Shedding light on monuments

If everything goes according to plan, within a few months we will be able to admire the most important monuments in Athens under a new light. Some 1,200 lights will be placed in the Parthenon, the Erechtheion, the Propylaea, the Temple of Hephaestus, the Herod Atticus Theater and the monuments of Philopappou Hill, radically changing the image these monuments present at night. The aim is for the new lights to render the natural color of the rock instead of the harsh shade of orange that hundreds of industrial spotlights project today. The study for the new lights to be placed around the monuments, recently approved by the Central Archaeological Council (KAS), was carried out with funding by the Friends of Athens Society. The idea, which originated with director Michalis Cacoyannis, was to enhance the city’s monuments and its most important buildings as well. The first part of the study, on the Acropolis, the Temple of Hephaestus and the Herod Atticus Theater, was completed with the collaboration of world renowned French lighting designer Pierre Bideau and the Doxiadis Bureau, which has also already taken on the lighting of Lycabettus Hill. Director of Studies of the Doxiadis Bureau and collaborator of Pierre Bideau Costas Kapos described the Frenchman as a magician of lights, whose ideas bring out a building’s best features in a unique way. Bideau is also responsible for the lights of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Georges Pompidou Center, the Moulin Rouge, the Palace of Versailles, the Louvre and various medieval castles and churches. The spotlights that will be used will be considerably less powerful than the ones used today. «Our aim is to bring out every architectural feature of each monument separately. We want to stress a monument’s shape but also to give the impression that it reflects an inner light which symbolizes ancient Greek spirit.» A variety of spotlights and bulbs were tried out in order to find the ideal color shade and the final result was satisfactory, according to the head of the Acropolis Ephorate, Alkistis Horemi. For instance, when looking at the Parthenon from a distance, one will be able to discern two different colors. Two different types of lights will be installed: On one side, the monument will be lit by a neutral and cool color, while on the other by a much warmer one, so as to accentuate its sculpted details. The overall cost of the new lighting will be 1.5 million euros. The lighting will not spread beyond the monuments and the lights themselves will not be visible from any part of Athens. «We took care that the material used will not cause any damage or stains to the buildings.» In the case of the Parthenon, the lights can only be placed around the monument due to ongoing work; the same applies to the Erechtheion, although the possibility of planting a couple of installations inside the monument still exists. The idea of placing numerous spotlights in front of the Propylaea facade was rejected and now spotlights will only be placed on the way leading up to the site. No suggestion has been made regarding the temple of Athena Nike, since works are still in progress. Finally, lights will also surround the Temple of Hephaestus. The study for the makeover of Lycabettus Hill, which will include suggestions by Bideau, concerns the entire hill: the Aghios Georgios Church, the cafe, the cable cars line and the path lights.