Stella investigates: The New Acropolis Museum

Stella was recently on call in Athens to step into the middle of a raging architectural controversy.

The Acropolis is a site of global import and for a century or more, a small and inadequate museum on the Acropolis itself housed its excavated treasures, but everyone agreed that a world-class 21st century museum was needed.

The Building

The New Acropolis Museum is the work of Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi.  The first controversy is simply love it or hate it?

Mr. Tschumi took better photos than Stella.

The Museum is still installing its permanent exhibitions, but for a couple of hours a day visitors are invited to view the ground floor and part of the first floor.

It’s envisaged as a three-part building with the ground floor revealing the archeological roots,

which recall the ancient stone paths of Acropolis;

the second floor housing the exhibitions;

and the third floor is twisted on the building’s axis toward the Acropolis, forlornly awaiting the return of the Parthenon (Elgin) Marbles.

Stella is delighted that the Greeks and Mr. Tschumi were bold in their architectural vision.  How thrilling to see the dynamic contrast of ancient Greek artifacts against this elegant modern building of concrete and glass.

Stella did however identify two design flaws:

She is happy not to be part of the maintenance crew, but still says thumbs up Bernard!

The Site

The Museum sits at the bottom of the hill of the Acropolis.

There is a fabulous relationship between the Museum entrance and the ancient city to which it speaks.

But, what’s that in the way?

Oh dear.  There are two buildings blocking the dramatic discourse between this landmark contemporary building, which will be one of the most visited museums in the world, and the rock that lifts the fifth century temple of Athena to the skies.

Stella investigated further.  The building on the right is a pleasant but unremarkable beaux arts design and the home of Vangelis, the famed composer of the score to Chariots of Fire.  He is very unhappy.  Stella is very sorry for him; he had the best real estate in Athens.

The building on the left is Athenian art deco and is of undisputed historic design interest as revealed below.

It has a number of distinctive art deco features and murals, which were painted by a friend of Picasso.  (Stella wishes she had been a friend of Picasso so that she too could create murals of signficance.)

Many people are understandably fighting to save the buildings.  Here are some of their opinions:

Stella finds the threat of the British opiners, Judith and Chris, particularly rich.

Stella deliberated long and hard and concluded the buildings have to go.

But, in the spirit of global harmony and historic preservation, she would like to offer a third way.

The United States has successfully deconstructed, moved, and reconstructed buildings of historic importance–witness the delightful vision of the oldest synagogue in Washington, D.C. being moved to safety. All you need is a tractor trailer!

There are few situations that would merit such lengths, but Stella is convinced that Tschumi’s vision should be fully realized, without obstruction; that a new home can be found for the art deco building with dedication and funds; and that Vangelis can probably find new digs in the service of the greater architectural good.


    8 responses to “Stella investigates: The New Acropolis Museum”

    1. Dave says:

      I once had to sit at a bar listening to Picasso’s grad school roommate complaining about how many murals he’d done, none of them significant.

    2. Gale says:

      Stella, I love your TOES in the pic — what a great way to locate us.

    3. Dave says:

      Yeah, I was trying to think of a pedicure comment, along the lines of “great pedicure!” but funnier.

    4. rm says:

      ok, i’m no bunuel (or tarantino for that matter) but i read these comments and scrolled back up though all of those great photos just to check out the toes shot.

    5. Stella says:

      thank god my artistic talents and talons have finally been recognized.

    6. matthew says:

      Regarding the two buildings blocking the view, I think that much of the controversy has been due to how the issue has been handled.

      On all of the original proposals for the design of the building, these buildings were shown as being retained & it was only fairly late in the day that the issue of their demolition was raised.

      The buildings do block the view from the cafe terrace, but in the Parthenon Gallery which is higher up, you are higher than them & can see the Parthenon beyond (although they do spoil the foreground view somewhat).

      Part of the problem is that whilst the front facades are interesting, the rear of both these buildings is distinctly plain & ordinary.

    7. Is anybody besides me seeing a helmeted warrior’s face in the second picture down, the entrance to the museum?

    8. Stella says:

      on the underside of the portico? yes, yes I see it! it’s a message from the classical world!