Constructing Tourism in Greece in 50s and 60s: The Xenia Hotels Project



School of Architecture, NTUA, Greece




The Xenia Hotels Project started in 1950 by the newly-founded Greek National Tourism Organization (G.N.T.O.). It was a unique Greek State program, by which different types of buildings and infrastructures were constructed all over the country, setting the standards for Greek tourist accommodation.

When and why did GNTO start the Program? Which were the aims of the Project? How did the Project change over those two decades? What are the types of the buildings? What happened to the Project? This presentation's ambition is to answer these essential questions based on documents of GNTO archives.

In the early 50s, prewar tourist facilities were ruined. At the same time, the General Secretariat of Tourism was transformed to GNTO, so that the Marshall Plan would fund four hotels. Despite wishful thinking that tourism would become a main axis of postwar economy, private investors hesitated to invest in tourist accommodation. As a result, GNTO continued constructing hotels and the Xenia Project was born. From 1951 to 1958, architect Charalampos Sfaellos was the Director of of the Technical Department. From 1957 to 1967, the pioneer architect Aris Konstantinides  was the head of the Organization's Architectural Projects Sector. Thus, we can divide the Xenia hotels project into twο phases influenced dramatically by the architects in charge. The buildings of the Project (hotels, motels, pavilions etc.), built in beautiful and historical sites, follow the principles of modernism mixed with local and cultural context. The Xenia Hotels set international high standards for private Greek investors in tourism. Local communities welcomed the Program, too. The Program faded out when A. Konstantinides resigned under the dictatorship of 1967. In the following decades, mass tourism, new luxury life model and bad management led the Project to decline.

The Xenia Project not only constructed the buildings and their infrastructure, but also produced the “Xenia” brand based on sustainable policy on tourism that promoted the international “icon” of Greece as a “cultural product”.

Key Words: Tourism, Architecture, Modernism, Xenia Hotels



As Tourism is today's most promising economic activity in a country in Crisis, it is very interesting to investigate how this phenomenon evolved in Greece after World War II (WWII), the major crisis of the 20th century. Of course, the two crises are very different (today we have an economic crisis), but after the War, all countries involved were broke and they faced the challenge to reconstruct in peace, despite their recent hostilities. Reviewing the past will reveal aspects essential to understand the present and plan for the future.

The Xenia Hotels Project marked the two decades of the Greek State's post-war reconstruction in the 50s and 60s, as a Civil war followed the world war till 1949. It was a unique State program. It started in 1950 by the newly-founded Greek National Tourism Organization (G.N.T.O.), by which different types of buildings and infrastructures, based on Modernism, were constructed all over the country, setting the standards for Greek tourist accommodation.

Modernism in architecture started to spread in the beginning of the 20th century. It was born under the spirit of neoterism during the late 19th century, as a rejection of the formal, anachronistic Neoclassical architecture (represented mostly by École des Beaux-Arts) that was dominant at that time but couldn't solve the problems and the needs of the modern way of life in industrial societies at big fast-growing cities. Industrialization, capitalism, urbanism and wars highlighted modern architecture as a fast, economical and quality solution to the contemporary mass problems of housing and reconstruction. In addition, new technologies and materials (glass, steel and reinforced concrete), the standardization of the construction by using prefabricated products and the innovative modern urban theories, fit the neoterism enthusiasm. After World War II disasters it was the dominant movement.

The Xenia Hotels Project is known in architectural, economical and tourism cycles as the program which played a significant role in the development of tourism, and the buildings are part of the modern architectural heritage. Despite that, the mainstream knowledge about the Program is still based on cliché stereotypes, speculations, obsessions or prejudice. This presentation's ambition is to reveal information about the Program, based on the unpublished records of the proceedings of the GNTO Management Council (from 1950-1969), the GNTO Plans Archive, the Journal “Xenia” (the Journal of Hellenic Chamber of Hotels, 1950-1951, 1960-1967) and the Journals of the Greek Touring Club from 1931 till 1967. It also aims to answer the essential questions: When and why did GNTO start the Program? Which were the aims of the Project? How did the Project change over those two decades? What are the types of the buildings? What happened to the Project?




