Athens Architecture

Athens is a patchwork of different architectural styles. Significant archaeological temples belonging to the city's rich historical past, neoclassical mansions and massive concrete blocks of apartments create a chaotic nonetheless interesting city.

Table of contents:
Ancient monumentsNeoclassicismAnafiotikaAthenian modernismContemporary Athens

Although Athens does not have the impressive baroque architectural style as fellow European Capitals such as Rome, nor the best-organized street structure, the Greek Capital has managed to create an architectural identity that is quirky yet never fails to bore you!
Of course, the year-round good weather, the fascinating gastronomy scene, the emerging street art, the proximity to the sea and the open-hearted people come to fill in the gaps of the almost non-existent town planning of the Greek Capital and succeed to make Athens one of the most alternatively attractive cities in Europe.

Ancient Cultural monuments

The Acropolis, the Temple of Olympian Zeus, the Temple of Hephaestus, the Ancient Agora, the Roman Agora, the Odeon of Herodes Atticus, and the theatre of Dionysus are some of the world's greatest cultural monuments that are located in the center of Athens. Needless to say that apart from historical importance they are fine architectonical works that have survived many centuries.
Scholars from all around the world visit the Acropolis in order to study the oeuvre of Iktinus and Kallikratis, the first-ever known architectures of Ancient Greece!

Traces of the Byzantine and Ottoman era are also found in Athens although they are not as numerous. They mainly consist of small Byzantine churches such as Kapnikarea.
At Monastiraki Square, you can find a mosque and in Plaka there is also a Turkish Hammam with the characteristic design reminding the city’s ottoman days.

Neoclassicism

The war of Greek Independence in 1821 and the inauguration of Athens as the capital of modern Greece in 1834 marked a new era for this Mediterranean town and constructions took place.
Many architects from abroad such as Ernst Ziller, Theophil and Christian Hanssen who envisioned a revival of the ancient glorious days, settled in Athens and got involved in shaping a new face to this long-forgotten city.

As it was expected, their inspiration derived from the country's ancient history and Mythology and the cultural movement of Neoclassicism flourished.
Examples of Neoclassism are found in many public and governmental buildings such as the so-called "Athenian trilogy" of the Academy, the University and the National Library in Panepistimiou avenue, the National Archaeological Museum and the National and Technical School in Patision street.
Furthermore, the Historical Museum (former Parliament), the Parliament (former palace) in Syntagma square, the Numismatic Museum (house of archaeologist Heinrich Schliemann) as well as Zappeion Exhibition hall, banks, galleries, museums, hotels and private mansions were all built in the style of the Neoclassim.
Kolonaki and Plaka were and remain the aristocratic neighborhood of Athens while the suburb of Kifisia which back then was considered as a province are home to some of the most beautiful neoclassical buildings of that time.

Anafiotika

Another neighborhood with high architectural interest although small in size is Anafiotika.
It is a minor district located in the upper region of Plaka just in the foothills of the Acropolis. Some of the oldest houses in Athens are found here. Their cubic design and the very narrow, labyrinth-like alleys remind of the Cycladic architectural style. Anafiotika was built in the mid-19th century and was inhabited by poor families of builders that migrated from Anafi island and helped with the construction of the Palace of King Otto. Nowadays, there are 45 buildings remaining and considered as part of the architectural heritage of Athens.

Athenian modernism

Over the years, different styles and architectural movements developed in Athens. One shall encounter Bauhaus-style and modernist era buildings, especially in Exarxeia and Kypseli neighborhoods.

An important period in which Athens was massively constructed was after World War 2 and more specifically during the '50s and the '60s. These decades were marked by the urbanization of Greece which means that the population from small towns and villages all over Greece, fled to Athens in order to find jobs and create a new future for their families.
The housing problem had become huge and a solution was given via the "antiparohi". According to the "antiparohi" system, an owner of land could give his land to a building constructor and in exchange, the constructor would give him some of the apartments when the building was completed. This motivated many Athenians to demolish their old and neoclassical mansions and build huge blocks of apartments in their place named in Greek "polykatikia".
The massive construction of "polykatikies" solved the housing problem on the one hand but destroyed an important part of the architectural treasure of Athens on the other.
It was only in the ’80s when a law came into force to protect and preserve buildings of architectural importance.

Contemporary Athens

Nowadays, Athens is home to some significant, contemporary architectural works by internationally acclaimed architects such as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center by Renzo Piano, the Acropolis Museum by Bernard Tschumi, the Olympic Sports Complex (OACA) by Santiago Calatrava and others.
Furthermore, signature buildings of the modernist era have been renovated and are landmarks of the city.
The Hilton Hotel, the National Gallery, the National Museum of Contemporary Art (EMST) and the American Embassy by Walter Gropius are some examples.

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