Plans afoot in Athens to revive Pikionis’s ‘pilgrimage’

Acclaimed Greek architect Dimitris Pikionis (1887-1968) had envisaged the path leading to the Acropolis as a kind of “pilgrimage.” The original idea was based on the notion that as visitors approached the archaeological site’s entrance, a change in the “frame” would reveal different facets of the various monuments.

Later on, the creation of shorter paths – especially in the 1970s – together with the pedestrianization projects carried out within the framework of the unification of the city’s archaeological sites, ended up altering the spirit of the original planning.

Nowadays tour guides tend to take their groups through the shortcuts, a move which may saving time but also deprives visitors of sensational views while adding to the general overcrowding at the entrance area.

The restoration of Pikionis’s original planning is expected to be one of the main challenges facing the winners of an international architectural competition for the redesign of Acropolis entrance area.

Set to be announced by the Ministry of Culture as soon as certain procedures are completed, the competition aims to solve issues regarding the area’s accessibility and operations. At the same time, experts will explore options for improving the area’s overall look through the removal of certain constructions as well as by changing the usage of others, including the old cloakroom, the post office and the guides’ building, among others, in an effort to maintain a sense of homogeneity.

On January 21, the Central Archaeological Council (KAS) approved a basic framework that will serve as the backbone for the architectural competition’s specifications. Furthermore, KAS also approved a proposal for the relocation of the Acropolis store as well as closing off access to the Acropolis via the Herod Atticus Theater and Dionysiou Areopagitou Street for a trial period.

According to Culture Ministry officials, both the existing store’s location (the outlet is currently situated north of the ticket office and outside the site’s enclosure) and its merchandise – primarily comprising casts and Archaeological Receipts Fund publications – are not particularly attractive.

After examining five different relocation proposals, KAS ruled that the new store should be erected on the junction of Theorias Street and the unofficial parking area, a location which will not interfere with Pikionis’s original idea. Defined by its discreet and high-quality aesthetics, the construction will feature reversible qualities, so as to be removed or altered when the time comes for the archaeological site’s broader renovation plans to materialize.