Modern-day Thessaloniki is the result of sweeping changes that have occurred since the mid 19th century. Drawing information from a relevant publication of Nikos Kalogirou, a Professor of Architecture at the Aristotle University, we can observe briefly the path of change. The walled city of the Ottoman period had become suffocating for its people on the 19th century, so the administration decided first to demolish the wall on the seaside (1867) and construct a waterfront. The modernization trend continued with the opening of major roads such as Venizelou Street. The great fire of 1890 gave way to new urban settings. The range of interventions and projects they envisaged brought to Thessaloniki major architects, including V. Poselli, P. Arigoni, X. Peonidis and engineer E. Modiano. They are responsible for the most important surviving buildings of the period. The city's expansion to the east and out of the walls was mainly witnessed by the wealthy residents, who built their luxury villas along the modern-day Vas. Olgas Avenue. This area was named “district of the countryside”.The public architecture of the period adopted without any deviations the European typology and various forms of eclecticism, meaning the combination of various trends in a harmonious whole.
PROMINENT BUILDINGS OF THE 19th CENTURY
Moni Lazariston in Stavroupoli (1885) is one of the important buildings designed for the monks of the Order of Lazarists. In the old School of Philosophy (initially a school for the executives of the Ottoman administration "Idadie", 1887), the initial typology of designs by B. Poselli resulted from a centrally-planned layout with a central patio. At the Government House, which accommodates today the Ministry of Macedonia-Thrace (1891), V. Poselli also articulates the spaces in circles, symbolically stressing the facade with its monumental scale. The Headquarters (1903), also a work of V. Poselli, with its elongated wide organization, acquires with "military" clarity the necessary hierarchical symbolic character. The morphological choices of the Greek community of Thessaloniki were limited to a fairly strict neoclassical style in order to denote a Greek identity. The reconstruction of the Greek Consulate (1893, today Museum of the Macedonian Struggle) and the old Home Economics School at Egnatia (1893), designed by Ernst Ziller, are typical cases. An impressive work of X. Paionidis for the Greek community is the Papafio Orphanage (1894-1903) with overt Renaissance influences. A peculiar project is without doubt the Geni Tzami of V. Poselli, on Archaelogikou Mousiou Street (1900-1902). Towards the end of the Ottoman period, in 1910, is erected one of the major eclectic buildings of Thessaloniki, the Customs House at the port, by Eli Modiano.
The modernization of trade in the 19th century caused the renewal of the typology of markets and shops. A typical example is Ladadika. The commercial arcades create a very interesting typology, enriching the urban fabric. Amongst them, the Saoul Arcade (1888) stands out. In its original form, which is probably due to architect V. Poselli, it constituted a "commercial palace" with offices, shops and the banking house of Saul Modiano. The restored State Conservatory, on Fragkon Street, is the building that originally accommodated the Ottoman Bank. After its blasting in April 1903, it was rebuilt based on a study by V. Poselli and engineers Baruch and Ammar, organized around a central trading space.
The modernization of the retail sector is represented by the creation of the first large stores. The Stein Building, with its emphatic verticality, is a unique sample of reference to the high buildings of the Chicago School in Thessaloniki. One of the first examples of industrial metal construction with clear bricks is the Central Pumping Station (Aime Cuypers, 1890-94), which now houses the city’s Water Supply Museum. In the same area, the imposing complex of FIX brewery has survived. On the eastern side of the city, the complex of Allatini Mills is preserved. The first pier of the artificial port of Thessaloniki (1897-1904), with two rows of restored warehouses that evolve along it, is a unified complex of industrial aesthetics with a clear expression of functional architecture.
ARCHITECTURE DURING THE 20th CENTURY
The liberation of Thessaloniki (1912) coincides with a period of intense modernization efforts. The reconstruction of the city center after the great fire of 1917, designed by French architect-urban planner Ernest Hebrard, is associated with a modern comprehensive redevelopment program (1917 to 1921), which adopts thorough planning mechanisms, such as urban land consolidation and the separation of the city’s functions in conjunction with new building systems and special building regulations. The iconography of Hebrard’s plan is expressed in a unique – for the standards of Greek cities - urban large-scale synthesis, the monumental Aristotelous Street and its termination towards the sea, the namesake square. The forcible architecture along the axis, with urban edifices that have an arcade and arches at their base, is a late expression of European classicism and baroque. The decorative elements of the facades are influenced by Byzantine themes. However, the whole follows without doubt the Parisian standards (such as Rivoli Street) and is more closely related to the arabesque colonial standards of that period.
