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Greece’s long-forsaken Piraeus Tower to get facelift as part of a larger redevelopment

The Sleeping Giant Awakens

Greece’s long-forsaken Piraeus Tower to get facelift as part of a larger redevelopment

As part of its redevelopment, the dormant-for-decades Piraeus Tower will be wrapped in an innovative shading structure that enlivens the building will reducing energy consumption. (Konstantinos Koudounis/{PILA)

When completed in 1972, the Piraeus Tower, located in its namesake port city within the greater Athens urban area, was somewhat an anomaly for Greece: A modern high-rise whose height, a relatively modest 275 feet, was only matched by the 337-foot-tall Athens Tower 1, which was completed just a year earlier.

Nearly 50 years later, the 24-story tower remains an anomaly, still the second-tallest building in all of low-slung and height-sensitive Greece, where, in Athens, buildings are not allowed to exceed 27 meters (88.5 feet) as to not block views of the Parthenon. (The two aforementioned towers are junta-era exceptions.) Most notably, the International-style tower, which lacked a facade until the early 1980s, has sat completely unoccupied for its entire existence save for the first three floors in the building’s podium, which have housed an electronics store and a school over the years.

That soon will change with the announcement that Piraeus’s so-called “sleeping giant”—one Greek architecture blog rather poetically called it a “a grandiose urban carcass that haunts the skyline of the port of Piraeus”—will be stirred from its decades-long slumber as part of a $57.3 million mixed-use redevelopment scheme spearheaded by Dimand SA, Prodea Investments, and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development that will bring office space, retail, and dining to the forsaken port-side high-rise that looms over the city, not so much eyesore but a misplaced and lonely sore thumb. A 99-year concession deal will breathe new life into the dormant tower, which will also be home to a new cultural and tourism hub that focuses on the area’s rich maritime history, was finalized between the developers and the municipality of Piraeus earlier this year.

“This is a historic day for Piraeus and the largest port in the country. The impossible can become possible with design, planning and will,” said Piraeus Mayor Yannis Moralis in a statement earlier this month. “Our goal is for this iconic building to come to life again and to become a hub of entrepreneurship for the city.”

As part of the abandoned towers’ reintroduction to Piraeus, it will receive a new facade courtesy Athens- and New York City-based PILA, working alongside London-headquartered structural engineering firm Eckersley O’Callaghan. The firms won the bid as part of a recent international design competition.

“The proposal envisions a structure that is visually intriguing and incorporates strategies designed to drastically reduce energy consumption,” wrote Eckersley O’Callaghan and PILA in a press release detailing its plans to transform the present-day ghost tower into “a dynamic landmark that reflects the vibrant energy of the aspiring district of Piraeus.”

“It will also introduce planting and vegetation at ground level to enliven the streetscape around it,” wrote the firms.

The entirety of the building’s facade will be encased in a shading system composed of vertical and horizontal fins that are rotated in various positions to optimize shading and showcase panoramic views from different sides of the tower. The innovative overhang system, which will give the tower a varied, textural appearance from different vantage points across the city, is expected to reduce solar gain on the facade by roughly 50 percent and, as a result, reduce the building’s overall energy usage by 20 percent.

“The rebirth of Piraeus Tower is significant not only for Piraeus but for the wider Athens, as it signifies the city moving towards its unique coastline,” said Ilias Papageorgiou, principal of PILA, in a widely-shared statement.

Work on the tower, which is part of a larger revitalization project envisioned by Moralis, is expected to wrap up in 2023.