State Programs in Greece based on Modernism

Unlike the rest of Europe, in Greece we have very few examples of State Programs, all of which focused on solving very special social difficulties by using modern architecture: the School Program in the interwar period (30s) by the Ministry of Education, to address illiteracy; the post-war Housing Program by the Social Housing Organization, to provide low-cost residence to low-income internal migrants (Unfortunately this program was extremely limited comparing to the huge housing demand. Finally, housing was solved by private initiative by the phenomenon of “flats for land exchange” between small-lot owners and small-scale self-taught contractors, who built an apartment block on it.); the pre-war housing program for refugees of the Asia Minor Catastrophe, which can't be analyzed as a typical State program, as it lasted for decades (from 1922 till the 70s) and it is very complicated, involving urban planning, state loans, social housing, self-housing-constructions etc; the Xenia Hotels Project (1950-1967), to offer hospitality to high class international tourists, who brought valuable foreign exchange to a poor developing country.

All state programs of the 20th century used modern architecture to deliver fast, economical and quality results. The Kallia's Primary School Program (named after the engineer D. Kallias who settled the standards) in the end of the 19th century (1894) was based on neoclassical architecture (Kalafati 1988), as at that time modernism wasn't spread yet and local constructors had ignorance of the new material (betón armé) and technique.


Tourist Accommodation Programs in Europe

The Xenia program is unique for Greece, as it is the only state program focusing on economy. We can find tourist accommodation programs in Europe before and after WWII. In Fascistic prewar Spain, there are two kinds of building networks, the “Paradores” (hotels in historical-artistic style) and the “Albergues de Carretera” (=small road station inns) (Diez-Pastor, 2010). At the same time, Fascistic Portugal had the “Pousadas” project, which is something in between (Lobo, 2006).

In the coastline of post-war Communist Countries, we can find large-scale accommodation buildings and infrastructure, that were addressed to native and international tourists from the Communist Block that lacked coastline. In the cases of Yugoslavia (GNTO Council, 1951) and Bulgaria, special legislation helped to offer hospitality to international tourists from Western Europe, too, like the famous Black Sea's coast, the “Golden Sands” of Varna, Bulgaria (Kalanikov & Doychev, 2007). Those programs had similarities with the Xenia Project (all of them were state programs, used modern architecture, aimed to import foreign exchange) but also differences (as the communist programs were large-scale programs focusing on mass tourism; thus, many of the hotels lost their human scale, came in contradiction with the natural environment and some of them can be characterized as Brutalist architecture).

Tourism programs in Western Europe, like Spain's program, integrated into “Apertura” (=diplomatic and economic opening) of the late Franco's Dictatorship, and the “Languedoc-Roussillon Interministerial Tourist Development Mission” in France, known as “Mission Racine” (by the principal in charge) took place in the 60s, focusing on mass tourism. Both programs favored the Mediterranean coast and costed irreversible environmental degradation. On the contrary, the Xenia Project was focusing on a tourist elite and its small-scale buildings were adjusted to the landscape.

Figure 1-5: International Tourist Posters.



Prewar Tourism Accommodation

First modern Olympic Games (1896) organized in Athens attracted international "tourists". Until then, foreigners visiting Greece for non-commercial reasons, were romantic travelers, “lovers” of ancient Greek civilization. Archaeologists, historians and writers came to Greece as part of the “Grand Tour” to the East (=since the 17th century, a noble should travel once in his lifetime to explore the “Antiquity”, mostly in Italy and if possible in Greece).

In early 20th century, the Greek State appreciated the potential economical benefits offered by tourism, and from 1914 it started organizing official tourism bureaus in several forms, in order to attract foreign tourists and expatriates, but also to develop domestic tourism.

Table 6 Official Tourism Bureaus


Tourism Bureau under the supervision of the Ministry of Economics


Independent Department for tourists and exhibitions


Greek National Tourism Organization (primary form)


Sub-Ministry of Press and Tourism


Directorate of Spa-towns and Tourism


General Secretariat of Tourism


Greek National Tourism Organization


For the same purpose, there were founded: the Traveling Association (1921) [later re-founded as a Greek Touring Club (1937)], the Greek Automobile and Touring Club of Greece (1926), the Royal Yacht Club (1933) etc and the professionals of the tourism organized unions  such as the Chamber of Hotels (1935). In addition, the State established Tourist Police (1935), Tourism Schools (1936) and the Hotel Credit Organization (1939).

Travelers, traders, businessmen and tourists found decent hospitality in lodges located all over the country. They could find luxury, European-standard hotels (like the Aktaion Palace in Phaliro or Poseidonion on Spetses island) both in urban and in cosmopolitan places. In the province, they could find more humble facilities: hotels, inns or guest-houses, even rooms for rent in country houses.

