Municipal market – Micromega Architects – Greece

A market’s second life in Chalkida – Olga Ioannou (GR)

Architectural competitions in Greece have a long history of inexplicable cancellations and chronic postponements. The preliminary plans for the new archeological museum of Piraeus (A10 #63), for instance, were withdrawn by the new port administration, and the municipality of Athens never went through with the Athens kiosk ideas competition, either (A10 #68). The current municipal administration of Chalkida, however, seems determined to carry out the new design for its Municipal Market, and has already commissioned the plans for the next stage. After years of anticipation, finally, the market seems to be an impending reality.

The market has been one of Chalkida’s main architectural attractions and the focal point of the city’s social life for decades. It was built around the end of the 19th century (completed in 1883) and was later expanded in 1932 by the renowned architects Solon Kidoniatis and Gabriel Vagianos in the Bauhaus style. The market remained functional until 2005, when it succumbed to the lack of maintenance and the anarchic additions made by its tenants. After abandonment, it declined even further and became a spot for illegal activities. Its ruinous state raised major concerns for the community.

The idea to replace the existing complex with a new multi-storey commercial building was met with controversy, as both official organizations and citizen groups firmly opposed the market’s demolition. Even after the 2006 decision of the Central Council of Modern Monuments to list the market building, it took almost a decade of judicial battles until the matter was finally resolved. The final adjudication, issued in March 2014 called for the preservation of the building in its entirety.

The architectural competition announced in 2016 called for a preliminary plan of rejuvenation for the market and its reinstatement in the public realm. It also stipulated the regeneration of the urban square, which is adjacent to the site and was only recently turned into a subterranean parking space.

In the Red Mansion, one of Chalkida’s most prominent architectural landmarks, the nine winners of the Preliminary Architectural Competition for the Redesign of Chalkida’s Municipal Market were met with a lot of enthusiasm, while their long-awaited projects were presented to the public for the first time.

The winning proposal by Micromega Architects reestablishes the building’s monumental character by bringing out the diverse volumetric and material elements of the market’s sequential construction phases. The three neoclassical buildings of the earlier period maintain their solid masonry, but acquire completely new glazed facades covered in timber framed cladding. This second skin outlines the contours of the pitched roofs, while the constant array of wooden boards – both vertically and in the slightly cantilevered canopies – provide necessary shading.

The central building facing the urban square retains its modernistic idiom and is subtly separated from the rest of the complex. Its slender, curvilinear marquees are restored along with the traces of its original window frames. The first floor area is designated to the market’s administration and the vast rooftop area becomes available for open air cultural events.

The architects amplified the public space in front of the market by abolishing the trace of Kriezotou street, thus uniting the two opposite lots through a continuous, uniform pavement. This urban stage assimilates the area’s pedestrian flows, while a series of additional lightweight timber pavilions accommodates a program of activities for enhancing small- and medium-scale local entrepreneurship. The open space opposite the market’s main entrance allows for a clear view to the market’s interior and the newly added information kiosk in between the middle wings. Now, it only needs to be built…