The architectural offices DILLER SCOFIDIO + RENFRO, Neiheiser Argyros and VAP collaborated for the Architectural Competition for the “National Archaeological Museum Athens”, Greece. They proposed the creation of a new topographic ground, public and accessible and ensured the place for the – until now hidden – treasures of the ancient Hellenic World, to showcase properly.
Proposal’s most characteristic feature is the creation of “a modern Propylon” inspired by the most fundamental form of ancient Greek entrances. This abstract gate will both frame the historical axis of the National Archeological Museum and function as a “welcoming entry point for antiquities returning to their homeland” as the architects state. Propylon’s roof will offer to the visitors panoramic view of the museum, the city’s modern urban fabric and Acropolis, combining ancient, modern history and the present.
Project’s goal was to transform the location, in order to act as a global leader on matters of ancient heritage management and conservation.
For the new National Archeological Museum of Greece the “ground” will operate in multiple dimensions. In the site of the expansion between Patission Street and the façade of the Museum, the ground will be excavated to receive back the treasures of the ancient Hellenic World. These collections, currently scattered in cramped storage spaces in the bowels of the building, will be consolidated and celebrated in a state-of-the-art facility with parts accessible to a wider public.
A new topographic ground, fully vegetated for the public’s enjoyment, will be the roof that protects the nation’s historic treasures. On a level in between, the common ground of the city street is extended to the foot of the Museum to provide a new entry with visitor amenities.
A singular architectural feature, seemingly extracted from the depths of the ground — and still bearing the traces of the stratigraphy – will be elevated to create a modern Propylon, a feature once crossed to access a sacred space of knowledge. It is expressed here in the most fundamental form of ancient Greek entrances, an abstracted post and lintel structure. Housed within this gateway will be the Gallery of Repatriated Art. This new national symbol gives pride of place to the unfinished project of the reclamation of Greek cultural heritage.
While framing the historical axis of the National Archeological Museum and inviting visitors to enter the site, the Propylon will also function as a welcoming entry point for antiquities returning to their homeland before their final relocation closer to their sites of provenance. This landmark entrance and destination in itself will be the renewed, future image of an institution that will be at the forefront of the world’s debates on intercultural dialogue and cooperation, a global leader on matters of ancient heritage management and conservation.
A floating ground on top of the Propylon will have a panoramic view of the Exarcheia neighborhood and central Athens beyond, ultimately connecting the Museum, the ark of the ancient Greek masterpieces, to the pinnacle of all ancient Greek material achievements, the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis itself. The floating, minimalist volume will be in dialogue with its modern, neoclassical, and classical roots.
Upon arrival from the surrounding streets, and before stepping into the lush garden, the visitors can look down, into the vastness of past memories, or upwards, towards the potential future of the collections and they will realize that they have arrived in a new kind of topos, a place where knowledge will be consolidated, celebrated, and perpetually excavated out of the ground; or multiple topoi, where different pasts, and multiple time/space relations may coexist.
Credits & Details
Competition: National Archaeological Museum of Greece
Full Competition Team:
Lead Architect: Diller Scofidio + Renfro (DS+R)
Local Design Collaborator: Neiheiser Argyros
Local Architect of Record: VAP Architects
Daylighting: Andy Sedgwick, Arup
SMEP Engineering: Arup
Landscape Architect: Gustafson Porter + Bowman (GP+B)
Local Structural Engineer: Omete
Local Landscape Architect: Konstantinos Tsavalas at KTLA Landscape Architects LTD
Archaeology and Architecture Coordinator: Iason Stathatos