RHODES



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Rhodes - the New Town and areas outside the walls - Twentieth century italian colonial architecture in Rhodes

Twentieth century italian ‘colonial’
architecture in rhodes
For a long time neglected because of its unfortunate political connotations, the astonishing variety of buildings put up by the Italians during their occupation of the Dodecanese from 1912 to 1943, has been neither studied nor appreciated in proportion to its artistic merit. The Italians, who were late arrivals on the modern stage of Empire-building by comparison with the British or the French, sought to give a unifying architectural stamp to the Mediterranean and African territories which they occupied. At first they created a new, pan-Mediterranean, ‘Rational ist’ architecture which, by incorporating different elements of local traditions—Roman, Crusader, Ottoman, Greek, Islamic etc.—was intended to give the visible impression of the extent and diversity of Italy’s new empire. This gave rise to the period’s greatest and most imaginative buildings. But it was to prove a short-lived architectural ‘spring’: after 1936, with a new political Governor and the decla ration of the Fascist ‘Imperium’, architecture had to bend to the demands for monumentality imposed by more regressive and authoritarian politics. Some of the earlier buildings were even purged of their decorative elements in a ‘purification’ of the colonial architecture. Fortunately, many more of the early buildings have survived throughout the Dodecanese than the later ‘purified’ ones. The juxtaposition of the two, seen at certain points in the New Town, is starkly revealing.
   The two phases correspond to the periods in office of the two longest-serving Italian governors of the Dodecanese, both of whom were actively interested in architecture, but who held opposing views: the more moderate Mario Lago (1924–36), and his successor, Cesare Maria de Vecchi (1936–41), who had formerly been Mussolini’s Minister for Education. It was Mario Lago who was responsible for the creation of Porto Lago on Leros, for the rebuilding of Kos after the disastrous earthquake of 1933, for promoting archaeological excavations on Rhodes and Kos, and for the commissioning of a comprehensive new Master Plan for the expansion of the city of Rhodes out side the walls, which was entrusted to the architect Florestano di Fausto and was approved already by 1926. The Master Plan envisioned the development of an area—already partially used by the Turks for administrative buildings and large residences—to the west of the port of Mandraki, between the Old City and the northern tip of the island. Against the theatrical backdrop of the City of the Knights, with all its convenient associations of a Western, ‘Latin’ dominance, a new Foro Italico of commercial and administrative buildings was to be spaciously laid out along the shore. Associated with this plan for the city was the wider project for the building of new streets and roads, and the creation of numerous agricultural settlements (‘San Benedetto’/Kolymbi­a, ‘San Marco’/ Aghios Pavlos, etc.) and resorts for villeggiatura (‘Campochiaro’/Eleousa), at different points around the island.
   The architecture of Florestano di Fausto was highly eclectic. It grafted decorative elements from a variety of origins—Moorish domes, Venetian tracery, Gothic arches, and the clear, cuboid volumes of Aegean indigenous building—onto the framework of simple geometric forms favoured by ‘Rationalist’ architecture. It alternates in overall effect between a Crusader military purity at one extreme and an Oriental luxury at the other. Its most characteristic and architecturally courageous feature is the ‘sub merged’ arcade—a broad, generally Gothic arch, or series of arches, supported on very low, stunted columns, which give the impression of having sunk into the ground. The effect is not unpleasing, and accentuates breadth and horizontality over the soaring height customarily associated with the Gothic arch. The origin of this idea lies in the broglio, or lower arcade, of the Doge’s Palace in Venice; but it is much exaggerated when it reappears in the port-side arcade of di Fausto’s Rhodes Administration (today’s Nomarchi­a) Building of 1927. The other architects who worked in this period, such as Rodolfo Petracco and Pietro Lombardi, created buildings in a similar, if slightly purer architectural language. Lombardi’s design for the Baths at Kallithea is perhaps the most unified masterpiece of the whole movement. With Armando Bernabiti, there is a transition to a new generation of building in the late 1930s— purer, undecorated, and in every way more minimal and more consonant with the politics of the repressive Governorship of Cesare Maria de Vecchi. The simplicity is recognisable already in his early (1934) Aquarium building; but his later creations—the Puc cini Theatre, the Rhodes Town Hall (formerly the Casa Littoria, or Fascist Administration Building), and the church of St Francis—all tend ineluctably toward the military in spirit. It was in this later period that a number of di Fausto’s earlier buildings, such as his once extravagant Albergo delle Rose, were ‘purified’ of their decorative details and ‘arabesques’ to reveal a stern, more serious, core in unadorned ‘poros’ limestone.


Rhodes Island is part of the Dodecanese Island Group, Greece.


access

Rhodes Island, Greece.

By air: With a total of 6–7 daily flights from Athens to Rhodes operated by both Olympic Air and Aegean Airways, Rhodes is easily accessible at all times of year. Its airport is also the hub for local flights within the area to Kastellorizo, Karpathos and Kasos (almost daily), and to Kos, Leros and Astypalaia (three times weekly). There are also daily connections direct to Thessaloniki and to Heraklion (Crete). The airport is 15km southwest of the centre of Rhodes town (€15 by taxi).
By boat: The port of Rhodes is also the principal hub for the Dodecanese Islands, with daily connections to all the principal islands, though the frequency of connections to the lesser islands varies considerably according to season (see entries for individual islands). There are year-round, direct connections by car-ferry to Piraeus (c. 16 hours) every day; and connections to eastern Crete twice weekly. In the holiday season, there are also daily connections (by private carriers) to Marmaris in Turkey. Since the port is large and has several harbours, it is important to ascertain from which part of it a ferry will leave.
The neighbouring island of Chalki is served twice weekly from Rhodes town, but there is a daily service from Kameiros Skala (2 hours). The GNTO office in the New Town (corner of Makariou and Papagou Streets, T. 22410 44335) provides helpful sheets with weekly boat departures, museum opening times, a price-list for taxis and schedules of bus times and fares for the whole island. Its web-site is: www.ando.gr/eot

Rhodes Travel Guide

eating

Rhodes Island, Greece.

