works in total.
At the second building King Otto stayed for 7 years, before the modern Parliament was built. Today it hosts the City Museum of Athens.
Neoclassical building are everywhere in Athens.
Here are neoclassical Plaka buildings but also a map.
In the Athens city initial plan, it was the first time that the excavation of Athens was discussed as a major priority of the modern Greek state. So the architects mapped the ruins, a total of 115 temples, the Haseki Wall that was surrounding the city, the medieval and Ottoman monuments, and a legacy of East and West to the city of Athena.
Cleanthis and Schaubert planned a free space for excavations in Athens in order to show the past of the city. Both of them were students of K.F. von Shinkel (1781-1841), maybe the most important neoclassical architect in Germany. Consequently, they followed their teachers’ line and moving it forward in the city of Athens’ plan.
In December 1833, Athens’s plan was already a law, after Athenians assured that they would exchange their houses for that purpose. Nevertheless, they reacted to the initial plan and the government was unable to impose the plan. So a new architect was hired, Leo von Klenze, in order to make another plan. This second 1834 plan did not make any changes aside from making streets narrower and squares smaller.
Consequently, this plan was not approved as well by the public, because Athens was the first capital so new buildings and the construction phase had already started before any plan could be imposed. So only the monuments that were obviously seen were actually saved. The streets that were in the center of it were Athinas, Ermou, and Aiolou. There were no big changes than squares and archaeological marks. Buildings of that period were the house of historian Finley, Rizaris home, Lasanis, and Hatzikiriakoy.
Athens architecture interest
Athens is a notable destination for architects, since both the city plan at 1833 was designed by German architects, but also because the capital was fully designed trying to copy the western capitals’ architecture. So today someone can admire architectural treasures which are both rare and unique.
Plaka is also neoclassical
Athens is full of neoclassical buildings, but some are really amazing. After liberation from Ottomans, Greece was the epicenter of Neoclassicism and Greek Revival concept. Areas like Metaxourgeio, Psirri, Gazi, even Exarcheia have amazing building that today host museums, galleries and some are private houses as well.
Athens is the must city for architects, especially for those who admire Greek Revival concept and would like to see, feel and experience it real time
Amazing Neoclassical Architectural Tips
Start with Plaka streets, where neoclassical buildings are everywhere, Kydathineon, Tripodon and Adrianou.
Move to Thisseio, Monastiraki, then to Metaxourgeio and Gazi.
Before Metro Omonoia, there is Syntagma metro, that next to it there is Zappeion and National Garden.
if you really want to walk and follow the way to Omonoia metro station and then Patission street to the Archaeological museum, Athens is full of Neoclassical buildings, that today are also museum and galleries as well. Few of them are houses as well. For us a special building with both historical but also architectural interest is that of Kolettis, at Polygnotou street. Neoclassical essence creates some romantic feelings for all of us who like classical Greece.