The Story Of Modern Athens Through Its Architecture

  • by XpatAthens
  • Tuesday, 28 September 2021
The Story Of Modern Athens Through Its Architecture
Athens will surprise you with its diversity of design. If at first glance, the city appears to lack a coherent architectural style, that’s only because it’s highly individualistic. Even the most seemingly nondescript street harbors architectural quirks from different periods. Just tilt your head skywards to see Rococo railings and Art Deco porthole windows, capstones, and gables on buildings that mark different moments in the city’s layered history. Our virtual tour of some of the finest buildings in Athens tells the story of how the modern Greek capital took shape.

1830 to 1900

Primary School
Credit: Georgios Makkas

Athens is established as the capital of Greece and the modern metropolis takes shape. Drawing inspiration from ancient Greece, architects introduce neoclassical elements. Impressive public buildings dominate a landscape of low-rise, stand-alone residences with gardens.

Doric columns and a triangular pediment dwarf this school building, completed in 1876 by noted architect Panayotis Kalkos. He also designed the first Acropolis Museum, a small stone building close to the Parthenon. This building is still used as a primary school, although it sits rather incongruously among the souvenir shops in the heart of Plaka.

Building Location: 106-108 Adrianou

The 1900s

Kipselis Paxon Street
Credit: Georgios Makkas

The emphasis shifts from public buildings to private residences, as the city’s elite display their wealth in luxurious mansions with eclectic flourishes.

This stately mansion harks back to the era when Kypseli was known for its splendid residences. Classical elements are overpowered by Italianate flourishes, so it’s fitting that it housed the Casa d’Italia before the First World War. Today it’s a public school.

Building Location: 46 Kypselis & Paxon

The 1910s

Credit: Georgios Makkas

Many of the city’s leading architects of this period studied in France, so the Gallic influence is much in evidence.

This two-story Exarchia residence in the Beaux-Arts style is stunning, with its rounded corner tower, vaulted entrances, and subtle embellishments.

Building Location: 175 Ippokratous

The 1920s

Eresou Street
Credit: Georgios Makkas

Architects turn back towards their Greek roots, seeking inspiration from Byzantine and folk art.

It looks like a single residence in Exarchia, but it’s actually two. A fact carefully concealed by the mix of neoclassical elements, like the pediments over the windows and neo-Baroque embellishments on the façade.

Building Location: 38A Eressou

The 1930s

Rex Theatre
Credit: Georgios Makkas

An urban middle class emerges, giving rise to the polikatikia or Athenian apartment block. Through its architecture, Athens embraces modernity but also glances nostalgically back.

Athens’ first New York-style skyscraper, this building originally housed a cinema, theatre, and ballroom. Its sheer façade and Art Deco elements, crafted from concrete, hide some ingenious acoustic engineering. It was restored in the 1980s after a fire and currently houses one of the National Theatre’s stages. 

Building Location: 48 Panepistimiou Street

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