2015 | Dec
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times (…)
in short, the period was so far like the present period,
that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being
received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only
Charles Dickens , 1859
A Tale of Two Cities 
I am not sure whether I should pretend to know nothing about Omonia Square. I guess for starters that as a word – a common noun meaning concordance – omonia (in greek: ομόνοια) is definitely sandwiched among other words in the dictionary and, there, it finds its meaning again and again when spoken or written (Figure 1). Similarly, as a proper noun, a square’s name in particular, I know with certainty that it can be found in lists, city maps and signs on building corners, marking a special place (Photo 1) – a reminder (perhaps) of some ancient deity (Figure 1). By extension, Omonia Square in Athens and the Place de la Concorde in Paris, although two different places, share, in addition to the same name, the word ‘square’ which describes a location in the city (Figure 2). Omonia square seems therefore to oscillate between the composite interpretation of these two words, supporting a common collective identity and the everyday experience that inevitably escapes surpassing any semantic identification whatsoever. From this point of view, these two squares are homologous. They go separately back and forth from word to space and place and vice versa, as Certeau would say, and while they coincide lexically, at the same time they diverge as they incessantly mark on them different transformations of the city. Two public open spaces gathering people who consent or once consented to something with a consistent mind. Omonia Square; a proper noun speaking for itself.
|concorde/ομόνοια· 1798, Γαλλία concorde, s. f. Union de coeurs et de volontés, bonne intelligence entre des personnes.
Μτφρ.: Ένωση των καρδιών και των επιθυμιών, κατανόηση μεταξύ των ατόμων. · 1835, Ελλάδα ομόνοια, η. (ομόνους) Ομοιότης, συμφωνία κατά τον νουν, τα φρονήματα […]έτι δε και ως Θεά τις […]
ομόνοια […] < επίθ. ομόνο(ος)/-νο(υς) […]
concorde adv. [cf. CONCORS] concors [CON- +COR]: a meaning influenced by false etym. from chorda […] Conjuring in feeling and opinion, agreeing, like-minded: (of a body of people) mutually agreeing […]
Trans.: adv. [See CONCORS] concors [CON- +COR]: a meaning influenced by false etymology of the word καρδιά […] to consent in feeling and opinion, to have the same opinion: (for a group of people) to consent in agreement.
platz, […] entlehnt aus dem gleichbedeutenden franz. Place […] das zurückgeht auf lat. platea (gr. πλατεῖα, nämlich ὁδός breiter weg) […] 2c) öffentlicher platz eines ortes zu zusammenkünften, märkten: gmeiner platz und ort, da man sich versamlet.
Trans.: […] borrowed from the French word Place […] and the latin Platea (gr. πλατεῖα, wide road) […] 2c) a space open to public for gatherings: a common space and place, where one meets other people.
place, signifie aussi un lieu public découvert, et environné de bâtimens, soit pour l” embellissement d’une ville, soit pour la commodité du commerce […]
Trans.: also means an open public space, surrounded by buildings either for the beautification of a city or for trade facilities […]
πλατεία, fem., street or avenue, wide road (a square)
Dictionaries (see Fig.1)
Photo 1a, 1b : Signs on building corners, Omonia square/ Athens and Place de la Concorde/ Paris (Source: F. Kafantaris)
Omonia Square in Athens is located at the junction of Stadiou, Athinas, Pireos, Agiou Konstantinou, Tritis Septemvriou and Panepistimiou Streets and has borne this name for years. Marked as uninhabited and outside the old city walls in Fauvel’s plan circa 1780, marked as a field still in the topographical plan drawn up in 1832 (Kleanthis & Schaubert), this area, was abruptly found on the right angle of the triangle that geometrically formulated the city’s urban development and formed the backbone of the first plan prepared by the architects Kleanthis and Schaubert in 1833, after Athens became the capital of the newly established Greek state. The two architects placed the administrative centre of the state here, the ministries and the palace that meant to be the house of the young kings, Otto and Amalia. The plan was soon modified. The palace moved, first west and finally east, leaving behind a powerful semantic landscape as a basis for this location: to the south, views to the classical acropolis through the eyes of the recently arrived western culture and the strategic location of the now empty space as an end point of a straight line that would bring the port of Piraeus inland again.
The first conceptual changes of the northern end mark the start of the corrective plan of the architect Klenze in 1834. In this plan, the square features the church of the Saviour which would fulfil the pre-revolution promise of the Nation to its people (Government Gazette 29.01.1834) and the layout changes from rectangular to circular. The temple was not erected, the geometry did not change and the square was renamed from Anaktoron (Palace) Square to Othonos Square (Otto Platz). The building regulations of the buildings to be built around it in the future were provided by decree in 1836 (Government Gazette 15.5.1836), taking into consideration for the first time the morphological evolution of the urban landscape there, and maybe the flow of people that would cross it everyday within the following years. In the topographical plans of Athens published from 1837 (Aldenhoven topographic plan) to 1852 (topographic plan of the French military cartographic mission) the area closest to the square is shown unbuilt and the square appears to have no activity given that Tritis Septemvriou Str. was opened much later. The layout of the square changes from circular to rectangular again following a decree in 1851 (Government Gazette 18/01/1851), while the buildings around the square are recorded for the first time in the 1860s, both in Emmanouil Kalergis’ plan (Photos 2a, b, c, d) and in the photographic panorama of Paul Baron des Granges (Photo 3), a sample of the building activity of the previous years. Furthermore, the most important information regarding our object of study is the fact that in Kalergis’ plan, the formerly named Otto square was recorded as ‘Omonia Square – Place de la Concorde’ and the square east of the palace in front of the ‘Kipos ton Muson’ as ‘Syntagma square’ .
Photos 2a, 2b, 2c, 2d: The plan of Emmanouil Kalergis (Source: National History Museum: Maps Archive)
Photo 3: Omonia Square around 1865 – Paul Baron des Granges (Source: Transformations of Athens)
More specifically, the word omonia begins to be associated to this particular location in 1862, emerging from decisive political movements that finally gave it – possibly as a foreign loan – the title Omonia. The deposition of King Otto on 10 October of that year led to its renaming, carrying the promise of the Constitutional Assembly to convert the form of government into a constitutional monarchy, authorised the National Assembly to appoint a new king and to adopt a new constitution . Therefore, the double note in the Kalergis map is a gesture indicating a change of political regime in space by conceptually shifting two of the Triangle points of Athens into something new . When the King was (almost) deposed, every “national store, place and ship bearing the name of the royal couple also ceased to exist” (Paligenesia 23.10.1862) and since Syntagma Square was already called that way since the early 1850s , now, together with Omonia square, the Otto University should be renamed to Greek University and the square on Pireos Street near Metaxourgio, from Loudovikou (Louis) Sq. to Eleftherias (Liberty) Sq. The new political situation and the new name of Othonos Square were publicly announced on 12 October, during the inaugural speech of the president of the interim government, Dimitrios Voulgaris and were celebrated with an open mass on the square.
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