Rhodes offers some of the best and most varied eating possibilities in the Aegean— although in the city itself, the visitor will need to explore outside the Old Town to sample the best Greek food. Within the walls of the Old Town, unimaginative and often overpriced tourist-fare prevails; we would suggest only: the -Marco Polo (see lodging, above); Dinoris Restaurant (upper medium price) in a tiny alley across from the entrance to the Archaeological Museum— an elegant and traditional taverna of long standing, one of the few in the Old Town regularly frequented by locals; Photis Restaurant (expensive; open all year) in Menekléous Street—also an elegant and well-established fish restaurant, where the undoubted high quality and presentation of its dishes compensates for the hauteur of the reception and service. At lunchtime, -Indigo (medium price), inside the Nea Agorá market building (at no.105/6) beside Mandraki harbour, offers delicious, finely prepared dishes from the cuisine of Greek Asia Minor. Further afield (but without question worth the short taxi-ride) in Zephyros, southeast of the city centre, is the -Paragadi fish restaurant (medium expensive; corner of Klaude Pepper & Australias Streets: reservation recommended, T. 22410 37775) with an exceptional quality of service and of seafood and fish dishes, prepared in the best and simplest manner. This is one of the best fish restaurants in the Dodecanese. Nearby, open all year, and usually packed with locals, is To Steki tou Cheila (inexpensive) at the southern end of Kodringtonou St., on the corner of Hadjiangelou and Dendrinou Sts: the symiakó (tiny shrimps) and the wine are both fresh and delicious.
Around the island: Mavrikos in Lindos (expensive; reservations, T. 22440 31232) is a fine and justly famous restaurant with pleasing setting, serving many homemade products. The excellent and panoramic -To Limeri tou Listí ("The robber"s den") in Prophilía (T. 22440 61578) in the central south of the island, certainly merits the long journey and represents one of the best places to eat on the island: it has imaginatively and care fully prepared traditional dishes of the highest standard, e.g. a light and unforgettable imam bayaldı. Nearby, Petrino in the picturesque plateia of Váti, is a good country taverna with fresh and unaffected cuisine.

Rhodes Travel Guide

further reading

Rhodes Island, Greece.

Cecil Torr, Rhodes in Ancient Times and Rhodes in Modern Times (first published by CUP in 1885, both now re-issued by Archaeopress ‘3rd guides’, Oxford); Lawrence Durrell, Reflections on a Marine Venus (Faber & Faber, London, 1953); H.J.A Sire, The Knights of Malta (Yale, London & New Haven, 1994); Vassilis Colonas, Italian Architecture in the Dodecanese Islands, 1912–1943 (Olkos Press, Athens, 2002); Elias Kollias, The Mediaeval City of Rhodes etc.,(Ministry of Culture, Athens, 1998).

Rhodes Travel Guide

lodging

Rhodes Island, Greece.

The most beautiful and characterful place to stay in the Old Town of Rhodes is the -Hotel Marco Polo (T./fax 22410 25562, www. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; open May–late Oct) at 42 Aghiou Phanaríou Street, not far from where it joins (the main) Sokrátous Street at the Mehmet Agha Mosque. With architecturally fine rooms of great individuality, and the thoughtful and friendly service that goes with private ownership, this is a memorable place either to stay or just to dine on its imaginative, traditional food in the peace and quiet of a mediaeval walled-garden. Elegant, modern luxury at a higher price, in an enviable location just off the Street of the Knights, is offered by the newly opened -Avalon Boutique Hotel (T./ fax 22410 31438/31439, www.avalonRhodes .gr), which is open all year round. The Old Town also has many small and characterful pensions: worthy of mention are, The Apollo Guesthouse (T. 22410 32003, www.apollo-touristhouse.com) and Hotel Andreas (T. 22410 34156, fax 74285, www.hotelandreas.com), at 28c and 28d Omírou Street respec tively (contiguous, but under separate management) not far from the St John/Koski nou Gate, and overlooking the ancient church of Aghia Kyriaki. Both are relatively inexpensive, and inhabit interesting buildings; the rooms are comfortable, but small. At Ippodámou Street, 61, is the delightful S. Nikolis Hotel (T. 22410 34561, fax 32034, www.s-nikolis.gr). These last three close between late October and the week before Easter. In the winter season, the New Town has a number of hotels which are open year-round and offer more conventional services and convenience. Comfort able and satisfactory, without being too big or expensive, is the A-class Hotel Mediterranean (T. 22410 24661, fax 22828, www.mediterranean. gr), opposite the Casino at 35 Kos Street; most rooms have good sea-views. Exceptional value year-round is represented by the Esperia Hotel (T. 22410 23941–4) at 7 Griva Street which is warm, pleasant and strictly functional: the pool-side rooms are quietest.

Rhodes Travel Guide

practical info

Rhodes Island, Greece.

851 00-09 Rhodes : area 1,401sq. km; perimeter 220km; resident population 115,334; max. altitude 1,216m. Port Authority: 22410 22220, 28888, 28666. Travel and information: www.travel-Rhodes .com

Rhodes Travel Guide

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