Renovation and interior redesign of preserved landmark in Aigio Achaea by architect Nikos Mourikis
The Tower of Psila Alonia plaza is a historic landmark of Aigio. “Psila Alonia” (literal translation: elevated threshing floor) is one of the two main plazas of the city formed around 1920-30s with a panoramic view of the Corinthian bay and the harbour. Being set back from the main commercial street of Mitropoleos with a raw of buildings between them, makes it a quiet and ideal recreational space popular with the inhabitant and a timeless symbol for the city.
The tower predates the plaza, dating back in the 1900s. It is the smallest neoclassical tower in Greece with Neo-Gothic windows and Neo-Medieval construction. During this period the Saxon architect - who later became a Greek national - Ernst Ziller designed a number of buildings in Aigio (Archeological Museum/Old Municipal market and the Cathedrals of Panagia Faneromeni, Esodia of Theotokos, St. Andrew). The Tower is not listed as one of his projects, which makes it more likely that it was designed by his apprentices in the Neo-Romantic style popular in that period. The Tower was functioning as a meteorological station and a municipal cafe. It was equipped with a seismograph and was collecting data for the Observatory in Athens.
The entrepreneur’s and the architect’s respect for this monument and its revitalisation was the driving inspiration for his renovation and revamping proposal. In 100 sq.m. we find the wonders of the science of construction, the anti-seismic building techniques of the time, and a rare example of such architecture. The intervention and the step-by-step search for its feasibility and function through the historic identity of this landmark was an act of love, an integration to contemporary urban life, and a boost into the new millennium against the various physical and social forces of obsolescence.
The northern and western sides of the ground floor are kept open to the public, connecting the interior space directly with the exterior plaza. The eastern and southern sides are used for serving the bar and for a wheelchair ramp access to the bathroom respectively. This functional arrangement is also being followed by the L-shape of the custom-made bar leaving the rest of the space unobstructed. A separate entrance in the SW corner takes visitors through the narrow stone staircase up on the roof garden, a space that was previously unused and now offers elevated panoramic view of the plaza and the sea both for sunrise and sunset. The outdoor sitting arrangement is divided into gradual “zones”, from high bar tables with stools near the tower to regular cafe tables and low lounge sofas farther from the building. In the middle of the outdoor sitting space a custom-made exterior bar was added. The elongated NS axis punctuates the connection between the tower and the open vistas, while the irregular shape creates gathering pockets around an olive tree reminiscent of the “Agnadio” - the 19th century vernacular term for the central part of the plaza.