In 1869 the Parliament of the Hellenes made approximately 80,000 sq. meters of public land available between the temple of Olympian Zeus and what, were then, the palace gardens and inside the Zappeion megaron. This took into account Zappas wish for the building to be as close as possible to the Stadium.
At that time the architect Anastasios Theophilas was called upon to amend the initial design of Francois Boulanger. After some delays, the cornerstone was laid on January 20th,1874. In the mid- 1880s, Konstantinos Zappas assigned the Danish architect Theophil Hansen to create a new design, even if it meant sacrificing the walls that had already been built.
But the professional bickering between these well known architects of the era and the hints of serious financial misappropriation led to long delays, and the works came to a halt twice. The building was eventually inaugurated with all due pomp on October 20th,1888.
The Zappeion Exhibition Hall was the first building in the world to be constructed in order to serve Olympic needs. Its architecture is in the neoclassical order, with a Corinthian portico, and an organization of spaces that is fully in harmony with the purpose for which it was built.
This building, the three-arched stone bridge over the Ilissus River that had been repaired, also at the expense of Evangelis Zappas, and the surrounding gardens give us a charming picture of Athens in the early 20th century.
The building has had a turbulent history, but no less so than the uses to which it was put. Rarely did it fulfill its initial purpose, and indeed it remained closed and deserted for years.
During the first modern Olympic Games in 1896, the fencing events were hosted in its circular atrium; during the second International Olympic Games in 1906, the lack of infrastructure and facilities led to its being used as the “Olympic Village”.