By the end of the 15th century, Venice began to construct shipyards in its domains in the eastern Mediterranean for the maintenance and readiness of its fleet so as to not depend on the far Metropolis.

The construction of the Chania Arsenali (Venetian for “Shipyards”) began in 1497 and with gradual additions two impressive complexes were eventually formed. The first, at the eastern end of the harbor, comprised five arsenali, while the other, even further to the east, alongside today´s dock that had not been constructed at that time, comprehended seventeen adjacent arsenali. The westernmost was "The Great Arsenali".

The dome sheds of the arsenali, which had finial pediment facades open to the sea for the approaching ships, were almost 50 metres long, 9 metres wide, with an average height of 10 metres. Arched passageways completed the party walls, while there were two entrance gates to the second complex: one at the south side of the 9th arsenali and the other at the west side of the 17th. The arsenali were made of carved sandstone in the perimeters of the arches and all across their northern spire, and with rough stones in the other parts, with an off-white binder mortar over the entire masonry.

By the end of the 19th century the seventeen-arsenali complex had only seven remaining domes with the Great Arsenali separated from the rest of the complex, standing isolated to the west. In the beginning of the 20th century, the open sea front arches were sealed with walls, the dock was constructed, the Customshouse was erected between the isolated Great Arsenali and the part of the complex that remained to the east, and the area changed radically.

The construction the Great Arsenali was initiated in 1585 under Intendant Alvise Grimani and was concluded in 1600. Initially, there was just a ground floor but with the addition of a first floor in 1872, during the late Ottoman period, the building entered a new era. The Great Arsenali was used for many important civil purposes such as housing the Christian Community’s School. Starting in 1892, plays are also held in the main hall. After 1923 it was used as a public hospital, whereas from 1928 to 1941 it was used as the Town Hall.

The Great Arsenali was abandoned for a time, but now, it has been restored as an impressive venue for events and exhibitions. It functions as the Mediterranean Architecture Center and hosts important Greek and international events, naturally, focussing on Architecture.