Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Athens Acropolis Museum Opens

The long-awaited New Acropolis Museum in Athens opened this weekend after years of delay.  The Greeks say they didn’t “build it for the British,” but they intend it to be a strong argument for the return of the Elgin Marbles.  From the New York Times:

The museum, which cost $200 million and sits near the base of the Acropolis with a direct view of the Parthenon, is one of the highest-profile cultural projects undertaken in Europe in this decade.

Intended as “the ultimate showcase of classical civilization,” Mr. Samaras said, it was built to promote tourism and, like any large, government-financed museum, to stir national pride. But it was also meant, not incidentally, to spark discomfort in another country in the European Union.

“We didn’t build this for the sake of the British,” Mr. Samaras said in an interview, adding at once, “but look around: does this not negate the argument that Athens has no place good enough to house the Parthenon Marbles?”...

The new museum, 226,000 square feet of glass and concrete designed by the New York architect Bernard Tschumi, replaces the old Acropolis Museum, a small 1874 building tucked into the rock of the Acropolis next to the Parthenon. The design, introduced in 2001, was meant to be completed in time for the 2004 Olympics, but dozens of legal battles — many having to do with some 25 buildings that were demolished to make room for it — delayed the process for years.

Even now, not all Athenians are happy with the building, wedged in as it is among apartment buildings in a middle-class residential district. “It is as if a titanic U.F.O. landed in the neighborhood, obliterating all of its surrounding structures,” said Nikos Dimou, a prominent Greek author.

The museum has five floors (including two basement levels that will not be open at first), which provide space for 4,000 artifacts, 10 times the number displayed in the old building. On the first level a glass floor offers visitors close-up views of an early Christian settlement, dating from the 7th to 12th centuries, that was discovered under part of the future building’s footprint during excavations in 2002.

The Times article includes a slideshow with nine photos.

HT: Explorator

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