At the same time, Spa-towns were organized at famous Mineral Springs (Aedipsos, Loutraki, Ypati, Kammena Vourla etc), as treatment and leisure centers, taking the example from the european paradigm. These accommodations (spas and hotels) were addressed to domestic tourism and expatriates (mainly from Egypt or from America). The buildings built since the 30s, in contrast with urban hotels, are formed in plain volumes, without any unnecessary decorations. The emphasis on simplicity, functionality and usability has been affected by the Bauhaus modernism.


Figure 6: GNTO's Tourist Posters.

The first State buildings for tourism accommodation were constructed in 1930 by the GNTO -primary form- (Ekdromika 20,27/1931, 32-33,41,43/1932). They were modest guesthouses for tourists, serving overnight stay in significant archaeological places that lacked decent accommodation. We don't have adequate information about them today, as most of them are demolished. The first guesthouse was built in Sounio. The same type was used on the Acropolis of Corinth, that still exists in bad condition, currently owned by the Hellenic Archaeological Service. Another one was planned in Delos, with restaurant and hotelier's residence. This one was designed bigger than the previous guesthouses, as the archaeologists would use it, too. In 1954, it was renovated and named “Artemis”. A “byzantine” style pavilion was built in Mystras. A “minoan” style was built in Phaistos. The plans were made by D. Kyriakos (known for refugees housing in Alexandras Ave.). The guesthouse had male and female dormitories for tourist groups. In 1954, it was renovated by the new GNTO.

The Organization also built tourist pavilions on Mount Parnis, in Paleokastritsa on Corfu island, in the archaeological site of Knossos (used as tourist office), on Pefkias beach at Xylokastro (used as refectory by car travelers), in Greek-Bulgarian-Turkish border checkpoint at Pythion (used as restroom), in the newly constructed artificial Marathon lake. Most of the tourist guesthouses and pavilions were replaced by new ones by GNTO, after WWII, as they were obsolete.

Primary GNTO also planned transformations of medieval castles into pavilions in the fortress of Patras, in Nafplion's Bourtzi, which was reconstructed and expanded after WWII (1951) by  architect K. Laskaris (GNTO Council, 1950), and in the venetian dockyard in Gouvia on Corfu island by the same architect (Technical Chronicles journal, 1933), a project that was never realized, thus saving the monument.



Figure 7: The “minoan” style guesthouse built in Phaistos (D. Kyriakos).
8 & 9: The plans of the tourist pavilion in Gouvia on Corfu island (K. Laskaris).

At the same time, primary GNTO planned an avant-garde program, so as to renovate and re-use abandoned monasteries as guesthouses (Ekdromika 20, 1931). Osios Loukas was the first Monastery in the list, followed by the Karyes & Vatopedi Monasteries of Mount Athos. National journal “Empros” (24/07/1930) supported GNTO's proposal, further suggesting that all monasteries be reused as sanatoriums for the public's vacations. Both articles tried to convince the Goverment to approve the program, but it seems that it was overruled. The program was revived after WWII (GNTO Council, 1954, 1955) for international tourists. The guesthouse of Osios Loukas was the  first hostel completed. The two guesthouses of Meteora Monasteries (Varlaam Monastery guesthouse for men and Metamorphosis Monastery guesthouse for women) were the next and simultaneously the last projects, as the program failed, due the strict Orthodox Church tradition and the untrained (from a touristic perspective) Monks.

In 1935, Civil Engineer Ath. Manou, in his article “Tourism in Greece” published in Technical Chronicles journal, suggests the establishment of a “General Tourist Enterprise” owned by the State that would manage Spa-Towns, Archaeological places and tourist sites. Among its suggested responsibilities, the Enterprise would have to construct exemplary tourist accommodation using typology. He suggested: type A as mountain hotel, type B as Spa-town hotel, type Γ as sea-side hotel (all three with 100 rooms), type Δ as town hotel (50 rooms). He also suggested tourist pavilions with accommodation: type A (30 rooms) and type B (30 rooms & lobby), between long distanced tourist points. The buildings of the program should be built both in places that lacked accommodation facilities and in places with private facilities, as competition among them would improve the tourist services provided. The proposal stayed in theory, but it is the first time that we find such a large-scale state intervention expressed, similar to the Spanish or the Portuguese project.


The post-war projects of the General Secretariat of Tourism

During the hostilities of WWII and the Greek Civil War (1946-1949), all available accommodation facilities were requisitioned by the military occupation and later by the Greek army. The end of the wars found most of the accommodation buildings demolished and the remaining ones fully obsolete or damaged.

