New blow to Acropolis Museum?

The much-delayed project to build a new Acropolis Museum under the ancient citadel before the 2004 Olympics appears to have suffered a new blow, according to weekend reports that Greece’s highest administrative court has rejected initial plans for the 94-million-euro building. Sources quoted by the Athens News Agency on Saturday and the Sunday Ethnos said the plenary session of the Council of State unanimously decided that the initial study for construction of the building, on the basis of which the construction permit was issued, illegally allowed the destruction of antiquities on the site that had been set aside for preservation. The ruling, which will not be officially made public for several weeks, also reportedly mentions that the Culture Ministry’s Supreme Archaeological Council has not sanctioned the destruction, as it is legally bound to do. The initial study was approved by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, a professor of constitutional law. The court was ruling on an appeal by residents of Makriyianni who complain that significant antiquities will be destroyed to allow construction of the new museum in their neighborhood. They have also tabled a suit questioning the legality of the final museum plans. The 20,000-square-meter building, designed by Swiss-US architect Bernard Tschumi in collaboration with Greece’s Michael Photiadis, is scheduled to be built on the southeastern fringes of the Acropolis site, next to the early 19th century military hospital built on land donated by General Yiannis Makriyiannis, a hero of the 1821 War of Independence. Greece has repeatedly linked the museum’s construction with its campaign for the return of the British Museum’s Elgin Collection of sculptures from the Parthenon. But works are 11 months behind schedule, and the foundation stone has still to be laid. While insisting that the museum will have been built by the summer of 2004, officials have conceded that not all the exhibition areas will be ready in time. The Tschumi-Photiadis plans were approved after a building designed by two Italian architects had to be scrapped when antiquities were found on the site.

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