This strategy of revitalising abandoned spaces is being rolled out in other prime buildings across Athens. The Merchants’ Arcade on Voulis Street has just undergone a makeover. Designed in 1950, the arcade’s shops have been closed for over 20 years. The municipality is renovating the two-storey arcade and helping start-ups to launch their businesses by offering tenants the first six months’ rent for free.
The Energy and Environment Ministry has also started a public discussion on how to restore 1,800 abandoned buildings that are privately owned, some of them crumbling and in disrepair.
Beyond the legal and architectural debates, it is the human stories that breathe life into the bricks and mortar of Athens. On its walking tours, Monumenta brings along local residents to share their personal knowledge of each neighbourhood.
Back in Plaka, the group has now reached Ladou Street. Thanassis Papalexandris, aged 88, points to the roof of a corner building that belonged to his grandfather.
"That is where we used to play as children," said Papalexandris, a former bank manager. "And over there," he adds, pointing to some rusty old gates, "that's where our live-in maid used to sneak her lover into the house. Things were very different back then."