Two new museums transforming Athens
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Two new museums transforming Athens

The first weeks of 2023 brought announcements and the reveal of plans for two new Museums that “promise” to upgrade the overall appearance and cultural life of Athens and promote the Ancient Greek culture. These are the new “Archaeological Museum of Athens” in the Akadimia Platonos and the “New National Archaeological Museum”, which will be created through a huge upgrade project of the country’s largest museum.

The Archaeological Museum of Athens is rapidly progressing with the aim of highlighting the archaeological site of Akadimia Platonos and the utilization of cultural treasures that have been locked up for years in the warehouses of archaeological services. In mid-January, the first prize of the architectural competition for the creation of the new museum was announced and will be based on the plans submitted by the architectural office of George Tsolakis.

A museum under the earth

The innovation that won the competition is the idea of a mainly underground 13,500 sqm building that will interact harmoniously with the surrounding natural environment. The museum and the Plato’s Academy Grove will interact at the centre of the site, through four new walkways that will ‘distribute’ visitors in four different sections emerging from the ground. “A hub of turbulent movement that acts as both a centripetal and centrifugal force of flows and activities, which are connected in opposite directions and at different levels,” the architectural firm explains in its study for the project. “From this point, the function of vision organizes the dispersed structures emerging from the ground into a spatial and conceptual entity.”

“The architectural approach emphasizes topography, urban planning and public archaeology, as it creatively incorporates both the axes of the landscape and the structure of the city, while embracing archaeological finds and at the same time interacting with the relationship between open and closed, public and private”, the proposal’s rationale states. The existing sports activities (basketball and football pitches) will be transferred to the south-eastern part with upgraded infrastructure (stands, fountains, seating, lighting), while the creation of an underground parking area of 2.500 m2 is also planned.

The redevelopment programme fully respects the historicity of the site and revives the spirit of the Platonic Academy for the simultaneous education of the mind and body”, said the Minister of Culture and Sports, Lina Mendoni. The new museum – which will be located on an area granted by the Academy of Athens to the Ministry of Culture – will “host” findings from various areas of Athens and the metro excavations. The aim of its creation is to bring to light the hundreds of thousands of antiquities that are estimated to have been discovered through excavations in recent years and remain locked in suffocatingly full warehouses of competent services.


The new National Archaeological Museum

The National Archaeological Museum enters a new phase in its almost 150-year history through the process of its complete upgrade. The International Evaluation Committee formed last April has chosen the architectural proposal and the blueprint for the creation of the “New National Archaeological Museum”. The committee selected in January the proposal of David Chipperfield and Alexandros N. Tombazis Architectural offices.

On Wednesday, 15/2, the Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis presented the architectural plan for the expansion and upgrading of the museum. “A personal dream of mine is becoming a reality,” the prime minister said at the beginning of his speech, noting that his political office had been near the area for years, on Chalkokondyli Street. He then spoke about the deterioration of the historic centre of Athens and referred to an important intervention, referring to the project for the upgrading of the Archaeological Museum, which he said aims to revive an entire neighbourhood.

See the photographs of the project that has been published:

According to the project’s blueprint, the new museum will consist of two buildings, the existing one, which has been declared a monument of modern cultural heritage, and the new extension that will function as a complementary building for the increased needs of the museum, in perfect harmony with the existing facilities and the urban fabric. From the only image that has been released, it appears that the intention is to make a significant change to the surrounding area with an additional level in front of Patission Street. At the same time, all the exhibits and conservation warehouses will be reviewed, and it will also be studied how many of the approximately 125,000 antiquities in the warehouses can be displayed.

The design follows the existing topography: an imposing neoclassical building in front of an extensive, green square. The extension will accommodate the Museum’s main public functions – ticketing, ticket office, restaurant, amphitheatre and new spaces for permanent and temporary exhibitions – organised symmetrically, drawing on the historic architecture. The proposal was inspired by the essence of Lange’s original design – a romantic idea, influenced by the philhellenism of the time, for an urban landscape with extensive open spaces within the dense urban fabric – and used the iconic building as a starting point for the design, framing it with a garden with romantic references. The base of the existing building is extended to the street, creating a new background for the historic landmark, and adding two levels of underground exhibition space. One move creates an additional 20,000 sqm of space and a park with lush vegetation on their roof, accessible to all.

The selected proposal brings together, as the Ministry of Culture and Education says, “the elements of an inventive relationship between the old and the new building, the quality of the spatial experience, sensitivity to programmatic and museological – museographic challenges, urban integration into the fabric of the city and pioneering solutions to sustainability and environmental planning issues.” Finally, the extension will include exhibition and public spaces, putting visitors at the centre.