Starting from Syntagma Square, otherwise known as Parliament Square, we will look at the eclectic collection of buildings in the immediate vicinity that signal the emergence of Athens as the capital of Greece. This is a wide-view walk that looks broadly at the built environment from ancient Greek architecture to contemporary buildings.
Syntagma Square is where the Greek parliament meets in one of the city's most important neoclassical buildings, a building that has become a focal point of post-independence Athenian architecture. Here we'll begin our narrative by looking at the heady period of the 19th century when Greek expatriates and their foreign backers in Germany, France, and Britain imported an idealized vision of classicism into the city as a way of forging a new Greek identity. From here we'll set off into the atmospheric neighborhood of Plaka with the Acropolis overhead, to look at some historic precedents for the modern city—including, of course, the ancient structures atop the rock.
Our course this will take us up towards Omonia Square where we will begin to see some very important structures from the late 19th and early 20th century juxtaposed against later buildings, including the National Bank designed by Mario Botha.
From here, depending on time, we'll turn our attention to Kolonaki and the great mansions along Vasilissis Sofia Street, including the Hilton Museum and, if possible, the U.S. Embassy designed by Walter Gropius. Throughout we'll concern ourselves with this question of Greek identity and architecture, and how the past has been appropriated and re-envisioned through the first 200 years of Greek independence.
We will then make our way back to Plaka, which is the only area that offers a picture of the emergence of Athens as a city in the centuries before the formation of the modern Greek State. From Plaka we will proceed to the University, the Academy - both 19th century creations- and onwards to the Kolonaki district, where the different architectural types of 20th-century Athens can best be appreciated side by side. The tour will end at the iconic Hilton hotel, a 20th-century modernist showpiece that stirred up controversy at the time of its creation.