Aristotelous Square is undoubtedly one of the busiest places in Thessaloniki. Taking a closer look you will see a mix of people going up and down the cobbled square, some of them shopping, others enjoying their coffee and others running in a hurry to go to work. Whatever the reason why one may be at Aristotelous Square, they will soon realize that the heart of the city beats there. Aristotelous Square is a reflection of Thessaloniki and its heterogeneous influences, forging its special cultural identity. Reading this article, you will discover a different side of the square, unknown to most people, as Aristotelous, apart from being a square, is a canal of history, culture and civilization.
History of Aristotelous Square
In 1917 the history of the city was marked forever, as its center was engulfed in flames, resulting in the burning of 9,000 houses and more than 70,000 people left homeless. The fire started from a small hearth on Olympiados Street, however the lack of water, due to its requisition for the needs of the military camps in the city, made its extinguishing very difficult. After this horrific tragedy, ideas for a new Thessaloniki began to propagate. The historic center of the city would be built in a way that would disprove its Ottoman past.
The French architect Ernest Hébrard was assigned to inspire and implement a layout, which would transform Thessaloniki into a modern European metropolis, with clear references to its Greek identity. The cornerstone of this layout was Aristotelous Square, which was originally planned to be named M. Alexandrou Square. Ernest Hébrard, in addition to being an architect and an urban planner, was also an archaeologist, which means that he was the most suitable person to bring this vision to life.
The facades of the buildings in Aristotle Square, such as that of Electra Palace, were built in accordance with European architectural standards, however their decoration has many influences from the Byzantine period. The truth is that Hébrard’s ambitious plan found many obstacles in its path, the main one being the lack of funds. As a result, Aristotelous Square was the only part of the historic center, where he managed to implement his work, even if simplified.
Cultural activities in Aristotelous Square
Aristotelous Square is one of the most important places for cultural activities, taking place in Thessaloniki. Every year Aristotelous Square hosts many cultural events such as concerts and speeches. Of course, the wandering artists you will meet along the square could not be excluded from the cultural identity of it. Taking a walk in Aristotelous Square, you will see every art form flourishing in front of your eyes, such as music and painting.
Finally, Aristotelous Square is the home of one of the largest cultural events in the city, the International Thessaloniki Film Festival. The headquarters of the festival are located in the Olympion Palace, there are also two of its cinemas, PAVLOS ZANNAS and OLYMPION. OLYMPION is also used for other artistic activities, such as theatrical performances.
The future of Aristotelous Square
Aristotle was last rebuilt in 1997, and since then time passing, defects and vandalism have tarnished several parts of it. As a result,, the municipality of Thessaloniki recently entered an international architectural competition, with the aim of entrusting the renovation of Aristotle. The goal of the winning participation is to re-introduce Aristotelous Square, to the residents and visitors of Thessaloniki, but without any interventions in Hébrard’s layout.
The new Aristotelous Square will be divided into rooms-sections. Each of them will emphasize a different element, while maintaining the aesthetic unity of the square. There will be sections that will put emphasis on nature but also sections that will emphasize the history of the city. Finally, in the center of the square there will be the option of releasing water vapor from specific points, in order to create reflections of the majestic buildings of the square, on its wet floor.
In conclusion, there is no doubt that Aristotelous Square has been and will be a key point for the city of Thessaloniki. Besides, it is common knowledge that the central square of a city is its reflection to the world. So, reading this article about Aristotle Square, you will understand that it is multifaceted and enchanting just like Thessaloniki.
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