‘Xenia’ hotel in Arta (1958) was designed by architect Dionysis Zivas (1928-2018), a Professor at NTU Athens’s School of Architecture since the 1970s, Dean of the School for many years, and a renowned scholar in the field of architectural heritage (Europa Nostra medal, Gottfried von Herder Preis etc.). The hotel was built inside the Byzantine fortress of the city, which then functioned as a prison. In addition to the small and discreet 40-bed hotel, the design included a new small temple -on the site of the older ruined temple of the fortress- as well as the landscaping of the area surrounding the hotel. The work is among the most interesting examples of Greek post-war modernism not only in terms of the architecture of the building itself, but also as a comprehensive and representative work of intervention in an archaeological site, a work which from 1960 to 1993 had been a constant reference point for the city of Arta and its inhabitants.
In 2009 it was proposed for the building to be listed as a modern monument, but its listing did not advance. In 2012 the property was transferred to the municipality. The municipal authority submitted a proposal to the National Ancient Heritage Committee (KAS) for the operation of a new hotel unit, but the proposal was rejected by KAS in 2016 as it was not considered to be in line with the identity of the fortress. Finally, a new reuse scheme (this time as a cultural space) was successfully included in a EU funding program and in April 2020 the architectural preliminary design was presented in public.
Unfortunately, the new architectural design completely ignores the identity of the hotel as it does neither take into account its history nor appreciates its architectural value. Docomomo Greece supports the adaptive reuse of Zivas’s modern building, so that it can function again according to the needs of the local community and the strategic plan of the Municipality of Arta, but only under a scheme that respects the identity of the site, recognizes the value of its modern architecture, and invests in its broader cultural heritage as a means towards a sustainable and resilient future.
On behalf of do.co.mo.mo. Greece - docomomo.gr
Kostas Tsiambaos, Assistant Professor, National Technical University of Athens