In 1945, just after WWII, the General Secretariat of Tourism (G.S.T.) was founded. The Tourism Reconstruction Program was planned by the Supreme Council for Tourism. The program proposed: the development of tourist sites (legislated in 1946), the reconstruction of Spa-Towns, the renovation of the prewar GNTO facilities, the adaptation of old buildings to hostels and new projects. The Council succeeded in reaching an agreement with the American Aid in Greece to include funding of the renovations and the new facilities in the Marshall Plan (1948-51), under the condition that all tourism projects would attract foreign exchange right away. The selected places were: Rhodes, Loutraki, Aedipsos, Corfu, Cyclades and Crete.

The program included the prewar pavilions with accommodation of: Ainos in Kefalonia (unfinished) which was abandoned in 1953 because of the earthquake, Knossos that was expanded, Sounio, Lindos Rhodes, Corinth etc. The new GST's projects are the pavilions of Palaiokastritsa (1951, architect J. Kollas), which is the first project to be completed by the American fund, of Xylokastro “Ammoudia”, of Aedipsos (1951, architect M. Zagorisiou), of Εpidaurus, of Mycenae, of Dafni. In Nafplion, the fortress of Bourtzi was reconstructed and expanded by architect K. Laskaris (1951). Frontier Railway Stations at Pythio and Eidomeni were planned to be renovated.

The most important projects of that period were the pavilions of Εpidaurus, used as restaurant near the prewar unfinished hostel, and of Mycenae, used as refectory, both planned by architect K. Laskaris. Dafni's pavilion (architect Ch. Sfaellos) included a camping site, where the Greek Touring Club was organizing the Feast of Wine, since 1955.

All projects started by the General Secretariat of Tourism were completed by GNTO after 1950. GNTO replaced many of them with new ones, a few years later, when they became obsolete.


The foundation of GNTO & the new Tourism Programs

Despite wishful thinking that tourism would become a main axis of postwar economy, private investors hesitated to invest in tourism accommodation. As a result, in 1950, the American Aid was convinced by the Supreme Council for Tourism to fund four hotels in strategic places, but still had doubts about the ability of the Secretariat to manage them. Thus, the General Secretariat of Tourism was transformed to GNTO, an independent and flexible organization, authorized to: (1) manage tourist facilities owned by the state (hotels, spa-complexes etc), (2) invest in tourist projects in places lacking interest for private investments (hotels, pavilions, highway stations etc), and (3) organize commercial activities which lacked interest for private investments (festivals, tours, cruises, advertising etc).

The first session took place in great formality, on February 14th, 1951, with the presence of President S. Venizelos and the Minister of Commerce, J. Glavanis. The members of the first Council were the same as in the previous form, in order to continue the Secretariat's programs. In a two decades period, many programs were organized by a Council formed by various counselors. Despite any disagreements between them, the counselors always respected each other, and they didn't hesitate to conflict with the Government, when that was necessary for the tourism's benefits.

The most important tourism programs planned by GNTO, which affected the position and/or the types of buildings produced, are: the “New Accommodation Program” including hotels and motels, named (after 1960) “Xenia Hotels Project” that became a model for private hotel projects, the “Tourist Pavilion Program” with or without accommodation (later integrated in the Xenia Project) including bars, souvenir shops, small exhibitions of folk art, tourist information kiosks etc, the “Development of Tourist Sites” with special legal status for tourism enterprises, the “Islands Development Program” that aimed to transform “wild” and beautiful places into cosmopolitan resorts (like Mykonos), the “Touristic Exploitation of Mount Pelion” a place that combines mountain for skiing with the sea and the tourist season extends beyond the summer period, the “Touristic Exploitation of Rhodes” the prewar cosmopolitan island, “Tours by Pullman coaches” and “Cruises” until private entrepreneurs took over, the “Road Stations Program” in partnership with private oil companies that was transformed into a motel program, the “Greece-Yugoslavia Cooperation Program”, the “Greece-Italy Cooperation Program”, the “Reconstruction Program for Spa-towns”, the “Touristic Exploitation of Archaeological sites, Medieval Castles and Byzantine Monasteries”, the “Acropolis projects”, the “Touristic Exploitation of Mount Parnis” and the “Touristic Exploitation of Saronikos Seaside”, both projects planned by C. Karamanlis' Government in which the GNTO was opposed to, the “Mount Lycabetus projects” etc. Occasionally, there were many other programs: transformations of old buildings to hostels, organizing festivals (Athens, Epidaurus) etc.


