The New Acropolis Museum, Athens, Greece.

For the ones that are missing

I admit that the Acropolis Museum is not fresh news, but I thought that it deserves an article. As a greek architect, I must tell you that the whole story of an appropriate museum that would host all the artifacts of the Parthenon (and many more) has its routes long ago. For many years I heard news and rumors about the museum and how this building could be the stepping stone of an effort to bring back the stolen marbles of Greece’s national monument and the symbol of Athens.

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site planThe project was entrusted to Bernard Tschumi Architects and it was finished in 2009. The result was a big, concrete and glass, simple linear building among much smaller residential mostly structures in one of the most historical part of Athens. And guess what, it is absolutely brilliant…
Some might object that it is out of proportions, it has no respect of the architecture of the historical neighborhoods it is in and the materials used are not what you would say compatible with the materials on the surrounding buildings.

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That was the intention of the architectural team though. There was no point in making something that would “fit in”. Making the building that would host some of the most important artifacts in human history is a big deal and it should stand out. But the catch here was that the creators should restrain themselves in terms of forming and try not to overdo it, in such a way, so that the “shell” would not tower the “gems” inside it.

New Acropolis Museum Location: Athens, Greece Architect: Bernard Tschumi Architect

Gladly, they managed to go pass that landmine and delivered a design that is on the edge of being characterised as simplistic. The museum is very plain as far as its plans and sections are conscerned and as a result, the final form is very clean and crisp.

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Additionally, althougt its undeniable size, the use of certain materials renders the whole composition non-monumental, despite all odds. In the sight of this building one can sense the clarity and order that are inherent to its nature. The excellent application of concrete, the extent use of glass surfaces and the small variety of materials amplify this effort of neatness and cleanness. The neutral grey colour of concrete works as background and the properties of glass reflect the surrounding enviroment, thus creating a “quiet giant” that lives in the historical centre of Athens in a harmonius way.

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These features are also found inside the museum. The whole structure and interior design are not competitive to the artifacts. The main event here is what’s inside and for a visitor this is very clear. To this direction participates the selection of ambient natural light as a museological mean of pointing out the exhibits. The light floods into the top floor, penetrates the core of the building and finally touches the archaiological excavation below it.

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The experience the public recieves is very rich and while there is great interest from the people about a wonderfully made interior and a vast variety of historical objects, an idea of sadness is floating at the same time in the atmosphere. This feeling is at its peak on the top floor of the museum.

New Acropolis Museum Location: Athens, Greece Architect: Bernard Tschumi Architect

An entire space at the same dimentions and direction of the Parthenon that hosts the monument’s frieze, exhibiting what is found and all that is missing. It is remarkable and yet distressing how many statues are not there in order to complete a marvelous cultural puzzle of ancient craftmanship, ingenuity and architecture. Lets hope…

New Acropolis Museum Location: Athens, Greece Architect: Bernard Tschumi Architect

-by Spyr_s Margetis

 

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