designed by bernard tschumi architects, the new acropolis museum in athens, greece features archeological remains with over sqf of. The challenges of designing the New Acropolis Museum began with the responsibility of housing the most dramatic sculptures of Greek antiquity. This. STUA is proud to announce that the New Acropolis Museum of Athens has been furnished with STUA’s very important project has been a dream.
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It was a day unlike any other. This was the big one. The Swiss-American architect had won the greatest prize in architecture: This was a job, surely, coveted by every A-list architect in the world.
No sooner had Tschumi put down the phone than he was told that a plane had just crashed into the World Trade Centre. It wasn’t a particularly good start. Tschumi’s new museum – a geometrical marvel dedicated to the celebration of antiquity – was funded by Greece’s ministry of culture and the EU.
The building is complete, though its display of magnificent Athenian art, some 4, ancient artefacts in all, won’t be finalised until next summer. But this is not just a splendid gallery. From the very beginning, the new building had to engage in an architectural dialogue with the nearby Parthenon, the 5th-century BC temple dedicated to the wise if warlike goddess Athena, the virgin or “parthenos”. The Parthenon – centrepiece of the Acropolis, the “sacred rock” at the heart of Athens – was commissioned by Pericles, at the height of Greek power, from the architects Ictinus and Callicrates and the sculptor Phidias.
The result was a meticulously self-contained and perfectly proportioned marble temple enclosed by 46 fluted Doric columns; musuem has no wings, no projections, nothing to take away from its perfect form. This creation has long been judged the single most important building in the canon of western civilisation, partly because of the classical values it so perfectly embodies, and partly because its beauty really is hard to match.
Classicists have bowed before it, but so did Le Corbusier, the benard iconoclastic of modern architects. How can any architect ever match its rhythm and harmony? Oddly, the building had been all but abandoned when the seventh Earl of Elgin came here to ship many of its famous sculptures to London intriggering a controversy that has rumbled on for two centuries. It has been a church, a mosque and even a gunpowder store, depending on who tshcumi Athens at the time.
Partly destroyed by a Venetian mortar inthe Parthenon only really began to matter again politically after the Greeks won their war of independence from Turkey in Ever since, the Parthenon has been a sacred symbol to Greece. Naturally, Tschumi wanted to do his best in the shadow of this architectural colossus. Creating something to complement the aesthetic heights of the Acropolis was not, museuum, his only challenge; the Greek government needed a building grand enough to finally persuade the British government to return the Elgin Marbles from their current home in the British Museum, to a gallery in the new museum.
Some said the job shouldn’t have gone to a foreigner. During construction, there were court cases against the scheme. No wonder it wasn’t ready for the Acropoliis Olympics. As for the site, it was problematic, too. Not only was bernadd just yards from the hallowed Acropolis, it was also riddled with the archaeological remains of an antique Athenian suburb in mid-excavation.
Plus an underground train line ran nearby, threatening noise and vibration. Then there was the 19th-century neo-Greek police academy that occupied a big chunk of the site; a protected building, it had to stay. To create enough room for the new museum, some apartment buildings had to fschumi – by order.
Finally, on top of all this, there was the threat of earthquakes. Something of a poisoned chalice? Given the dazzling sun that blasts Athens for much of the year, the ideal view would face north, to avoid glare. Yet the building had to lie east-west. Going with the east-west flow for the main part of the building, Tschumi then twisted the rooftop gallery – which is intended for the Elgin Marbles – north. This glorious touch creates a purposefully, rather than gratuitously, dynamic building.
It also offers a tremendous view of the entire Acropolis. This twist tschu,i, the museum’s design is calm, even strait-laced. Entirely free of decoration “The ancient sculpture on display inside will be enough,” says Tschumithe concrete, glass and marble building nevertheless plays a number of clever structural games.
bernard tschumi architects: new acropolis museum
The glass-floored tsvhumi lobby, for example, straddles the excavation site so that, as you amble into the museum, you see below you the outlines of shops, alleys, houses, baths and workshops dating back to AD. It is like a stroll into antiquity: From this vantage point, you can also make out the irregular forest of concrete columns the new museum stands on, the antithesis of the beautifully rhythmic spacing of the Parthenon’s columns.
Each is placed to msueum touching the fabric of the ancient city below. Some are close together, others far apart, and all appear to perform an unlikely engineering waltz.
In fact, these columns are doubly clever. They have joints, like giant knees. In times of tremor, the columns will dip and sway – enough, hopefully, to save the building from collapse.
They had last been revised in Once over the excavated ancient streets, you reach a generous hall, aglow with slanting sunbeams. The feeling of having arrived somewhere special is inescapable. In front of you, a great ramp slants up to the main galleries, the entrance of which is crowned with the marble pediment of an ancient temple.
There is no sign here of a museum shop, nor the smell of mseum. There is no clutter and few signs, just generous, beautifully lit architectural space, clad in cool marble.
Despite so much marble, there is surprisingly little clomp and clatter from visitors’ shoes: An entrance lobby designed for at least 3 million visitors a year is never going to be as quiet as a temple, but this is a remarkably calming space. The first floor holds more surprises. A vast, sunlit and many-columned chamber, it twchumi a pleasure to walk through in its own right; but by next summer, it will be adorned with Greek and Roman-era Athenian sculpture.
Crowning the museum is that skewed top floor, a great glazed box facing north to the Acropolis. The views are picture-perfect, except for those missing marbles, of course. Some of those superb sculptures – of steeds and soldiers, gods and giants – will soon inhabit this gallery, though the majority will nernard, as yet, in the British Museum. Intriguingly, this tschmi is the same size as the core of the Parthenon, so visitors will get a tzchumi of the caropolis of the sculptures in relation to the mother temple.
In a brazen move, copies of the missing sculptures will be installed, fronted with gauze masks so they look like the ghosts of the plundered objects. As Tschumi says, “A visit to the top floor will be a journey into the world of cultural politics and propaganda, as well as great art. And a journey into impressive design, too.
New Acropolis Museum by Bernard Tschumi | Museums
A glass gallery in the scorching Athenian sun? It sounds like madness. Yet it should all work, coolly and calmly – not just because that north view is glare-free, but also because a double-glazing system channels cool air between the glass panes. Whether the marbles will ever all return to Athens is a question for curators and politicians. The New Acropolis Museum is certainly ready to receive them. Unpretentious, well-built and wearing its ingenuity lightly, his building is a relaxed walk through layers of ancient Greek art, architecture and city-making.
It makes the Parthenon even more important than it has been over the past two centuries, even if some of its marbles, the very reason for bernzrd museum’s construction, are still missing. But how much does it matter? The Parthenon is 2, years old. Perhaps there’s no great hurry to put the final touches to Tschumi’s handsome building.