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Ioanna Papayianni (University of Thessaloniki) about Heritage Repair and Maintenance in Greece

January 22, 2012

Professor Ioanna Papayianni, chemist and civil engineer, is an expert at an international level in the rehabilitation of cultural heritage, carrying out scientific research on building techniques and materials of monuments from all periods at the University of Thessaloniki. At the URBACT LINKS Network Workshop in Veria she presented research findings related to the rehabilitation of the city’s historical center and the workprogram she has started as a contribution to the Network. Her presentation is one of the most significant contributions to the workshop and reading the introduction is useful to understand its rigorous approach:

Veria is one of the most important Historic centers in the South Eastern Europe. Apart from Byzantine churches, the old buildings (private or public houses) have been constructed from the pre-industrial revolution period up to the early decades of the 20th century. They constitute a great part of its cultural heritage which testify the historic and socio-economic background of the area.

The historic buildings of Veria could be categorized (according to their style) into those of vernacular architecture, which have been developed in the recent past in South East Europe and in those of neo classicism or eclectic architecture.

Most of historic buildings have been abandoned and destroyed by overloading and earthquake vibrations, as well as by the ageing effects due to moisture and other deterioration factors of the environmental conditions. Some of them have been repaired and retrofitted with concrete, very often without any respect to their characteristics of traditional structures.

The importance of the proper repair and maintenance, as well as their revival and incorporation into the modern city, for the benefit of historic buildings, society and local economy has been well defined in the frame of URBACT LINKS project.

Therefore, developing a strategy for the repair, maintenance and upgrading of historic buildings, which will be based on the well established principles of restoration is of first priority, for their incorporation into the contemporary plan of the city. Furthermore, an estimation of their energy efficiency is required to make them habitable again. As known, the old buildings are inherently green, because they were designed to be climatically appropriate. However, climate has changed, especially in urban regions and energy efficiency of an old building is questionable.

After the workshop I had the opportunity to ask some questions to prof. Papayianni.

  • Greece has undergone major changes in the last decade. With the turn of the century, joining the Euro and hosting the Olympic games the country has been projected into the future from its world apart. Is the modernization causing damages for the urban and built heritage or has it been an opportunity?

During the last decade, most of large infrastructure projects were carried out in Athens. The impact of all relevant activities for modernization of the city was rather positive, since old buildings were restored and archaeological sites were conserved.

  • What are the main threads for Greek historical cities? Can Europe play a positive role in their safeguard and restoration?

The main threads are lack of funds and strategy for protection and upgrading of the historical centers, apart from natural disasters, such as earthquakes, floods and fires. Because of inadequate and inconsistent stewardship of cultural assets they are exploited inappropriately, resulting in many problems, against the preservation of the identity of the historical centers and buildings.

  • What are the cornerstones of a coherent, creative, sustainable and future proof management of historical city centers?

A strategic policy to be established by local authorities, who will be compelled to implement it. It will concern:

(a) Record of old building asset and categorize them.

(b) The conservation and stabilization of them.

(c) Creation of motives to keep them active.

(d) Take into account the harmonization of historical centers to any expanding of the city and avoiding the development of large cities.

(e) Make citizens active in protecting heritage.

(f) Continuous efforts for upgrading historical centers.

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