Main Building of Hellenikon Airport

Hellenikon, Attica, 1959-63


Eero Saarinen (1910-1961)

The main building of the Athens Airport (referred to as the East Terminal) was one of the last works by the world renowned Finnish-born American architect Eero Saarinen whose headquarters were in Birmingham, Michigan. He had already gained international recognition for the original and elegant expressionism of the TWA passenger terminal in New York and the Dulles International Airport near Washington DC.
The object of his design, as he himself pointed out, was to combine the best functional solution and to create a building that would be representative of 20th century technology and express the Greek spirit as well.








Saarinen was so successful in achieving this goal that his building transcended its utilitarian-technological nature and functioned symbolically as the gateway to Athens and to modern Greece.





The building was laid out as follows:

  • at the entrance level were the check-in booths, customs inspection, shops and a balcony with restaurants that was also open to the transit lounge,
  • the mezzanine housed the foreign exchange services, customs offices, etc, on the runway level was the splendid transit lounge, with an internal height of three floors, and the departure gates
  • and in the basement were the luggage handling facilities, and the airport’s operating services.

The large projecting upper floors included restaurants and the roof overlooked the runways and the Saronic Gulf and was popular among passengers and visitors alike. On an intervening floor was the VIP lounge, administration offices, etc.







The dynamic and plastic form of the building was particularly elegant. It was built of pre-stressed, bare concrete permitting the creation of large openings and projections. The façade overlooking the airport is divided into five parts, supported on large piers and crowned with two parallel projections. The projections provide shade to the extensive glass surfaces.

Now that the Hellenikon airport has been abandoned (in 2001, after the opening of the new Eleftherios Venizelos airport at Spata), provision has been made for Saarinen’s heritage building to be utilised by acquiring a new, cultural function.

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