With the exception of Thessaloniki’s students, who have all visited the Waterworks Museum at least once, the space remains quite unknown for the majority of citizens. Despite the fact that there are many people who have heard about it, almost none of them have ever been to the museum. It is not surprising that the taxi driver who took me there, looked very puzzled at my request and asked for further directions. Similarly, a friend of mine looked up specific directions in order to arrive by car and she found out that this area is called "mpourdelotsarka" (an area where there are many brothels). The Museum is located in an extremely unappreciated and neglected area that has tried to attract people for many years now, but is still "cursed" to be marginal. In the area, there are many beautiful industrial buildings that have endured the ravages of time. These buildings are located near the Old Train Station in an area that used to be part of the city’s old industrial zone. There were many steps taken to stimulate the area over the last twenty years, but people still hesitate to come into the area unless they have a specific destination.
Part of the old building "Fix," which is near the Museum and used to be a brewery, was transformed into a place of entertainment, but unfortunately a part of it collapsed. The old tannery of the Georgiou Brothers was completely renovated and now houses the luxury hotel "Porto Palace."
Next to Porto Palace, at the old Slaughterhouse, there is an exemplary restoration in progress in order to create a cultural centre. We could say that the restoration of the old pumping station and its transformation into a Waterworks Museum is an equally exemplary project. The building complex was constructed by Belgian technicians at the end of the 19th century (1890-94), because the "Compagnie Ottomane des Eaux de Salonique" had undertaken the management and utilization of the city’s water supply at that period of time. "Compagnie Ottomane des Eaux de Salonique" was founded in 1988 by Belgian promoters and was located in Istanbul. Until 1929 the pumping station used to work with two steam pumps, afterwards with diesel machines and after the Second World War the station worked with electrically powered pumps. This latest mechanical machinery is still preserved today and was used until 1960 for five pump units. In 1984 the Water Supply Agency decided to transform the complex into a museum, and in 1987, after a proposal by the Greek Ministry of Culture and Sports, the buildings were characterized as "listed monuments." The restoration project was integrated into the Cultural Capital Agency and was finished in 2000 after the complete restoration of three buildings of the historic complex, including their equipment and the design of the surrounding area, covering 3,000 square meters.
This amazing space was chosen by the PhotoBiennale for an exhibition named "Logos VII", where many projects were presented by Andros Efstathiou (CY), Panayiotis Lamprou (GR), Zeren Goktan (TR) and Sergey Shestakov (RU). Their work was installed around the old machines of the central pumping station, proving that these old industrial spaces can be used for exhibitions with great success. Part of their work was images from places that have been destroyed because of important historical events, or because of personal catastrophes. Last night, during the opening of the Exhibition, the museum was full of people that were captivated by the activities which were prepared by the Museum of Photography.
In the surrounding environment called "Water Park," there are several historic pumping complexes and water pipes. Here, audiovisual projections were organized, which included a selection of twenty photographs of the Photography Centre "Stereosis" and the videos "Petit Lait" created by Marine Dricot (FR), the "Maison Master" by Augustin Rebetez (SW) and one twenty minute tribute in Photobiennale "Logos." I couldn’t find a reason why not to organize more events in this spectacular space. It could be great for screenings and small concerts like the one of "Polkar," who participated last night.
Are there any museums or similar buildings and complexes in your city that could be multipurpose?
Original article, originally published in Greek, here.
Credits: Data linked to sources. Images by Eleni Vraka.