2.     EARLY PHASE PROJECTS (1950-1957)

From 1951 to 1958, architect Charalampos Sfaellos was the Director of GNTO's Technical Department. The Architectural Design Office consisted of the young architects: M. Zagorisiou-Giannouleli, G. Georgiades, K. Spanos and H. Souffli-Spanou. The established architect Cl. Krantonellis was the head of GNTO's Projects Section (1951-53). GNTO's counselor, P. Sakellarios, prominent architect at that time, had an active role in architectural issues. Many projects were outsourced to renowned architect offices, such as Doxiades Associates.

The first 4 new GNTO's accommodation buildings planned to be funded by the American Aid were assigned to well-known architects of the time. The Americans requested the selected sites to  return an immediate profit that would fund new tourist facilities. The selected places were: Delfi as one of the most important archaeological sites, Mykonos the prewar cosmopolitan resort, hestoric Nafplion the first capital of Greece and Kastoria the traditional town near the border with Yugoslavia, that provided the only car travel road connecting Greece with the western non-communist countries. The A' class hotel “Delfi” was designed (1951, expansion 1955) by the professor of architecture D. Pikionis, who was also involved to the Acropolis project. Architect P. Vasiliades was temporarily detached from Ministry of Reconstruction to design the hotel “Leto” (A' class, 1951) in Mykonos. The A' class hotel “Amfitrion” in Nafplion was designed (1951, expansion 1956) by Cl. Krantonellis. Unfortunately, the Americans didn't welcome the road-connection with communist Yugoslavia, and rejected Kastoria's hotel. GNTO kept up the project on its own funds. The A' class hotel “Du Lac” was designed by Ch. Sfaellos (1953) with fellow architect M. Zagorisiou. GNTO Council approved the architectural designs after several morphological  interventions (GNTO Council, 1953) aiming to harmonize the modernist building with the cultural landscape of the traditional town.

Despite the fact that the first four of GNTO's hotels were a great success, private entrepreneurs still avoided to get involved with tourism sector. Thus, the Organization continued the accommodation project by building hotels in Archipelagos, Ionian Sea, archaeological and historical sites, Pelion, Spa-towns etc.

The Archipelagos islands hotels are: “Thetis” on Skyros (B' class, Κ. Doxiades - Α. Skepers Associates, 1955), a hotel on Samothraki (B' class, Stuart M. Shaw & K. Spanos, 1955), “Meltemi” on Paros (B' class, K. Kapsampelis, 1955), “Alkyon” on Thasos (B' class, Ch. Sfaellos, fellow architects K. Spanos & H. Spanou, 1956). The “Hermes” hotel on Syros (B' class, K. Georgiades, 1956) and the “Atlantis” hotel on Santorini (B' class, civil engineer J. Venetsanos, 50s) joined GNTO's accommodation network for financial reasons.

The hotels on Ionian Sea islands are: “Ainos” in Argostoli of Kefalonia (B' class, Ch. Sfaellos, fellow architects K. Spanos & M. Zagorisiou, 1955), “Des Fleurs” on Zakynthos (B' class, P. Vasiliades, E. Vourekas, P. Sakellarios, 1955). “Corfu Palace” in Garitsa (luxury class, P. Sakellarios, 1953) joined the network after a 50% depreciation of Greek Drachma, as the entrepreneurs had loans in USD. Due to the “Greece-Italy Cooperation Program” Ch. Sfaellos was assigned to design another hotel at Kanoni on Corfu island (B' class, 1958). In 1965, it was replaced by the “Corfu Hilton” hotel, as the unit was privatized and demolished by the new owner.

In Pylos, a place with archaeological interest, the Organization built the “Nestor” hotel (B' class, 1956), one of the less featured GNTO's units, as the Council was disappointed by the architectural result. In the spa-town of Ypatis, which fulfilled all the standards to be developed as a European bathing resort, GNTO raised an A' class hotel (Ch. Sfaellos, fellow architect D. Zivas, 1958). Due to the “Touristic Exploitation of Mount Pelion”, Ch. Sfaellos designed his last project of his career in the Organization, in Tsagarada (B' class, 1957, expansion 1964), as the Council's morphological intervention was the beginning of the end for their partnership. The hotel of Ouranoupolis (Β' class, P. Sakellarios, 1958, expansion 1964 bungalows) can be characterized as the last project of the early phase and the closing project of the GNTO-Church (pre-war) cooperation (the traditional town of Ouranoupolis is the passage to the autonomous Monastic State of Mount Athos). P. Sakellarios was discharged from the Council in 1958 and Ch. Sfaellos left the Organization in 1958. Their withdrawal closed the early GNTO's projects period.

