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by Archaeology Newsroom

Eclecticism in Thessaloniki

During the second half of the 19th century the architectural style in Europe shows a pluralism known as eclecticism or historicism. What gives eclecticism its distinct character is that for each type of building, a certain historic form, a style, is selected so that the function of the building can be easily recognized from its exterior. Often, however, motifs and elements of various styles are combined on the same edifice.In Greece the period 1880 to 1922 is characterized by a tendency towards eclecticism and Thessaloniki is at the very centre of this movement. The commercial character of the city and the financial prosperity of its merchants find expression in architecture via the eclecticism prevailing in Europe during this period. European eclecticism originates from the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris, where most architects went for further studies. Needless to say the spirit and mentality of the Ecole des Beaux Arts is also brought to Thessaloniki by the Jewish Minority which is educated along French lines. Thessaloniki, a city of multinational character has a prevailing Jewish, Muslim and Christian population. The city of the 19th century is divided into areas distinguished by the nationalities living in them, while architecture functions as a vehicle expressing each nationality and its ideology. Thus, after 1880, the preference of the Greek community is for public buildings in the neoclassical style, dominating official Greek architecture after 1830. As regards private dwellings, the neoclassical style is applied only to the facades, the rest being typical of the Balkan folk house. Distinct in the Turkish neighborhoods are the houses of the “donmedes”, the Islamized Jews. Thus, the eclectic decoration of the exterior of the traditional houses of the upper city can be considered the result of the mixed European, Jewish and Islamic culture of the “donmedes”. Since 1890, however, a small number of public Ottoman buildings are built in the Neoclassical style. After 1880 when the city expands outside the walls, an area of villas or “towers” is created between the White Tower and the Depo District. This quarter becomes the ethnologically mixed sector of Thessaloniki, since Jews, “donmedes”, Turks, Greeks French and Italians move there as soon as they become wealthy. The architecture of each “tower” reflects the personal taste of the owner and expresses his ideology.Turks choose an architecture characterized by impressive baroque elements, a style quite close to the so-called baroque of Constantinople, “donmedes” employ, mainly, the neogothic style enriched with Art Nouveaux elements. The Greeks, on the contrary, prefer a late Neoclassical style combined with high Renaissance elements. After the fire of 1917, the area where the commercial centre was located is rebuilt. A number of commercial stoas (arcades) are worth mentioning from this phase, since they exhibit a Renaissance or Neobaroque style on the exterior and influences from the “industrial revolution” and rococo decorations in the interior. The banks are distinguished by a severe Neoclassical style, while Aristotelous Street and Square as well as the Vlali – Modiano Markets are notable for their NeoByzantine layout.