The already tested from the 19th century model of the European apartment building dominates the urban architecture of Thessaloniki during the interwar period. Typical examples are the YMCA Building (1924, arch. M. Delladetsimas), inspired by the "neobyzantine” vocabulary of Aristotelous Street, the Balkan Press Center (originally the Konstantinidis Building, 1925, arch. I. Papounas) with an elaborate eclectic facade, the "Red House" and "Hotel Vienna" (1925, arch. G. Kampanellos). The central food arcade, known as Modiano Market, follows a modernized form of the European standard.
The public architecture of the first interwar period resets late neoclassicism. The prestigious complex of the National Bank and the Bank of Greece (1928, arch. A.Valvis and I. Isigonis) evokes directly Athenian neoclassicism. The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (29, Tsimiski Street, 1929, arch. Dimitriadis Brothers ) strictly follows the standards of late classicism. Seizing the opportunity provided by reinforced concrete, large, glass-fenced openings become possible. The stylish store Alvo (now Bank of Piraeus, 1924, arch. G. Mosse), where the stem and the base’s center consist solely of glazing, is a prime example.
The cosmopolitan dimension of commercial architecture during the interwar period is expressed by the early introduction of stylized geometric decorations (Art Deco) and elements of abstract modernism on the facades of urban buildings.The avant-garde of modern architecture is introduced in interwar Thessaloniki with the big, state-funded programs of modernization, and especially with the school housing program.
The Higher Girls’ School of Thessaloniki on Diehl Street (1933) is a mature modernist composition of perhaps the most important architect of the interwar period, N. Mitsakis. The Italian School A. Manzoni (Vardariou Square, 1933, now National Bank) is a complete example of urban rational synthesis with evident Italian origins. One the first successful adaptations of a purely modern synthesis on the data of the continuous urban fabric, is the Valagiannis private school on Aghias Sophias Street. Industrial buildings were a parallel importing channel of modern rationalism during the interwar period. Indicatively, we mention the famous “Mylos” and the complex of the Yfanet waving mill (1930, arch. A.Nikopoulos and K. Kokoropoulos). A special allusion is due to the Experimental School of Thessaloniki (1933-1936), a unique work of Dimitris Pikionis.
In the first post-war period, there is a vacillation between the "conservative" versions of a subtractive classicism and the final dominance of modernism, which is completed in the 60s.
A typical example is the railway station, a classical rational complex, the original study of which (1936, arch. Klainsmit and Yordan) was completed in 1960 by architects S. Molfessis and Th. Papagiannis. The Theatre of the Society for Macedonian Studies (1952-1962, arch. V. Kassandras), although it was anachronistic and conservative at the time of completion, is undoubtedly characterized by the well-settling of two successive auditoria. The adjacent Thessaloniki Garrison Officers’ Club (1953, arch. P. Miller), with the decline of the concave facade of the big hall, adapts to the reference point of the area, which is the White Tower. One of the major urban units concerning the solid application of modern architecture in Thessaloniki is the university campus.
The case of the Thessaloniki International Fair, despite the current dominance of the scattered industrial canopies that completely negate the image of an organized public space, is worth a special mention, as it has been a privileged scope of morphological and technological experimentations. Among the public buildings of the time, the one that stands out is the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki (YMCA Square, 1960), the most mature work of P. Karantinos. The Nautical Club of Thessaloniki (1960-1962) by architect K. Kapsampelis moves in a different world, on the verge between land and sea. At the Patriarchal Institute for Patristic Studies of Vlatadon Monastery (1966-69), N.Moutsopoulos uses the monastic model of Northern Greece as his starting point.
The proliferation of postwar modern architecture in Thessaloniki leads to the renewal of the standard of the private detached house, which is expressively completed in the 60s. In this area, the work of architect K.Philippou stands out. A clearer example of the new trend and a standard for the 70s is the "building of teachers" at the New Waterfront (1967-1970, arch.Ch.Kouloukouris and Ch.Tsilalis). At Macedonia Palace Hotel (1962-1971), designed by the office of K.Doxiadis, the synthetic mesh of the rectangular grid is externalized at the end of the continuous balconies, leading to an expressive simplicity.
It is worth noting that since the early 80s, a visible change in the morphology of buildings in Thessaloniki is manifested. The Museum of Byzantine Culture (1979-1997) is the marginal work of architect K. Krokos and one of the most important buildings of the period (see Culture section). The Teloglion Foundation of the AUTH (1983-1997, arch. K. Lambrou, N. Marda, K. Moraitis, Er. Konstantakou) acquires a special character because of its position on a sloping lot. The administration building of Piraeus Bank (formerly Bank of Macedonia-Thrace, 1992-1997, arch. E. Kouvatsis, A. Lada, K. Lefakis, T. Makridis, A. Tobazis) has a distinct urban character.