Peep Insights: Athens’s New Acropolis Museum

Athens just announced that the long-anticipated New Acropolis Museum will finally open this summer on June 20th. The ambitious museum and conservation project, almost 30 years in the making, calls for a state-of-the-art facility in the middle of the city’s historic center. Although we were disappointed to have to wait another few months, our recent […]

Athens just announced that the long-anticipated New Acropolis Museum will finally open this summer on June 20th. The ambitious museum and conservation project, almost 30 years in the making, calls for a state-of-the-art facility in the middle of the city’s historic center.

Although we were disappointed to have to wait another few months, our recent sneak peek of the galleries left us more than impressed. Instead of throwing up columns and attempting to blend into the ancient cityscape, the museum is completely abstract and modern. The controversial design resembles a stack of mislaid books, with the top floor askew to parallel the foundations of the nearby Parthenon, the middle floors a trapezoidal display area, and the bottom layer outlining the on-site archeological dig.

The top floor’s mirroring shape forms part of an essential “dialogue” between the museum and the adjacent Parthenon, according to the architect Bernard Tschumi. To avoid competing with the architectural landmark, Tshcumi chose to build the structure in stainless steel, concrete and glass. These minimalist materials subdue the museum’s bold, abstract shape. Another key design feature is the incorporation of natural light into the building, providing optimum lighting for viewing the fine details of the Parthenon’s sculptures.

Not only does the museum hold more than 4000 artifacts, the structure actually sits above on-going archeological excavations. When digging the foundation, builders discovered a variety of artifacts. The design was then altered to include pylons to suspend the museum over the archeological dig.

The museum marks the city’s most ambitious attempt to date to reclaim its cultural patrimony. In addition to archaeological finds spanning 2,500 years, Greece hopes the New Acropolis Museum will one day house the Elgin Marbles, which the Greek government has been trying to recover from the British Museum since the mid-1800s.

While the permanent exhibition is being mounted in the upper floors of the Museum there is an exhibition hosted on the ground floor, ‘Νόστοι – Nostoi’, which presents 74 pieces that were returned to Italy from various American museums. Nostoi also includes some works that were recently returned to Greece and will be seen by the public for the first time. We found this theme quite revealing and strategic in a style that recalls former Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri’s unrelenting mission and drive.

We eagerly await the official opening and imagine the summer light will make it all the more spectacular.

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