Towards Unesco World Heritage status
The period of Italian rule over the Dodecanese lasted from 1912 to 1943. However, the greatest building boom took place from 1926 to 1940. In this short span of time, comprehensive and large-scale projects were carried out, mainly on Rhodes, Kos and Leros, but also on the other islands. This included everything from infrastructure, town planning, the establishment of new settlements and the construction of monumental public buildings to residential complexes, parks and the design of urban furniture.
Construction activities can be divided into two periods. In the first period, roughly from 1926 to the early 1930s, the ambition was to harmoniously unite the different communities (Christian, Jewish and Islamic) under 'paternal' Italian government and thereby strengthen the support for the colonial rule. This led to the development of architectural syncretism; a unique, unmistakably Dodecanese mediterranean colonial style that combined both local vernacular vocabulary and early 20th century styles such as eclecticism, art-deco, novecento, historical revival and rationalism in a hybrid and imaginative way.
In the second period, especially after 1936, this idiosyncratic style was abandoned. Many of the older buildings were 'purified' and stripped of their decorative elements. Architecture again served a political purpose; in contrast to the first phase, full integration of the islands with the Italian 'mother country' was now actively pursued. The introduction of a severe rationalism, the Italian variant of the international modernist style, popular with the fascist regime of Mussolini, suited this purpose. Nevertheless, there was still room for flexibility. The case of Rhodes, for instance, shows that the facades of new rationalist buildings close to the historic ‘old town’ were often adapted to the surrounding urban environment in order to show cultural and esthetic continuity with the past.
The modern architectural heritage of the interbellum period in the Dodecanese is an outstanding example of a systematic modernization project and of visionary town planning and architecture in the early 20th century. This building program that was achieved in less than two decades was unprecedented for the wider region and intended to culturally and politically unify the islands of the Dodecanese archipelago through architecture. To achieve this, a completely new architectural style was designed on the drawing boards. It is also an outstanding example of architectural practices in the neo-imperialist period and of the imperial ambitions of a European power in the 20th century. It is the only example of large scale and systematic planned colonial settlements and architecture on European soil by another European colonial power.
World Heritage criteria
In view of the above, we believe that the Dodecanese Modern Heritage qualifies for inclusion on the (tentative) World Heritage List on the basis of one or more of the following official criteria:
(ii) - to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a cultural area of the world, on developments in architecture or technology, monumental arts, town-planning or landscape design;
(iii) - to bear a unique or at least exceptional testimony to a cultural tradition or to a civilization which is living or which has disappeared;
(iv) - to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history.
Awareness & Education
Parallel to, but independent of, the proposal for inclusion on the tentative world heritage list, the DMH project also aims to increase awareness of the Dodecanese Modern Heritage and will develop strategies for education, promotion and audience dissemination in the hope of contributing to public and tourist interest, and to calls for restoration and rehabilitation of buildings to be identified and placed on a list of ‘Dodecanese modern heritage in danger’. Concrete proposals in this regard will be developed in future phases of the project.