A landmark building exuding a sense of stability and trust
During the first ten years of its operation (1928-1938), the Bank of Greece relied on infrastructure of the National Bank of Greece (NBG), including for its functional, housing and staffing needs. It was housed in a building belonging to the National Mortgage Bank at 28 Eleftheriou Venizelou (Panepistimiou) Street until moving to its own premises in 1938.
With its main entrance on Panepistimiou Street, the building initially had four floors. After a number of extensions over the years, the Head Office eventually expanded to the entire block, and a fifth floor was added in 1982.
The building, listed as a historic monument in 1989, is a typical example of the classicist and rather austere public architecture of the interwar period in Greece.
Apart from the structural and functional specifications, the building had to meet certain stylistic requirements, such as a simple and unpretentious design and to convey stability and authority consistent with the Bank itself.
While elegant and spacious interiors can be found throughout the building, the majestic hall on the ground floor (serving for decades as the main transaction hall) is undeniably the most impressive, with its marble and wood panelling, floor mosaics, elaborate wooden doors and exquisite ceiling panels of stained glass, and by its sheer size. As the Bank’s then Governor, Emmanouil Tsouderos, aptly pointed out, “This building is sure to live up to the needs of the future generation. In the transaction hall, the citizen will always have that pleasant feeling imparted by buildings whose ample space and tasteful design are worthy of their social purpose.”
The 1929 architectural competition
At its third meeting in 1929, the Bank’s General Council decided to “launch a design competition among Greek architects and engineers for the Bank’s building in Athens”: a distinctive head office that would exude a sense of security and trust, while at the same time conveying authority and symbolism. The specifications for the façades called for “a classical Greek style in a harmonious interaction with the iconic architectural complex of the Greek capital, the Athens neoclassical trilogy (i.e the Academy, the University and the National Library) across Panepistimou Street”. The building plot occupied part of the block bounded by Eduardou Lo, Panepistimiou (Eleftheriou Venizelou), Omirou and Stadiou Streets, with a fronting on the first three.
The adjudication committee, while acknowledging the architectural merit of the entries, refrained from awarding prizes, citing a “lack of ideal solutions”, and only awarded honourable mentions (First Honourable Mention was shared by K. Laskaris & D. Tripodakis;E. Lazaridis; and V. Kassandras & L. Bonis. Second Honourable Mention was shared by A. Magiasis; I. Despotopoulos; and E. Lazaridis).
The Bank then assigned its staff architects K. Papadakis and N. Zoumpoulidis –head and technical adviser, respectively, of its newly set up Technical Service – to produce new plans based on the draft designs from the competition. The team working on the final design included D. Tripodakis, who had received a first honourable mention, and other engineers in the Technical Service. The foundation stone for the Bank’s Head Office was laid in 1933, and the building was inaugurated five years later, on 4 April 1938.
Subsequent extensions to the original building
By the late 1930s, ten years after its establishment, the Bank had a staff of over 2,000 (in his “Chronicle of the Bank of Greece”, Ilias Venezis places the exact number at 2,061: 1,714 men and 347 womennotes), while its operations kept expanding. Thus, even before the head office was inaugurated in 1938, there had already been talk of its extension.
After World War II, the building was initially expanded towards Omirou and Edouardou Lo Streets and later, by the 1970s, to Stadiou Street, thus covering the entire block (more than 6000 m²). The latter project was designed and supervised by the Technical Service led by architect A. Papanastasiou, on plans by architect N. Sapountzis and with E. Vourekas as consultant architect. Visible in this new wing are post-war architectural perceptions and a harmonious blend of different styles in the new façade on Stadiou Street.
- Bank of Greece (1978), The First Fifty Years of the Bank of Greece, Athens (in Greek).
- Biris, K.I. (1966, 1996), Athens from the 19th to the 20th century, Athens (in Greek).
- Kardamitsi-Adami, M. (2011), Bank of Greece: the buildings, Bank of Greece, Athens (in Greek).
- Psalidopoulos, M. (2019), History of the Bank of Greece 1928-2008, Bank of Greece Centre for Culture, Research and Documentation, , Athens.
- Venezis, I. (1955), Chronicle of the Bank of Greece, Bank of Greece, Athens (in Greek).
- Zivas, D.A. (2012), Architectural Guide to Athens, Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation, Athens. (in Greek).