Syn­grou Av­enue to be touched by cen­tral Athens makeover

Plans put for­ward to pedes­tri­an­ize a sec­tion of the north­ern end of the busy thor­ough­fare

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY GIOR­GOS LIALIOS

A car-free stretch on busy Syn­grou Av­enue, which con­nects cen­tral Athens to the city’s south­ern coast, seems to defy the imag­i­na­tion. Yet the planned pedes­tri­an­iza­tion of Panepis­timiou Street and Amalias Av­enue presents a unique op­por­tu­nity for spruc­ing up the area around the un­der-con­struc­tion Na­tional Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art at the former Fix brew­ery, which links the start of Syn­grou to the his­tor­i­cal cen­ter of Athens.

Three of the most im­por­tant de­vel­op­ments that are to take place by 2015-16 in the Greek cap­i­tal’s lat­est facelift project are loosely con­nected to Syn­grou Av­enue.

At its south­ern end, there is the trans­for­ma­tion of the old race­track at the Faliro Delta by the Stavros Niar­chos Foun­da­tion into a cul­tural park that will in­clude new homes for the Greek Na­tional Opera and the Na­tional Li­brary. At the north­ern end, there is the his­tor­i­cal cen­ter’s afore­men­tioned facelift and the pedestriniza­tion of the Panepis­timiou and Amalias thor­ough­fares. Around the dis­tricts of Neos Cos­mos and Makriyianni, there is the ren­o­va­tion of the former Fix brew­ery to house the Na­tional Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art.

“Re­vamp­ing Syn­grou Av­enue is be­com­ing a crit­i­cal need,” Thanos Vlas­tos, a pro­fes­sor at the Na­tional Tech­ni­cal Univer­sity of Athens who spe­cial­izes in ur­ban trans­port and zon­ing, told Kathimerini.

“The most typ­i­cal ex­am­ple is the mu­seum, which is flanked by two main thor­ough­fares, Kal­lirois and Syn­grou, and lies at the end of Frantzi, an­other very busy street. The con­di­tion of the mu­seum’s en­vi­rons is de­press­ing, to say the least,” he said.

First of all, Vlas­tos points out the

most im­por­tant de­vel­op­ments that are to take place by 2015-16 in the Greek cap­i­tal’s lat­est facelift project are loosely con­nected to Syn­grou Av­enue, which con­nects cen­tral Athens to the city’s south­ern coast. side­walks around the mu­seum, on Syn­grou and Frantzi, which are very nar­row, just 1.5-2 me­ters wide, and on Kal­lirois, where the widest is around 5 me­ters.

On the north­ern side of the mu­seum, where vis­i­tors could have a stroll and re­lax, there is a huge metal canopy cov­er­ing the en­trance to an un­der­ground car park and a bus sta­tion.

“This is a com­pletely use­less con­struc­tion that is ir­rel­e­vant to the ar­chi­tec­ture of the new mu­seum and which blocks its ac­cess from the small park above the garage,” Vlas­tos said.

The struc­ture is flanked by wide stretches of tar­mac used by buses and cars to turn, as well as the en­trance and exit of the car park.

“This all gives the im­pres­sion that in the spot where there should be a pleas­ant court­yard, there’s a traf­fic junc­tion in­stead. What it means is that the walk to the mu­seum will be both dif­fi­cult and un­pleas­ant, a global first for a mu­seum that is this im­por­tant,” the aca­demic added.

Ac­cord­ing to Vlas­tos, the only so­lu­tion is to pedes­tri­an­ize the north­bound lanes of Syn­grou from the turn­ing to Hamoster­nas above Pan­teion Univer­sity to Amalias Street.

“Once Panepis­timiou is closed, there is no rea­son for traf­fic coming into the city cen­ter from Syn­grou to con­tinue up Amalias. It would be much bet­ter if it were routed straight to Vas­sileos Con­stanti­nou via Kal­lirois,” he said.

If that part of Syn­grou is made oneway for south­bound traf­fic, the nar­row side­walk in front of the mu­seum could be broad­ened by 7 me­ters, ac­cord­ing to Vlas­tos. Sim­i­larly, Kal­lirois could also be made one-way in a north­bound lane, and by merg­ing the stretch where Kal­lirois runs be­side Syn­grou’s south­bound lane, you could also broaden the side­walk on Kal­lirois.

The ben­e­fits from such a plant would be twofold, Vlas­tos ar­gues. “In terms of cir­cu­la­tion, the re­stric­tion of traf­fic coming into the city cen­ter would be achieved smoothly. In terms of the city plan, the in­te­gra­tion of the Mu­seum of Con­tem­po­rary Art into a net­work of pub­lic spa­ces would pro­mote the city’s mod­ern as well as his­tor­i­cal iden­tity. The plan would also serve to en­cour­age pedes­tri­ans and cy­clists, an ob­jec­tive that is shared by the plan to trans­form Panepis­timiou into a prom­e­nade.

“All to­gether, you would end up with a long cul­tural route start­ing from the Na­tional Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal Mu­seum on Patis­sion Street and stretch­ing all the way to the new Na­tional Li­brary and the opera house at the old hip­po­drome,” he said.

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