BY SUZANNE MUCHNIC – LOS ANGELES TIMES
ATHENS — The new Acropolis Museum is proof, at last, that Greece has a safe place to display some hotly contested artworks – the marble sculptures removed from the Parthenon in the 19th century and long housed at the British Museum in London.
For Athenians who live and work near the Acropolis, the looming modern structure at the southeastern base of the hill is a mixed blessing. The $200 million, 226,000-square-foot museum has transformed the area of Makrygianni, boosting property values while dwarfing other buildings in the neighborhood.
Dimitrios Pandermalis, a classical archaeologist who presided over the building’s construction and is now president of the museum, is acutely aware of all this. But for him, the gleaming edifice is a dream come true, or at least partly so.
With 150,000 square feet of exhibition space, 10 times that of its predecessor, the museum presents layer upon layer of Acropolis history, from about 1000 B.C. to A.D. 700. Opened in June, it welcomed its millionth visitor in late October and continues to pack in about 10,000 people a day.
After inevitable delays — including the discovery of an ancient Athenian city under the building site — The New Acropolis Museum is open for business, packing in visitors to the historic but semi-rundown neighborhood of Makrygianni in Athens. The thoughtful design by former Columbia architecture dean Bernard Tschumi and team positions the 226,000 square foot museum over the footprint of the long-ruined city; the exhibition space — ten times larger than that of the previous edifice — provides what could someday be a permanent home for the hotly contested Elgin Marbles and other looted artifacts. Hellenic architecture porn after the jump.
Bernard Tschumi Architects won the bid in 2001 in a design competition chaired by Santiago Calatrava; their winning plan “created a deliberately non-monumental structure whose simple and precise design invokes the mathematical and conceptual clarity of ancient Greek architecture” while establishing a dialogue between the museum’s exhibition spaces and the existing Acropolis buildings.