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The new face of Athens Central Market

A daring intervention that could change the character of the city centre and the face of the city.

The Athens Central Market, or Varvakios, as it is better known, is one of the most important landmarks of Greece’s capital city. It operates since 1886 and has survived all of the challenges of contemporary Greek history. The unique covered structure houses a retail food market.

How does it look to visitors today? The western section of the Varvakios building, home to meat and fish vendors, suffers from multiple technical problems. Equally, the elevated Varvakios Square, which houses the vegetable market, and the underground car-park, are dens of lawlessness and disorder. Merchants and consumers alike have expressed their intense dissatisfaction at the supply problems. The lack of cleanliness, the delinquency, the lack of access for all age groups, and so forth. All of which are problems that degrade the area even further, and prevent the full exploitation of the Market as a “social melting-pot”.

A study by AMBIO S.A. for the Varvakios Market

In recognition of the problematic situation at the Varvakios market, and its potential, AMBIO S.A. Development Consultants conducted a study. The study was for the Central Market and Fishery Organisations.  The improvement strategies can be classified under the following headings: Security, Access, Promotion, Identity.

The goal is to achieve the restoration of security and the facilitation of access in order to bring back circulation to the square. Also, to combat the desertion of the area after the closure, and modernise the facilities to make them accessible. Promotion of the market and projection of its identity, requires uncoupling from its purely commercial nature, and offsetting its identity as a Greek gastronomy hub, by introducing leisure activities. Restoration of the Varvakios Market building and redesigning the market square will contribute to promotion of the city’s cultural capital. Thus, the city of Athens could take advantage of the Market as a tourism product.

The spatial interpretation

The spatial interpretation of the above objectives requires specific steps. The entire Varvakios Market building requires renovation with due respect for its character and historic nature. It is critical to ensure that we will lower the market square to the level of Athinas Street, thus restoring visual contact from the street. Imagine the creation of a visual corridor from the Central Market atrium to Sokratous Street via the square. It would help the market and the market square become a single operational unit. To increase foot traffic and upgrade operation of the square, we should consolidate and rearrange the vegetable market stalls. They are also provided with underground storage space, from which to receive supplies and dispose of waste.

Leisure and educational activities in the Market, extends opening hours

The Varvakios atrium is decongested by rearranging the stalls and creating a “pocket” configuration that separates standing and moving customers. The introduction of leisure and educational activities in the Market, extends opening hours and creates incentives for visiting the Varvakios. The operational consolidation of the Varvakios Market with Theatrou Square is suggested as a way of linking the Market to the rest of the urban area.

The importance of the intervention

Through the above proposals, all of the fragmented, unused areas transform into a cohesive hub of retail food trade. Including modern equipment, supply and waste disposal facilities, as well as leisure, education and green uses. The intervention is sure to bring increased commercial demand for space, and the Varvakios Market will become a vehicle for upgrading retail food trade in the centre of Athens.

The most important benefit is that the new face of the Market can create the necessary leverage to promote the upgrading of the entire city of Athens. It can act as a catalyst for linking other commercial pockets in the city. The proposed intervention will organise transport, supply, branding and communication policy, creating unity among the markets of Athens, and establishing this network as a commercial, cultural and tourism product.

The daily newspaper KATHIMERINI has published an article on the above subject.

You can contact us for more information about this project.

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