On the eve of the Second World War, Athens finally saw the completion and opening for operation of its largest building, the Army Pension Fund .

More than a notable architectural achievement, gracing the capital with an important building that balances its neoclassical past with the challenge of modernism, the project had social and commercial implications, which are worth mentioning.

The intentions and enthusiasm of the era have been clearly documented: ‘…there will be richly appointed shops along the side of the arcade that will create the overall impression of a European passage… an extensively exploited basement with barber shops, bars, shoe shine stands, small shops, baths, a boxing and gym hall, a cabaret… The biggest movie theatre in the Balkans “a miracle of modernity and luxury… the latest trend in building aesthetics”!’


The decline of the Army Pension Fund building began in the 1970s. The crisis of cinema and the gradual change in consumer preferences affected the immediate surroundings and the building itself: the traditional quality hangouts faded away and people’s habits changed, shopping areas shifted, traffic conditions undermined old urban centres. The time had come to re-examine the future of the 60,000 square metres of workplace, shopping and leisure facilities in downtown Athens.


The first priority was technological modernisation, which transformed the old ‘Equity Fund’ into City Link, the current multi-purpose complex, fully equipped with all kinds of electromechanical installations; their volume alone, which is essential to support the project’s modern technological infrastructures, indicates the drastic change in requirements, but also the great challenges in the work of the experts.

Even more difficult was the task of the civil engineers. They had to reinforce the huge eighty-year-old reinforced concrete frame and make it safe by today’s standards. At the same time, they had to respect not only the outer ‘skin’ of the building complex, but also its internal geometry.


The building (or complex) , recognised by the state as a listed monument of the country’s modern culture deserving special protection, had been endowed by its original design with a particular personality that made it a favourite location in the city centre. Its strongest features were the arcades and storefronts, theatres and restaurants, cafés and patisseries . The success of the renovation works was based on striking a balance between the restoration of a valuable monument of the interwar period and the modernisation of the individual spaces.


The starting point in the overall effort was the careful restoration of those qualitative elements that reflected the atmosphere of the era and are of particular appeal for people today. The exterior of the entire renovated building highlights the art deco of the Greek interwar period with the purity of its original design, restored masterfully with modern materials: the eaves of the building along Stadiou Street have been re-lit, the Byzantium Arcade shines again, the large staircases have been restored to their former glory, the ‘old-fashioned’ pergolas on the top (or upper) floor have been re-erected. The new era frames the touches of restoration with a flash of contrast that brings it in step with the present and launches the project into the future.

Spyromiliou Arcade


Anyone passing through the Spyromiliou Arcade in recent years would have noticed the decline of the space. The comparison with the two other historical arcades in central Athens: the Orpheus and the Nikoloudis Arcades, both of which have been renovated and reintegrated into city life, is striking. What was it that brought the ‘European passage’ of the Spyromiliou Arcade into disfavour? Could a glass roof transform it into a space more accommodating to today’s world?


Of course, designing a glass roof is no simple matter. How could one maintain the distinctive proportions of the space? The glass shelter that protrudes in the form of a free cantilever from the base of the penultimate floor of the Stadiou Street wing achieved two goals: It preserved the semi-open air character of the Arcade, which allows air to circulate freely and renew constantly, and it maintained the distances between the new project and the bulk of the Pallas Theatre building.


On the floor of the arcade a bright ‘shard’ of glass was installed, separating in a spectacular way the Pasaji restaurant area from the public passageway.


The Spyromiliou Arcade became the centrepiece of the building, in which two very different periods coexist: the interwar period with its sturdy, restrained aesthetics and the 21st century with its bold constructions, the glow of its materials and its exploration for new forms.

Pallas Theatre

The restored entrance of the Pallas once again extends the public area to the interior of the building, thanks to the bold glass curtain walls. Two glass elevators have also been added to accommodate people with mobility difficulties. The large glass surfaces, supported by thin stainless steel frames, dominate the interior with their translucence, highlighting the quality of the original design with its walls and floors covered with green marble from Styra and Tinos, and Pentelic marble tiles. In the renovated Pallas Theatre, great care was taken to faithfully preserve the character of the listed building and its art deco features, which can be seen most obviously in the entrance foyer. The foyer on the first floor was also restored and converted into a small theatre. The space opened up spectacularly and the magnificent geometrical mosaics on its floors were revealed.


The stage of the theatre was raised at 28 metres and expanded. The floor was split into nine sections that can be raised and lowered, providing multiple possibilities to creators.
The most interesting surprise is the ceiling of the room consisting of three layered levels, with lateral edges forming sinusoidal waves. A contemporary adaptation of the old shell aims to bring people back to the Pallas Theatre.


A contemporary adaptation in balanced harmony with the pre-war elements that have been preserved: the stairs, the lights, the ticket boxes. The Pallas has been modernised, becoming light, transparent and open without losing its character.

Entrance to the Piraeus Bank Headquarters

The entrance to Piraeus Bank Headquarters where the old marble porchway has been fitted with a wrought-iron door, is an outward-looking reception area surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows. Occupying the central position of the space is a large bronze sculptural work by Fernando Botero symbolising the abduction of Europa. The physical organisation of the space around the sculpture – the ramp to the right, the curved stairs to the left, merging into the circular pedestal, the feature wall on the back covered with strips of red marble, the columns dressed in bronze, and the minimalist furnishings – defines the flow of movements and sets the stage for a powerful interior that highlights the potential of the Bank and its qualitative choices: something that the visitor will come to realise as they ascend to the other floors where the presence of works of art plays a major role in shaping the workplace environment.

Pedestrianisation of Voukourestiou

The pedestrianisation of Voukourestiou Street was inspired by the new circumstances created by City Link: catering vehicle traffic was diverted away, and three sections expanding the outdoor areas around the buliding were created: the first near Panepistimiou Street, as a deck for tables and chairs, the second in front of the entrance to the Pallas Theatre, with the creation of a square for theatre-goers to gather and an open-air venue, and the third, a small garden with benches near Stadiou Street. Two fountains define the beginning and end of the pedestrian zone and the sound from the running water drowns out the noise of traffic.

New life, new design, new names for both of the historical cafés we all remember as the Brazilian and Zonar’s. The art deco elements will remind us of the old days, but the state-of-the-art facilities for preparing food and desserts in the renovated basements will be supplying delicacies to the Pasaji Restaurant and Clemente VIII café.

Interior of the building

The weak points of the Army Pension Fund were the office spaces of the superstructure, which were arranged in an outdated fashion; access was difficult, and they were underused. Even more problematic were the underground spaces that were planned for shops, which were not seeing any commercial traffic. Under the redevelopment of the building (or complex) , these weaknesses were transformed into strong, vital features.

Accordingly, right under the Spyromiliou Arcade, a place was found for the pool of one of the most modern gym and spa facilities in Athens, Holmes Place. Its premises extend to the upper floors which look out over Stadiou Street and the Spyromiliou Arcade. Piraeus Bank’s Headquarters was housed in the Stadiou Street wing, with spacious premises that resemble an art gallery rather than an office space. The presence of Piraeus Bank gave a new breath of life to the building. The participation of people in the events organised in the Arcade and the pedestrian zone mark augur well for the quality and the future social life of the project.