Other projects GNTO executed were: tourism pavilions, traditional mansions turned into hostels (1954 “Hydra” Voudouris Mansion, Hydra, architect P. Manouilides) and frontier stations (1953, Eyzones, Evros, architect K. Spanos). The tourism pavilion project included: repair of pre-war facilities, finishing pavilions founded by the GST's and new ones, serving: beach facilities (in Mykonos, Kefalonia etc), archaeological sites (Episkopi etc) and historical places (Thermopylae, Marathon).

The Early phase projects were hotels in their majority. By that time, each hotel had its own name, originated in myths, heroes, lakes, mountains, winds and local site names. Most of the hotels were designed by the the GNTO's Technical Department. Ch. Sfaellos, particularly, had designed 6 of them himself. Beyond the use of the basic principles of modernism (grid, pilotis, standardization, functionality etc), we acknowledge his personal creativity in the use of: the upside-down cuneiform pillars of pilotis (Ainos, Thasos, Tsagarada), glass-bricks, the crook-lined wings, split levels etc, that formed his personal architectural style. In the cases of Kastoria and Tsagarada, his original plans were alienated by the Council's intervation, by using tile roofs, stonewalls etc, so as to be adjusted to traditional forms. Ainos, Thasos and Tsagarada units (before interventions) seem to be sequels of a single experimentation. Ypatis and Corfu hotels are both unique; the last one can be characterized as one of the best projects of his career.


Figure 10: The Organization's hotels designed by Ch. Sfaellos.


In 1957, in his article “Architecture and Tourism” (Architectoniki, 1/1957), Ch. Sfaellos   made a report on behalf of GNTO's Architectural team, explaining that the selected sites were in “closed-loop tours”, where tourists could find in “calculated distance” places to rest, eat or spend the night. Large-scale buildings had to be harmonized with the natural/traditional/archaeological landscape, without any “graphical décor”. All units complied with international standards and GNTO's budget in order to become examples for private investors. At the end of his article, Sfaellos concluded that the Organization's contribution was more than tourist development of a site, it was a cultural intervention.

3.     LATE PHASE PROJECTS (1958-1967)

From 1957 to 1967, the pioneer architect Aris Konstantinides was the head of the Organization's Architectural Department. He recruited a team of young passionate architects: Ph. Vokos (1958-after 1967), G. Nikoletopoulos (1957-1970), K. Stamatis (1958-1966), D. Zivas (1958-1963) and the only woman of the team, Aik. Dialeisma (1957-1963). The Organization also hired more experienced architects, such as J. Triantafillides (1958-1964) and Ch. Mpougatsos (1958-1966). In this phase, many projects were outsourced, too, to renowned architect offices such as J. Rizos (1961, Xenia of Edessa), J. Antoniades (1961, Xenia in Mytilene), P. Manouilides (1966-76, Xenia of Nafpaktos “Evdokia”), P. Mylonas (1959, “Mont Parnes”), K. Kitsikis (1960, Xenia of Portaria), A. Papageorgiou-Venetas (1961, Xenia in Sifnos), Sp. Tsaousis (1961, Xenia Motel in Makriammos Thasos with bungalows), N. Chatzimichalis (1962, pavilion Xenia in Sounio) etc.

Konstantinides' new architectural team acted as a workshop with common architectural values, contrary to the previous early phase team that was centralized around Sfaellos. Before joining GNTO, Konstantinides had worked in the Social Housing Organization (SHO), making his first steps in standardization in Housing Programs. Nikoletopoulos and Stamatis also worked in SHO after their graduation. All members of the architectural team, even young architects, were assigned large-scale, demanding projects. Although Konstantinides is characterized as an argumentative/strict person, he trusted his team, giving them complete architectural freedom. 

We can categorize the types of the new buildings of the second phase in two groups: Tourist Accommodation (Hotels, Motels & Highway Stations with accommodation) and Tourist Facilities without accommodation (Beach Facilities, Pavilions-Restaurants, Tourist Stations, Special Facilities, Frontier Stations).


Figure 11: Organizing rooms in wings. Aris Konstantinides.

