Architect sets sights on archaeological museum

The National Archaeological Museum of Athens, perhaps the best collection of ancient Greek and Roman artifacts in the world, is once again caught up in a storm of challenges.

The benefits derived from the museum?s renovation ahead of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games have been offset by the dramatic decline of the broader neighborhood.

Meanwhile, the authorities have failed to solve the problem of space, which means the museum?s permanent collection can?t be shown in its entirety. The National Archaeological Museum is a sleeping giant.

Greek architect Michael Photiadis worked next to Bernard Tschumi for the design of the new Acropolis Museum, which opened in summer 2009 at the foot of the ancient citadel. But as the spotlight still shines on the capital?s latest arrival, Photiadis has shifted his focus to improving Greece?s biggest museum on Patission Street. The state, he says, must hammer out a fresh vision for the National Archaeological Museum, a vision that will position this ark of classical antiquity among the world?s top cultural institutions.

Speaking recently at a nationwide meeting of Greek architects, Photiadis unveiled his plans for expanding and improving the troubled museum. One of the proposals he put forward was inviting international architectural firms to participate in a competition for the project.

?The funds could come from foreign institutions as well as Greek sponsors who care about our culture. This is the most rational legal process. We must keep the red tape to a minimum and let the winners of the competition get on with the project as soon as possible,? he said.

In April 2008, the Museum Council unanimously approved plans for an underground extension of the Archaeological Museum. However, of the two underground areas spreading over a total 24,000 square meters, only 2,000 square meters would be used to host the museum?s permanent collection while most of the space would be allocated for the construction of an underground parking lot.

According to the plan proposed by Photiadis, the underground extension would involve three halls stretching over 36,000 square meters. In addition, the architect envisages a second extension below the pedestrianized Tositsa Street.

The competition is directed toward creating a terraced garden and parking space.

As for the Acropol Palace, the defunct art nouveau hotel across the street, the Greek architect would like to see it hosting the Culture Ministry?s official headquarters, with an underpass bringing the two important buildings together.

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