The famous philosopher Aristotle went down in history as a celebrated teacher. Strangely enough, twenty-one centuries after his lifetime, the square that bears his name in Thessaloniki has its own lesson to teach.
Aristotelous Square is nowadays in a condition that can claim little if no praise at all. Despite its vast historical and functional value, it combines low aesthetic quality, insufficient urban equipment and unattended green areas with an unprecedented sense of disorder.
Efforts to reverse this situation began in 1997. In the framework of an international architectural competition for the redesign of the wider axis to which the square belongs, the construction of a “square below the square” was set forth. Yet the proposal remained on paper, as did all the remaining interventions of the award-winning project.
In 2000, the Ministry of Culture listed the square and the fronts of the surrounding buildings, a move that also had no practical impact. The latter began to be shaped only six years later, when the Municipality of Thessaloniki produced an enhancement project for the southern section of the square. On the whole, with the exception of certain good intensions, it was seriously problematic and particularly harmful for the historic identity of the place. Thankfully, its negative aspects were largely eradicated upon control by the Ministry of Culture.
Hence, Aristotelous Square is now in a position to teach a valuable lesson regarding both the kind of interventions that are compatible with historic public space enhancement and the procedures through which such a goal ought to be pursued.