Numerous factories and industrial sites across Athens have shut down over the previous decades. To add to that, neoclassical buildings, once beacons of Athenian urban beauty, have been abandoned and fallen into disrepair. Adaptive reuse is a way of preserving, repurposing and reinvigorating these buildings, which we believe can contribute to reducing urban sprawl and create new points of urban social and cultural interest and usage.

Athens has not always had a strong track record of preserving its heritage buildings, especially during the 1950s and 1960s when neoclassical buildings were demolished to make way for Bauhaus and modernist architecture. However, since the 1990s, there has been a gradual leaning towards adaptive reuse with various legislations recognising these buildings as historically important and cementing their status as heritage monuments. Often, these old buildings speak to the city’s history and the collective urban memory.

One such example is the FIX beer brewery in Syngrou, Athens. First constructed in the late 1800s, it was completely renovated in 1961 and then abandoned in the late 1970s as a result of company bankruptcy and relocation of the brewery. What remained was a vast modernist building that sustained damage to its northern section thanks to partial demolition in 1995. However, the brewery’s story did not end there. In 2002, it was decided that the newly established EMST, the National Museum of Contemporary Art, would make its permanent home in the brewery building. An architectural competition was held to determine the building’s redesign, which was completed in 2014. In this way, the brewery was transformed into an art exhibit space, positioning itself as a new creative and social node in the urban fabric of Athens.

The exterior facade of a neo-classical building in Athens

Another iconic building from Athens’ history is the Greek public tobacco factory. Spanning 19,000 square meters, the building dates to 1930 and combines modernist as well as neo-classical architectural remnants. Its story begins as a tobacco factory, but it has served many uses over the last century: it was a state prison in 1945, served as the seat of the general directorate of the press in 1964 and as warehouses for the Ministry of Public Works in 1988, to name a few. The last time its premises were used by a tobacco company was in 1997. After undergoing adaptive reuse and structural reconfiguration, the building re-emerged as a significant cultural space and arts hub in 2021 with its inaugural exhibition showcasing works by 59 artists from across the globe. The building now houses various parliamentary publications and printing divisions, as well as the parliament library, among other national cultural functionalities.

The FIX brewery building and the public tobacco factory are only two examples in Athens that demonstrate the importance of investing in the preservation and re-purposing of historic buildings. Other examples include the transformation of the Tsaousoglou furniture factory into the Peiraios 260 cultural and music hub, and a former textile factory into Plyfa, a performing arts theatre. There’s also the Athens School of Fine Arts which sits on the site of a former textile mill dating to 1924, among others.

Industrial warehouses at sunset on a busy street in Athens

The adaptive reuse of derelict buildings and spaces has the potential to:

  • Slow urban sprawl by encouraging the reuse of already existing buildings.
  • Maintain cultural heritage and collective memory through historic preservation.
  • Strengthen community placemaking by preserving community legacy for future generations.
  • Retain architectural character across the built environment.
  • Encourage sustainable solutions through energy efficient retrofitting.

Athens is gradually moving away from its past tendencies of destroying historical buildings and is incorporating adaptive reuse across large-scale and small-scale buildings instead. The city contains plenty of derelict historical buildings which, with the right investment and long-term vision, can be transformed into hubs that celebrate Athenian cultural heritage.

Reach out to us to find out more about our Evripidou 53 Heritage Suites and how we’re repurposing a neoclassical building.