In 1926, André Honnorat invited the Greek government to build a national foyer at the Cité internationale. But the Greek state’s finances were depleted from ten years of war against the Ottoman empire. The Fondation hellénique thus saw the light of day thanks to a PanHellenic engagement that reunited Greeks from Greece and the Diaspora. The recruitment of Francophile circles and the Greek ambassador in France, Nikolaos Politis, was decisive for raising the necessary funds. They were able to show that a student house at the Cité internationale would be a Greek cultural influence in Paris. The enthusiasm for the project was such that the donors’ contributions included both wealthy donors and more average donors, students and workers. The Greek government subsidised the funding. Construction of the building was started in 1931. It was inaugurated on the 23rd of December 1932. At the time it has 67 rooms that were intended to house Greek students pursuing higher education. It began welcoming its first residents from January 1933 despite Greece’s financial difficulties.
The house holds the status of a foundation and is recognised as a public utility of which the board of directors is chaired by Greek ambassador in France.
Designed by the architect Nikolaos Zahos, the building pays homage to ancient Greek architecture. Nikolaos Zahos reinterpreted elements of neoclassical architecture while using more modern construction techniques.
The concrete framework is covered with cut stone. It combines his stylistic approach with typology adapted for a student residence. The building is a simple parallelepiped (19 x 50m) and is equivalent to those of the Temple of Hera. Its national identity is immediately recognisable thanks to the details: the main entrance’s façade is arranged into a gable with a monumental iconic columned porch similar to that of the North entrance of the Temple of Athena Polias and crowned with a bas-relief phoenix and a blue and gold sgraffito by the painter Georges Leduc that bears the names of the great men of antiquity. Other details are typically art deco such as the frescos and plants that adorn the stairs. On the inside the decor also represents Greece, such as the superb columned lounge, bathed in white light and paved in small mosaics representing a phoenix.
In 1974 the work was completed to make the house more comfortable. The last renovation, aiming to restore the building to its original glory from the 30s, both on the exterior and the interior, was carried out in 2008 under the architect Yannis Tsiomis.
The building underwent a complete renovation between 2020 and 2021. This renovation ensured that the Foundation was compliant with safety and accessibility standards. The rooms benefitted from all the necessary comforts for student life. All of the networks (ventilation, electricity, plumbing) and the brickwork (acoustic and thermal isolation) were also renovated, allowing for good energy performance. Fire doors and acoustic doors, accessible by a magnetic card, were installed in all of the rooms in accordance with environmental and security standards.
The clever use of space allowed for the creation of 8 additional rooms. The house has 75 rooms. Every room is equipped with a kitchenette and a private bathroom, furniture that was especially created for the Foundation. The rooms offer a living space that is conducive to student life such as communal spaces, notably two new communal kitchens that promote collective living. The outdoor spaces are also renovated with the creation of a garden and terrace offering an outdoor living and work area.
Costa Gavras is a Greek director who was born in Athens to a Russian family. His career took off in 1969 with the success of the film Z., a film against the dictatorship of Greek colonels and which won the Oscar for the best foreign film. He won the Palme d’or in Cannes in 1982 with the film Missing (Porté disparu), a film about the responsibility of American secret services in the fall of Chile to the popular alliance government of President Allende.