New face for Athens art venue

The National Gallery’s scheduled expansion is a decades-long vision. Plans for the project have been passed back and forth by authorities without ever going beyond the theoretical stage. With a fair degree of certainty, it could now be said that the countdown has begun following the approval of the final architectural plans for the expansion by the Central Council for Modern Monuments. The enlargement project has been added to the list of works supported by the National Strategic Reference Framework (NSRF), from which it is slated to receive 30 million euros in funding. It is estimated that an additional 30 million euros will be needed for the project’s completion. As things currently stand, tender procedures are expected to begin in January next year. Work is scheduled to commence three months later with 2013 set as the delivery date. The project’s architectural draft envisages the creation of several hundred square meters of additional exhibition space with a sparse and highly functional glass-and-metal design. Following close examination of a number of approaches to the project, which entails the addition of a third floor and basement, it has been decided that developing both stages simultaneously would be the most feasible option in terms of cost. Everything is looking good. The Central Council for Modern Monuments has given its blessing to the plan, and Culture Minister Antonis Samaras is keen to see the project go ahead. The gallery’s director, Marina Lambraki-Plaka, has been pushing for action for quite some time now. The Athens gallery’s existing building is the result of an architectural competition staged in 1956, when the winning bid was provided by Nikos Moutsopoulos, Pavlos Mylonas and Dimitris Fatouros. It was constructed in the late 60s, although the third story of Building B was not built. In 1998, the building was placed under the protection of the state. In 2001, a series of regulations were drawn up for the completion of the enlargement project. A year later, a draft by Mylonas and Fatouros received approval. In November last year, following an open tender, the project’s pending architectural, engineering, and electro-mechanical work was awarded to Grammatopoulos-Panousakis and Associates, Liontos and Associates, Elxis Engineering Consultants and Empeiria Engineering Consultants. The National Gallery’s new era will combine the building’s old and modern aspects without being detrimental to its existing character.