Despite the extreme secrecy that has surrounded the redevelopment of Omonia Square in downtown Athens, it seems that what we will see in the end will have little to do with what the previous municipal authority had announced.
It appears that Kostas Bakoyannis does not want to link his first major intervention in the city as mayor with an “improved” version of a failed recipe – that is what his predecessor Giorgos Kaminis had prepared us for, with the exception that the “new” Omonia would have a small fountain, in memory of the iconic landmark that graced the square up until 1992.
However, recent images from the work site that have been doing the social media rounds point to something more drastic and certainly something much more ambitious. The veil of mystery only adds to these expectations.
It seems that the new mayor wants to pleasantly surprise Athenians with a solution that will resonate with the wave of nostalgia felt over the previous decade for Omonia, following its redesign of the late 1950s, with its large fountain.
In any case, the upgrading of the square in the hearts of the citizens should serve as a catalyst for the wider area.
Investments already under way (mainly through the operation of new hotels) appear to foreshadow a better era for Omonia – an era, however, that average Athenians have yet to feel for themselves.
Many architects tend to underestimate the emotional side of interventions in public spaces (and not only public spaces). The previous solution failed not only because it was only half-implemented (and technically unacceptable), but because it failed to speak to people’s hearts.
This led to the loss of two entire decades at a critical time: a time when the operation of a new metro station at Omonia could have sparked a period of renewal for the square. Instead the exact opposite happened.
Today the new Omonia Square could serve as a force to drive the improvement of the lower end of downtown Athens and the countless blocks that lie behind the city’s facade. The bar has been raised.
This article was first published by ekathimerini.gr