The second phase hotels are B' class in majority, contrary to GNTO's principles (supporting high-standards tourism), in order to reduce the cost per unit. For the same purpose, the first accommodation buildings of this phase still had shared bathrooms or lacked heating system, a fact that reduced the life expectancy of these hotels. Reduction of the units' cost was fundamental for the Organization, as they would build more facilities with the same budget. At that time (1958), a new type of accommodation, the “motel”, was imported to Greece, targeting tourists who would travel by car around the country, spending each night at different, cozy hotels, with parking lots, built nearby national highways. Organizing rooms in wings, providing outdoor access to rooms, replacing bathtubs with showers and selecting low-cost non-urban lots, reduced the cost of construction. Highway Stations with accommodation were a type similar to motels, in smaller scale and with fewer rooms (usually with shared bathrooms), that had the potential to became a motel by future expansion. All types of accommodation buildings usually had oversized public facilities to serve future expansions and the local communities. In some cases, another new accommodation type, “bungalows”, was used for expansions, as it could easily adapt to different landscapes.

The second phase projects are too many to be all analyzed (or even mentioned) in this paper, so we have to refer only to a few representative ones. The first hotel designed by Konstantinides is “Triton” in Andros (1958). His second project was the “Xenia” Motel in Larissa (1958), the first GNTO's  motel. This is the first time a project is named “Xenia” (GNTO Council, 1958). At the same time, Konstantinides was studying the Motel of Igoumenitsa (1959) and he decided to experiment with the standardization of the buildings to save time and to reduce the cost. As he explained in his literature (Konstantinides, 1992, v1, pp 270-274) he took advantage of the neutral environment of both motels and designed them as “brothers”. In 1960, he presented them side by side in Architectoniki magazine (24/1960, pp 71-80), exposing their similarity, without any comments. Gradually after 1958, all the projects of the Organization were named “Xenia” (even the older ones), so as to be established as a high-standard tourist-facilities brand, which is actually recognized till nowadays.

All the second phase buildings continued to support GNTO's policies on tourism. We find Xenia hotels, motels and highway stations in almost all Archipelagos islands [Andros, Mykonos, Kos, Poros, Samos, Rhodes, Skiathos, Spetses, Chios, Creta (Heraklion, Rethimno, Karteros, Chania), Patmos, Sifnos, Skopelos, Thasos], in archaeological and historical sites [Andritsaina, Olympia (Xenia Motel I, II, “SPAP”), Sparta, Nafplio (Xenia II, “Nafplia Palace”), Methoni, Kalamata], in Northern Greece [Drama, Edessa, Kozani, Komotini, Xanthi, Serres, Florina, Paliouri in Chalkidiki], in winter tourist destinations [Arachova, Karpenisi, Kastania in Corinthia, Vytina, Erymanthos], on Mount Pelion [Portaria], in Volos, on Mount Parnis [“Mont Parnes”, “Parnis”, “Xenia” hotel], along national highways [Kalampaka, Larissa, Platamonas] and especially for the Greece-Italy Cooperation Program” [Igoumenitsa, Ioannina, Arta, Messolonghi, Itea, Mornos, Acheloos, Parga, Nafpaktos], along Saronikos Seaside [“Asteras” bungalows & “Arion” hotel in Vouliagmeni, Grand Resort Lagonissi], in Spa-towns [Kyllini] etc.

The most well known pavilions are in: Evripos (1961, G. Nikoletopoulos), Kozani (1960, with accommodation), Antirio (1959, J. Triantafillides), Eretria (1959, Aik. Dialeisma), Livadia (1960, A. Papageorgiou-Venetas), Akropolis of Serres (1957, G. Nikoletopoulos), Sounio (1962, N. Chatzimichalis), Filopappou (1960, “Dionysos”, P. Vasiliades), Loumpardiaris (1960, D. Pikionis), St. Loukas Delphi (1960, P. Pikionis), Xylokastro (1960, K. Mpistios) etc.

The second phase Frontier Stations are in: Igoumenitsa (1959, G. Nikoletopoulos), Evzones (1963, G. Nikoletopoulos), Nikis (1958, Aik. Dilaeisma), Kipoi (1961, K. Stamatis) etc.

The most popular Beach Facilities of this period are: St. Kosmas (1961, Ph. Vokos), Vouliagmeni I (1960, “Asteras”, K. Voutsinas), Vouliagmeni II (1959, public beach, P. Vasiliades, E. Vourekas, P. Sakellarios), Arvanitia (1962, J. Triantafillides), Loutraki (1960, D. Zivas), Kavala (1961, G. Nikoletopoulos), Glyfada (1958, P. Vasiliades, E. Vourekas, P. Sakellarios), Patra (1960, R. Koutsouris), Nafpaktos (1962, K. Stamatis) etc.

