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News from Gazochori
Dimitri Philippides, professor emeritus,
National Technical University of Athens

Gazochori is the name for a workers’ village, which was formed around the Gas Factory of Athens, built in 1857. Lacking all ‘basic’ amenities, Gazochori soon became notorious for its lack of sanitary conditions. The houses of Gazochori were small-scale and architecturally faceless, remotely connected to the neo-classical style dominant at the time. When the Gas Factory was finally dismantled in the 1980s, its original residents had already abandoned the village. It was soon to be occupied by a second surge of low-income workers.

At about this time, there was a discussion on the prospect of building an Opera House, which was lacking in Athens, at Gazochori. This proposal was based on the previous conversion of the Gas Factory to a major cultural centre for the Municipality of Athens and on the extremely low land values in its surroundings due to the uncertainty of the area’s future. Nothing, though, happened because a (privately-owned) Opera House was meanwhile announced to be constructed in Athens. Instead of building an Opera House, a number of private businesses moved into the area, mostly nightclubs and theaters, in the wake of a more general move from the city centre toward its derelict (and cheap) outskirts. Around 2004, in addition, the State returned with a proposal for a grandiose park, which would completely annihilate the village.

The final act of this inconsequential process was recently played when Gazochori was pronounced a listed area. This move obviously raised more questions than solved old problems, a situation quite common in the official Greek policy on preservation of buildings and sites.

dphil@central.ntua.gr

22/02/2007
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