In 1834, the year that Athens became the capital of the Greek state, the city realized the importance of its unique monuments and incorporated them into the landscape design.
At the beginning of the 20th wealthy Greeks emigrants financed many of the impressive buildings found throughout the city. With a population of only 200.000, the city had two- and three-storey houses surrounded by gardens and open grounds. Between 1900 and 1922 significant changes took place affected the country and the capital city. Greece's victory in the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 almost doubled the size of the surface area of the Greek state, while the statesman Eleftherios Venizelos elevated the country closer to European standards. A systematic effort for urban design and planning started in 1910. A series of political decisions were well underway creating the Department of Transport in 1914, the School for Architects and Mechanics in 1917, the creation of the Supreme Technical Board in 1919, the introduction of reinforced concrete in building and the Decree of 1919 that favored multi-storey buildings; all signs of the political desire to urbanize the country and match it with its western counterparts.
The period between the Asia Minor Catastrophe in 1922 and the Greek - Italian War of 1940 is one of the most exciting and controversial periods in the Athens history. The city's population rose by 145,4% and in 1940 reached 1.124.109 inhabitants. The acute housing problem resulting from an influx of 230.000 refugees from Asia Minor and numerous others from all over the Greek state and other parts of the world, signified the end of the aspiring urban planning of 1910 onwards. Besides the considerable effort of the state to organize and provide mass immigrant and low income housing, building without permits and outside the city plan is the only solution for the majority of the low income population.
Private enterprise, taking advantage of a series of economic and legal measures, took up the development of housing for the middle and upper classes. Thus, at the center of Athens urban apartment buildings appeared and the unique system of "antiparohi" (exchanging one's land block or house for a few apartments in a finished apartment building to be built on the same spot) was established. This was also the time where the English idea of the garden city planning found fertile ground in Athens' southern and northern suburbs, such as Psyhico, Filothei Nea Smirni and Paleo Faliro etc. At the same time a series of infrastructure public works, such as the improvement of mass transportation and the increase of public squares and parks added to the quality of life for Athenians and visitors.
The post war era started for Athens with considerable delay, in a setting still haunted by the German occupation (1941-44) and the tragedy of the Civil War (1946-49). The deviation of the city's architectural course from the one followed by other European cities became more evident between 1950 and 1980, mainly because of the dramatic increase of the population, by about 220%, and the diminished regulatory role of the state. Athens was being built once again by private enterprise, using the "antiparohi" system. Its neighborhoods are filled with apartment buildings and its historical center is ravaged. The city's expansion takes place without any plans or, for that matter, without permits. The demographic stability of the 1980s and 1990s and a series of favorable events helped change that situation. A positive step, in line with European and international trends, was the upgrading of the historical city center, urban regeneration projects and the restoration and use of old historical buildings.
The dawn of the 21st century found Athens in preparation for the 2004 Olympic Games. A vast program of 96 urban reshaping and beautification projects in combination with a series of infrastructure and green projects, drastically changed the city and improved the quality of life of its inhabitants and its visitors.
This is an excerpt from