An oasis of green in the heart of bustling downtown Athens, i.e. the National Gardens will soon be formally deemed as a historical landmark. This follows the Central Council of Newer Monuments approval of a relevant recommendation.
National Gardens board member Theodoros Bechrakis told ANA-MPA that the Gardens deserve the designation of a historical landmark as it fulfills all the criteria. It is closely linked with the history of the modern Greek state as its evolution is a record of historical events in modern times.
A study is currently underway by the National Metsovion Polytechnic for revamping the landscape of the 250 acre Garden. The study is slated to begin in the first quarter of 2011 and is budgeted at 7.5 million euros.
Bechrakis said the revamping will mainly concern the Garden’s infrastructures. He noted that although its greenery is in good condition: “there is also another aspect, that of its infrastructures and buildings, which belong to the previous century…those are what we want to improve to make them more functional”.
The project will be carried out in two stages. In the first stage Athens will tender a 2.9 million euros upgrade of the infrastructures, and a study that is budgeted at 370,000 euros for the restoration of the Garden’s zoological park, botanical museum, the famed Roman mosaic area, and restoration of the Herod Atticus wall. The second stage concerns restoration of the Garden’s flora and removal of damaged shrubbery.
The densely planted National Garden of Athens is situated next to the Hellenic Parliament in Syntagma Square. It is open to the public daily from dawn untill dusk. The tranquil park serves as a botanical garden with native and rare subtropical trees and plants. A path crosses the Garden, dividing it into 80 units of various shapes and sizes in the French baroque style with a strict geometric structure. The garden includes many statues, a fish pond, a duck pond, a small zoo with animals, a botanical museum, rest rooms, a children’s library and a large playground.
The first plans of the Garden were drawn up in 1836 by Freidrich von Gaertner who is the architect of the Royal Palace. In 1839 the Garden was redesigned by Bavarian engineer Hoch for Queen Amalia, to serve the palace and was called the Royal Garden. The landscaping started in 1839 with 15,000 plants brought from Genoa, the coastal area of Sounion and the island of Evia in Greece by a team led by the Bavarian horticulturalist Smarat. Later the French horticulturalist Barrault from Constantinople completed the works. The cost of planting and maintaining this botanical garden was scandalous in the opinion of many contemporary Greeks. Over the years various storms and unusual cold spells have damaged or destroyed many of its fiolage. Today there are approximately 7,000 trees and 40,000 plants. Before 1854 the Gardens were closed to the public. They were later opened to the public when not in use by royalty.
In 1927 it ceased to be a private royal garden and became a public park open. At this time it was renamed the National Garden.