The Agricultural-Industrial Complex
The agricultural-industrial complex in Aliartos of Boeotia was built in the late 19th and early 20th century by the English company Lake Copais Co Ltd, which had been established in 1887 in the region in order to drain lake Copais and then exploit the land. The foundations for the first buildings were laid in 1887, however most of them were erected in the period 1905-1914. In 1953, the English company sold the drained land and the establishments to the Greek state. Today, the agricultural-industrial complex belongs to the Central Greece Region. In mid 1990s it was identified as listed by the Ministry of Culture, because, in combination with the hydraulic-engineering works and the landscape architecture, it has a great aesthetic and historic value.
The complex (picture 1) consisted of stables, ginning, warehouses, machine shop (picture 2), carpentry, watermills, rice mill, product cleaning and packing facilities, as well as the administrative-residential complex ‘the Gardens’, which included the company’s office building and the residences of high-ranking executives and office employees. Finally, there were workers’ housing estates in various areas of Aliartos.
The ‘Gardens’ Administrative-Residential Complex
The landscape design of the ‘Gardens’ administrative-residential complex was based on the principles of English landscape architecture. It is remarkable that the buildings and their surroundings are in a relatively good condition, in an original way expressing the lifestyle of the English executives, as well as that of the local community, in early 20th century.
All the buildings of the complex are oriented North-South and are free-standing, with the only exception of a seven residences linear complex (picture 3). The two most important buildings of the ‘Gardens’ are the company’s office building (picture 4) and the very luxurious general manager’s residence. The two buildings’ dimensions are significantly differentiated in comparison with the rest of the complex buildings. The more luxurious the residences (and destined for higher-rank executives), the more southerly and remotely from each other they are located. Thus, the location of the general manager’s residence is very characteristic and in contrast with the seven-residence linear complex (destined for lower rank employees) (picture 5). The main morphological characteristics of the twenty two buildings in the ‘Gardens’ are:
• The ground floor roofed terrace (closed with mosquito screens). • The wooden roofs covered with French tiles.
• The solid masonry chimneys. • The wooden windows with the French jalousie shutters and the mosquito screen. In the most important buildings, the arched or rectangular openings are surrounded by decorative brick frames.
• The interior panel doors.
• The wooden floors in the primary interior spaces and the cement tile floors in the secondary interior spaces and balconies.
• The wood-burning fireplaces (made of firebricks) and the charcoal fireplaces made of cast iron and faience tiles. As evident from the above, the ‘Gardens’ complex is a characteristic and unique sample of English colonial building and landscape architecture in Greece (image 6).
The Luxurious Lake Copais Co Ltd General Manager’s Residence The Lake Copais Co Ltd General Manager’s residence (images 7,8) was erected in 1914 and the architect signing the building’s drawings is R.S. Cole. In 1920 a wing was added for the servants, followed in 1937 by a second wing with extra bedrooms. Today, the building is derelict.
It is very important that the initial drawings of the buildings in the ‘Gardens’ have been found, because the drawings’ historical and aesthetic value is great (images 5,9). The General Manager’s residence is a rectangular one storey building with a tiled roof (image 10). The access to the building’s entrance is through a marble staircase, which leads to a small wooden terrace (image 11). The glass panels and the sidelight of the front door contribute to the lighting of the hall connecting the entrance with the main corridor of the residence. Additionally, this main corridor is also illuminated by a ceiling light, since some roof tiles are made of glass. The bedrooms and the dressing room are located on the eastern side of the corridor, while the sitting room, study and dining room are on the western side. On the eastern and western side there are two rectangular verandas “boxed” into the mass of the building. All the secondary spaces, such as the bathrooms, the servants rooms, the pantry and the kitchen (which communicated through an internal window with the dining room) are located on the south side of the building. Finally, there is a water tank under the roof. The building has many openings, allowing plenty of natural light and continuous visual contact with the exceptionally beautiful surrounding area, in which there are: a garden tool shed, a garden kiosk, a tennis court, a pergola and a stone staircase leading to a small amphitheater. In the luxurious General Manager’s residence, apart from the above mentioned morphological characteristics, the following can also be noticed:
• The two architectural protrusions at both ends of the northern façade
• Opus pseudo-isodomum in the forged cement, which covers large part of the external masonry.
• The projecting cornerstones
• The concrete brick columns in the two verandas
• The roof rafters
• The 15 cm wide frieze, surrounding the facades one meter above the ground. It is made of stones extending across the thickness of the masonry, protecting it from moisture effects.
• The metal ventilation slots. It is expected that there are stone channels starting from these slots, in order to ventilate the building foundations.
• The entrance staircase, made of marble steps and concrete handrails.
• The double front door, with a sidelight, a letterbox, openable glass panels and iron grill.
• The balcony doors and the windows with arched lintels, visible brick frames, French jalousie shutters or iron grill.
• The two bow windows at the second building extension, above which there is artificial coating. They make the extension ‘typical of its time period’ (1937).
• The internal bathroom window, made of stained glass and lead joints. • The wooden window seats in the two architectural protrusions.
• In the interior walls, there is a cornice at a height of 2.60m, on the basis of which there is a color differentiation.
• The internal arcs in the entrance hall, at the generations of which there are small capitals.
The depth of the stone foundation is about one meter and it is based on plain concrete coated with the pozzuolana hydraulic mortar. The load-bearing walls are stone-built, while the interior walls are made of solid bricks. The small slab of the cellar is made of W steel beams and ballast concrete (early type of slab). The cement tile floors are based on concrete slabs. Conversely, the wooden floors are based on wooden joists, which rest on stone walls, in order to avoid oscillation when walking. The ceiling is constructed with a wooden frame.
On the whole, the initial materials quality, the building technology and the construction method are excellent. For that reason, the building has no pathology problems and statically is in excellent condition. Its pathology and present bad state are due to its abandonment, lack of preservation and human factor interventions.
In a regional development plan, Copais should be treated as an ecosystem and place of high value historic and cultural references. In that plan, the enhancement of the agricultural-industrial complex should be prioritized, in a way that takes into account the local society needs. It is suggested that Copais should be converted into an open-air museum, promoting the historical, natural, agricultural-industrial and archaeological heritage of the area. The suggested uses for the agricultural-industrial complex of Aliartos are: agro tourism, a Boeotian studies center, as well as housing and promoting the historical archive of the Copais region. At this point, it should also be mentioned that a few months ago, the opening of a ‘Center for Innovative and Sustainable Agriculture Sciences’ of the Agricultural University of Athens in Aliartos was announced.
It is also clear that the ‘Gardens’ complex could be used as a cultural and recreational area, but also as a place of study and research. The preservation of the natural environment, the garden irrigation system, the technological facilities, the trails, the plantings and the buildings should be prioritized. Specifically, it is suggested that the historical archive of the Copais region should be housed there and the conversion of some buildings into hostels, recreation areas and restaurants is proposed. Of course, some residences should keep their initial use. Finally, the General Manager’s residence could be converted into a multifunctional space, constituting it accessible to as many visitors as possible.
This article is based on the findings of the research and degree thesis that was written and presented in the School of Architecture, the Faculty of Engineering, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in 2010, by Dr.Ir. Ifigenia Psarra and supervised by Prof.Dr.Ir. Michael Nomikos.
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Karavasili, M. (2000), “The material remnants of the English company ‘Lake Copais Co. Ltd.’: Monuments of technology and culture”, Society of Boeotian Studies Journal, vol.3b, 3rd International Conference of Boeotian Studies, edt Society of Boeotian Studies, Athens
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