Ernesto Chiller: The reformer of Athens – These are his finest buildings

Ernesto Chiller left his footprint in the figure of the Greek urban area of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, giving to its European character. During his course he designed and supervised the construction of hundreds of public and private buildings, including the Presidential Palace of the Hellenic Republic, Ilio Melathron, Ermoupolis Town Hall, the Museum of the Macedonian Struggle of Thessaloniki etc. Ernst Moric Theodor Chiller (as his name was) was born on 22 June 1837 in the Zerkowitz district of Saxony. In 1855 he entered the Royal School of Construction of Dresden, where he studied architecture, completing his study in 1858. He then settled with his brother Moric in Vienna, where he was hired as a designer at the architectural office of Theophilus Hansen, a development that determined his later professional course. In January 1861, Chiller travelled with the Danish architect for the first time in Athens to oversee the construction of the Athens Academy building (then Sinaia Academy), whose study and design Hansen had undertaken. However, after Otto’s eviction, work stopped and he left the country. In 1864 he returned to Vienna, where he continued working at Hansen’s office, studying, at the same time, architecture and painting at the School of Fine Arts of the Austrian capital. But in 1868 he returned to Greece to work as an independent architect. The personal friendship he created with George I and his popularity in the bourgeoisie of the Greek state, strengthened his reputation with the result that he took hundreds of orders to build buildings and villas. In fact, it is estimated that during his lifetime he undertook the design and construction of at least five hundred buildings. His influences on building design on Greek territory Chiller was a key factor in the formation and development of mature Greek classicism, replacing Roman morphological elements with classical Greek. Several of his constructions had influences from Renaissance rhythms, Greek classicism, as well as neobarok. He usually incorporated different features depending on the type of building, for example neo-renaissance elements in public buildings and residences, and neo-Byzantine and Roman elements in religious buildings. He also designed villas in Kifisia and palaces in Tatoi in the so-called “Greek-Elvestic rhythm”, where he combined neoclassical elements with elements of the traditional architecture of the Alps. The architect died in Athens on 10 November 1923 and was buried in the first Athens Cemetery. One of the finest buildings designed by the famous architect in Athens are the following: Palace of the Crown Prince (1891–1897), the current Presidential Palace. Ilio Melathron, residence of Henry Schliemann (1878–1881), the study belonged entirely to Chiller, with the exception of the exterior frescoes that are the work of painter Yuri Subic. Since 1998 it has housed the Athens Monetary Museum. Royal Theatre (1895–1901), today National Theatre. National Archaeological Museum, built on designs by architect Ludwig Lange. Chiller was the third and final supervisor of the project, while making significant changes to the facade of the building, adding the four-style Ionic propyl and both galleries. Station Hall (1895), renovated by Paul Calligas in the late 1970s. Andreas Syngros Palace, at the confluence of 5 Vasilissis Avenue (former Kifisia street) with Zalokosta Street. Now central building of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Palace (house) by Andreas Syngros (1872-1873), in the Anavryton estate, between Amarousi and Kifisias. The mansion of Nicholas Thon, was built in 1891 entirely on the plans of Chiller, in the contribution of the Alexander and Kifisia buses. There is no more but the church of Agios Nikolaos is preserved in the interior of the mansion, a pericentric neoclassical chapel with a semispherical dome, built around 1900 by architect Anastasios Metaxas, who was younger than Chiller and also courtier. The first royal mansion in Tatoi (1872–74). It was destroyed by fire in 1916. Mela Palace (1874), on Aeolus Street, the largest Athenian private building of its time, the construction of which cost $1,000,000. The “Petit Palais” or Palace Psychos (house of banker Stephen Psychos), at the beginning of Vasilissi Sofia Avenue (1885), a building of the Italian Embassy. Municipal Theatre of Athens, in Kotzias Square (1888), was demolished in 1940 at the suggestion of then mayor Ambrosios Plytas. Temple of St. Luke Patissius (1865-1870). The first church – the work of Chiller that was built in a neo-Roman style, visible mainly on the dome. It presents many similarities to a corresponding temple in Chiller’s hometown in Germany. Church of St George of the Hatzikonsta Orphanage in Metaxourgerio (1899-1901), a neo-Roman style church, with the characteristic turrets on the outer edges. Former Headquarter of the Elpida School (1889), today houses the National Defence School. Old Chemistry (1887), was designed and built in collaboration with the architect of the Berlin Chemistry, Friedrich Zastrau, and the approval of the famous chemist Hoffman. It was inaugurated in 1890. German Archaeological Institute (1887–1897): four-story neoclassical mansion on the corner of Harilaou Trikoupi and Feidi streets. It was built on plans by Chiller. Austrian Archaeological Institute (1905), three-story neoclassical mansion on Alexandra Avenue. Delegeorgis Mansion (1890), a three-story mansion between Pindar Streets, Academy and Kanari, a selective style. Palace of Cups (1875-1900), a neoclassical building on University Street, one of the largest and most luxurious of that time. It belonged to industrialist Achilles Cuppa. Egyptian Embassy (1885), neoclassical mansion on Vasilissi Sofia Avenue, originally known as the Palace of Psycho. Hotel “Magas Alexander” (1889), is located at the western corner of the intersection of Athena Street with Omonoia Square. Initially it was a three-story, with statues at the coronation, which were removed when the fourth floor was added, after 1920. Pesmazoglu apartment building (1900), an imposing four-story mansion of eclectic rhythm on Vasilissis Sofia Avenue, with a view to Herodos Attikos Street. The towards Herodo Atticus Street west wing of the palace was demolished in the early 1960s. “Attikon” cinema (1870–1881), was built on plans by Chiller on behalf of Stamatios Dekozis Vouros and at first housed various shops. He received significant surgery in 1914 – 1920 during the construction of the cinema theatre. Hotel “Bageion” (1890-1894), four-story (originally three-story) building in the eastern corner of the intersection of Athena Street with Omonoia Square, opposite to “Magas Alexander”, of which constitutes a “double” structure, constructed both at the expense of John Paga (or Baga). Hotel “Excelsior” (1910-1914), four-story mansion on the corner of University Street with Omonoia Square. Frisira family building (1904), Neoclassical building with elements of Ionic rhythm, at 7 Asterion Monastery Street, Plaka. House A. Katsandris (1878), simple two-storey building at the confluence of Evripidou and Athena Streets. New Arsaceio (1900-1925), was designed by Constantine Maroudis and in 1907 Chiller undertook the complete overhaul of the facade, adding domes and metal marquee. Palace “Atlantis” (1897), Kifisia, Attica.