What if buildings could speak? What would they tell us? Thessaloniki has many fascinating buildings, and some of them have long and interesting stories. ‘When buildings speak’ explores some of the buildings in this city, and tells you more about them! This article focuses on the State Conservatory of Thessaloniki. Who has used this beautiful building in the past, and what is its history? Find out more in this article!
I decided to take part in a tour of the State Conservatory during the yearly Open House event in Thessaloniki. The building looked majestic and impressive, popping up in the distance as we made our way towards it. As we were waiting for the tour to start, I was fascinated by all the small interesting details the building had to offer. Although the exterior building has largely the same colour, the different textures struck me: marble, plaster, metal, wood, glass, et cetera.
The State Conservatory was built in 1903 in the Franconian district, a rich area of old Thessaloniki. Yet the real story of this place starts almost a century before, in 1826. Jake Abbott, a merchant and landowner. He built his family mansion at this spot. However, he lived a wasteful and unsustainable life. Eventually, he collapsed financially and sold his mansion to the Ottoman Bank, an institution established in 1856. In 1903, a group of Bulgarian terrorists destroyed the building. They dug a tunnel from a shop across the street and placed explosives on the plot. Only the façade and the statues survived.
The current building
After the destruction of the mansion, the Italian architect Vitaliano Poselli built a new building. He also designed the Stoa Malakopi in the same district. He incorporated the façade of the original building, which survived the explosion, into the new building. Once the construction finished, the Ottoman Bank was active in the building until 1930. It survived the great fire of Thessaloniki in 1917 as a fire brigade protected it.
In 1951, the IKA, a Social Security Institute, moved into the building. After the earthquake that hit Thessaloniki in 1978, people abandoned the building for some time. In 1983, State Conservatory of Thessaloniki acquired the building. The institution has existed since 1914 and is still using the building today.
Throughout the different periods, users of the building made changes to fit their needs. For example, part of the first floor was only added after 1924, and more recently, a false ceiling was added to incorporate lights, ventilation and heating. When the State Conservatory moved in, they also added a wooden floor to give the building better acoustics.
The rich history and various uses of this building show that it’s worth to dive deeper than just the surface and find out what stories are hiding behind its walls.