In the second phase GNTO also transformed traditional mansions into hostels (1958, “Hydra II” Leousis Mansion, Hydra, architect Aik. Dialeisma), re-used obsolete big-scale buildings into hotels (1960, Parnis Sanatorium, J. Antoniades), renovated historical tourism accommodation (1958 renovation & expansion, “Poseidonion”, Spetses, P. Zililas) etc. At last, there are some special projects such as: the Xenia guesthouses & actors' changing rooms in Epidaurus (I & II, 1960-62, A. Konstantinides), tourist offices (Rome, Syntagma Square Athens), Glyfada Golf Club etc.

From Konstantinides literature we can summarize his personal architectural principles that he inspired to his team. The architect of each hotel would select the location where it should be built, in a privileged site, providing beautiful view, proper orientation and accessibility. The main general architectural characteristics are the following: environmental integration (natural, urban and cultural environment), proper orientation (usually south or east), a functional program of the floor plans, simplicity in forms and authenticity of the materials and techniques, a low budget construction, separation of public and private functions, relationship between inner and outer space, grid, typological organization and standardization of the construction. The materials selected were usually a combination of modern materials and materials used in local traditional architecture. Beyond these common characteristics, each building is unique.

The Program faded out when A. Konstantinides resigned under the dictatorship of 1967. Ph. Vokos took his place in the Organization, at the beginning of a new era; as mass tourism dominated in the following decades, the private sector took the baton of the tourism industry and state accommodation was no longer in need. Since 1967, the GNTO finished the projects of the previous period. Only a few units were built after the political changeover in 1974 [such as the Xenia of Lefkada (1978, F. Deligiannis) and the Xenia “Evdokia” of Nafpaktos (1966-76, P. Manouilides)]. They were planned before 1967, but the plans were abandoned due to political reasons. In 1974 A. Konstantinides returned to GNTO and lead another important accommodation program, the re-use of traditional settlements as guesthouses.


State intervention in tourism was an international practice until the 60s or the 70s. In Greece, the state intervention aimed to support the private investments in the tourism sector. The lack of private investors generated state tourism programs, not only in accommodation, but even in commercial activities.

The program known as the “Xenia Project” includes tourist accommodation and infrastructures made by official tourism organizations, from the beginning of the 20th century (the prewar pavilion-hostels of primary GNTO, the projects of the General Secretariat of Tourism, the primary and the late projects of GNTO), so as to reinforce tourism as a main axis of economy. Projects in Spa-towns are excluded from the Project, as they didn't succeed in attracting international tourism according to the model of European bathing resorts. The twο phases of the Xenia projects in the 50s and 60s were dramatically influenced by the architects in charge (Ch. Sfaellos during the early phase, A. Kostantinides during the second phase). The architect of each project designed from the architectural shells till the finishing details, which can be considered as a  holistic design approach (Georgiadou et al., 2014).

The buildings of the Project (hotels, motels, pavilions etc.) built in beautiful and historical sites, follow the principles of modernism mixed with local, geographical and cultural context. Using Modernism as the official architectural style, it was a conscious political choice, not only to benefit from the advantages of the new materials, but also to promote Greece as a West-oriented progressive country. The buildings were not planned as stand-alone projects, but as part of an integrated sustainable policy on tourism. The GNTO gave priority to the provinces (usually not the urban places) and in places that lacked private tourism facilities, as the main goal was not the hotel units themselves, but the tourist development of the region. Middle-class tourism was left to private enterprises that exemplified from the Project's high standards units. Those facilities became very popular to the local societies, too, hosting their cosmic events.

The Program was lead to decline because of bad management, mass tourism and today's prevailing luxury lifestyle that is contradicting with the sober post-war modernism. From the 50s, GNTO made several unsuccessful efforts, using different models, to privatize the buildings, as a public operator could never be as flexible as a private one. But even in the cases that a unit failed as an economic activity, it always gave a long-term macroeconomic profit, because it contributed to the tourist development of that particular region. Today, most of the buildings are obsolete and abandoned. On the other hand, the architectural identity of the buildings in use is dramatically transformed by awkward attempts for renovation and expansions. The “aggressive” effort of the Association of Greek Architects (since 2007) to declare the most important Xenia Project’s buildings as monuments, has saved some units for the time being. But this is only the begin of the debate towards restoration.




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