Along the water-front of Mandraki from the Demarcheion Building to the New Agora
As you move inland to the west, across from the ‘Rhodes Administration Building’ into the Square of the Demarcheion, you observe a complete sea-change in the spirit of the architecture. The uncompromising volumes and geometric shapes of the ‘Rationalist’ canon are now more brutal; there is no colour, no decoration, no variety of texture. The square is formed by the Demarcheion or town hall of Rhodes (formerly the Fascist Headquarters), flanked (left) by the Police Building (the ex-Italian Military Administration) and (right) by the Municipal Theatre (formerly the Teatro Puccini). The design of these monolithic buildings vividly reflects the spirit of the new administration of Governor Cesare Maria de Vecchi (1936–41) and the increasing authoritarianism of Fascist rule in Rome in the period of his tenure. The buildings, created solely (and deliberately) from the same ‘poros’ stone that was used by the Knights, are among the grimmest creations of Armando Bernabiti. The most interesting build of the group is the theatre, whose constant play of cylindrical and cuboid volumes evokes the walls, gates and bastions of the military architecture of the Knights.
South of the Demarcheion square, most of the line of buildings that face the harbour which were erected under the Governorship of Mario Lago have suffered the ‘purifying’ attentions of the de Vecchi administration. A notable exception is the main post office, designed by Florestano di Fausto in 1927/8 in a more straightforwardly classicis, ‘Renaissance Revival’ style: its grand order of engaged pilasters and pronounced window pediments must have been considered sufficiently dignified by de Vecchi not to require purging. In the large roundels in the attic, to ei ther side of the Rhodian Helios in the centre, are symbols of the principal settlements of the island. Further south, the Port Authority building (formerly the Casa del Fascio) and the Courthouse, were both stripped of decorative content in 1938/9 and were transformed into close rela tions architecturally of the Demarcheion and the Thea tre. The Courthouse sports protruding and unadorned, semicircular pilasters with neither capital nor base. By contrast, the building of the Bank of Greece (1931–33), formerly the Bank of Italy, by Biagio Accolti Gil, has a white marble base and an alternation of plastered areas and stone areas in its façade which does much to relieve the severity of its design.
Based on elements in the Mosque of Quairouan in Tunisia, the unmistakable, orientalising cupolas and arches of the New Agora (1925/6) at the southern extremity of the promenade has remained unmodified in the more capricious spirit of early Italian colonial architecture: its bold and imaginative design is typical of Florestano di Fausto’s work. The entrance gateway facing the port is embellished with pleasingly decorated volutes supporting the arches. At the centre of the leafy and spacious interior is the raised fish-market kiosk with the original scagliola counters and water fountain under a cupola.
Scattered throughout the modern area of the New Town to the west, a number of shops, houses and offices in similar architectural vocabulary still survive from the same Master Plan. In Plateia Zygdis (three blocks inland from the Courthouse) is the Boy Scouts Centre, formerly the Fascist Youth Building (Casa Balilla) designed jointly by Lombardi and Bernabiti in 1932. Its concave façade has several unusual, Mannerist features, and an interest decorative vocabulary of volutes and blind arches. In the same area (25th March Street) are a few well-pre served neoclassical villas. Underneath everything lies the ancient city, which reveals itself occasionally in sections of wall (Amerikis St.) or stretches of well-preserved ancient drains, built with arched stone covering (e.g. in front of the National Bank of Greece: west side of Kyprou Sqaure).
Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.