Red marble, blond wood

The exterior of the new Benaki Museum at 138 Pireos Street is sheathed with red marble, being used for the first time in Greece. This warm color defines the identity of the building whose interior opens up like a living organism, with passages which afford great flexibility. The atrium at the center of the building is like a stage with the Venetian blinds all around like huge beams that look like tiers of seats. The floor is covered with blond maple wood from the United States. Architects Andreas Kourkoulas and Maria Kokkinou say the wood is very durable and is frequently used in buildings where sporting and cultural events are held. In the past, musical instruments were made from maple wood, and when the maple tree began to die out, special plantations of it were grown in the US to produce wood for architectural purposes. The new Benaki Museum was built on the site of a two-story Lada workshop; 60 percent of the skeleton was reused and reinforced, and another floor was added. The beauty of the building is that while the exterior looks serious and enclosed, the interior is playful.