The significance of a building, or even of a whole urban complex, may elude the common observer. This is exactly the case with the Chalkida Market! However, when the “observer” is no other than the local administrative authority, then the situation becomes problematic, since the “first citizen” of the town and his collaborators ought to instruct the citizens and guide them to a positive attitude towards preservation.
“Conservation is aimed at one goal, and this is enhancement; conservation is applied on an object that, since it can be used, is useful and constitutes, therefore, an asset; conservation is applied by a subject, either public or private, that generates benefits (i.e. usefulness to the benefit, and in the interest of, individual citizens or the whole community”.
In case an object constitutes a historical evidence for the whole society – as in our case –, then its preservation, which is always an economic action, i.e. produces benefit, assumes a special significance: it becomes an action ultimately aimed at cultural and humanitarian purposes.
In this case, renovation, which is the technical means, requires a historical-critical methodology, aimed to represent the criterion of value, an introduction necessary prior to any practical activity. It was fortunate for the Chalkida Market that, at the moment the graders were ready to eliminate all traces of it, we managed to prevent this morbid deed, by requesting the intervention of the Ministry of Culture. All the members of the Central Council for Modern Monuments, after repeated and thorough on spot examinations, recognised the significance of the Market as a cultural asset, applying the criterion of value, based on a historical-critical legitimacy. Acting in this way, the past was linked to the present, through a technical action that will allow this asset to be passed on to the future.
Although today the Market appears to be in a state of advanced decay, the architect is faced with the duty to recognize the inherent, the essential value of the object. Therefore, a work of art is recognized through the intention of safeguarding it; a work of art is thus approached as a monument, and we speak of a monument when we refer to the Chalkida Market. And this is a monument which is not only a building of particular uniqueness but also a testimony of the past.
The Chalkida Market is a monument with inner life, and forms a model for “concentrated preservation” . Not only are its use and function compatible to its nature but it is this very function that expands in time, is recycled and perpetuated. When crossing the Market, one may still hear, like a secret echo, the noise of handcarts being drugged as men of labour pulled them with their strong hands on the stone pavement, signs of which are still visible. The Market is a vital element of the town of Chalkida. The buildings within it and its open spaces are irreplaceable parts of the whole organic constitution of Chalkida.
The history of the Market began when the decision of its construction was taken in 1883, at the time when Herakles Gazepis was Mayor of Chalkida. The works probably began in 1885. The complex is consisted of the old Market, built in 1885, shaped in Π, with four buildings on the borders of the block towards Arethousis and Criezotou streets and Eleftheriou Venizelou avenue, and the newer Market, built in 1931 by the architect engineer Solon Kydoniatis. Kydoniatis was brought in to rebuild the front side, which, due to the thin construction, had collapsed in an earthquake. The architect was wise in integrating this in a new and possibly single building. Using materials that were innovative at the time (cement, iron), he restored the three entrances in their original state. Harmony, symmetry and balance were the guidelines in his planning, in order to integrate his work in the existing structure, transforming them into a whole. The old and the new were thus united under the frenzy rhythms of the daily life going on inside the market.
The old stone structures at an underground level still preserve good static features. The newer structure at two levels with an even roof found its worst enemy in human indifference. The materials (cement, iron) of which it was made, not ideal for exposure to atmosphere factors, suffer problems, particularly at the roof and the ledges, where the water penetration has caused corrosion phenomena, while the growth of parasite plants at the points where waters are separated is quite visible, and has to be removed.
Since the Market is recognized as a monument, we must deal with its conservation and understand the importance of preserving its functionality, in order not only to preserve the structure but also to retain it as live organism, a crucial sector in the life of the town of Chalkida. Through the appropriate adjustments and the improvement of the spaces by means of new technologies and according to new demands, life and value may be given back to this organism, this centre of transaction and commercial activity.
It is up to us to decide what kind of activities may be carried out in this place, which has now been rendered useless. Let us not forget that within this Market an exhibition of women’s handicraft was presented in 1902, that the first Museum in Chalkida was housed there, and so was the Labour Centre, the Municipal Philharmonic Orchestra and other bodies. Keeping the place active is the means that has been left to us in order to bequeath this organism, our history and memory to the generations to come. It is difficult to imagine that a tree whose roots are threatened will flourish and give fruit. Saving the Market is a major duty not only towards the citizens of Chalkida but also towards the whole civilization. An Asset, once recognized as such, belongs to the whole society.
1. Boscarino, Sul restauro dei monumenti, Milano, Italia 1987.
2. ‘Monumento dal latino moneo: Ricordare, termine che nel tempo si e` sostituito al termine Documento...” G. Carbonara, Orientamenti del restauro in Italia, in L’ architetto italiano notiziario bimestrale di architettura, n. 5, Roma, Italia 2005.
3. Amsterdam Declaration, 1975.