After the liberation of Greece from Ottoman rule, Athens was declared the capital of the newly established Greek state in 1834. To prepare for its new role as a European political and administrative center, the city required a new urban plan and a major reconstruction. An ambitious plan was developed by the architects Kleanthis and Schaubert, but several revisions by the Bavarian architect Leo von Klenze and others reduced the scope of the plans for the urban development of Athens.
Among the characteristic buildings of the early period of Athens, several remain in daily use. The Vlahoutzi House at 35 Piraeus Street is home to the Drama School of the National Theater. The house of Kleanthis and Schaubert themselves has become a museum, the first Public Hospital is home to the Cultural Center of the City of Athens, and the Old Palace is the current seat of the Hellenic Parliament.
The early-modern buildings of Athens have largely disappeared and replaced during the second half of the 19th century by buildings in the style of Athenian Eclecticism, especially through the architecture of Ernst Ziller. The early austerity and classical rigor in the form and volumes gave way to elaborate decorations. Characteristic buildings of this new style include the Schliemann Mansion (Iliou Melathron) on Panepistimiou Street (now the Numismatic Museum), as well as the Melas Mansion on Aiolou Street, and the Stathatou Mansion on Vasilissis Sofias that now serves as the Museum of Cycladic Art.
The Asia Minor Catastrophe of 1922 left a strong imprint on the City of Athens. The region initially received the largest number of refugees, and their need for housing led to a large building program in many rural areas around the capital as well as an extension of the boundaries of the city plan. There were organized refugee settlements as well as many areas of improvised housing built from found materials, and many took their names from their lost homelands. In Ampelokipi, the refugee apartment complex on Alexandras Avenue is preserved to this day.
The German occupation of 1941-1944 left an indelible mark on the city. The Nazi detention centers (Kommandatur) were in the center of the city, in a building that remains next to the Panepistimio metro station at 4 Korai Street. The cells were in the basement of the building, with the investigative offices and services of the security service. The Gestapo was housed in a building in Kolonaki on Merlin Street. One door from the detention centers remains in place today to remind of those dark days in history, as well as a monument inscribed with the phrase “Here was the hell of the Gestapo 1941-1944.” An emblematic place of the Greek Resistance is the Skopeftirio – the Shooting Range of Kaisariani - where the Germans conducted executions of the fighters.
When looking at the building at 42 Amalias Street, it is difficult to remain unmoved when you notice the deep indentations from dozens of bullets that remain from the December Events (Dekemvriana), the bloody armed conflicts that took place in Athens from December 1944 to January 1945 between EAM-ELAS and the British army alongside government forces.
Eighteen years after the end of the Civil War (1946-1949), one of the darkest days in modern Greek history began at dawn on April 21, 1967 with the coup of the military colonels who imposed a dictatorship on the country. Two places of historical memory in Athens are worth mentioning. The building at 20-22 Bouboulinas Street was home to the Central Intelligence Service. The neighboring roof of a now-demolished building was used by the torturers of the General Security Directorate. Similarly, today’s Freedom Park (Parko Eleftherias) was then the headquarters of EAT-ESA, the secret police, and the main security department during the dictatorship. Today the buildings are home to the Museum of Anti-dictatorial and Democratic Resistance.
The uprising at the Polytechnic University and surrounding events around Athens in 1973 led to the deaths of many people. This helped bring the fall of the Junta in 1974 and began the change to a presidential and parliamentary democracy.