New delays at Fix museum site

Plans for the reconstruction of the old Fix beer factory on Syngrou Avenue to house the National Museum of Modern Art have met with further obstacles. The Aktor construction company has taken legal action to block the second, final phase of the competition which was won by the BIOTEP firm at a considerable discount. A court ruling is expected within the next few weeks, at the latest by the end of September. If it finds in Aktor’s favor, the museum’s board will have to issue a fresh tender for bids for the second phase, which will mean a further delay in beginning the work and the risk of losing funds from the Third Community Support Framework (CSFIII) if the Fix building is not completed by the end of 2008, in accordance with CSF regulations. Considering that the refurbishment will take at least two years, according to past statements by the museum’s director, Anna Kafetsi, this is a real possibility. If Aktor wins its case, it will be the fourth major delay in the project. Initially, the museum was supposed to have been completed for the 2004 Olympics, but the opening was successively postponed to 2006, then 2007 and then a year ago to 2008. Last spring Kafetsi foresaw «bulldozers moving in by June,» but it seems she spoke too soon. Contractors’ wars are a frequent occurrence in Greece and often exploit omissions and carelessness on the part of rival firms to achieve their ends. It is no coincidence that the construction of major museums in Greece often gets bogged down in legal loopholes. Similar problems arose during the makeover of the National Archaeological Museum (again, it was Aktor that took recourse to the courts). Work on the new Acropolis Museum, also being built by Aktor (after the firm which won the contract was unable to complete the job), was also at risk of being canceled. Then there is the farcical situation that has arisen around the proposed construction of a Modern Art Museum by the Vassilis and Eliza Goulandris Foundation, where the Greek state has shown an unprecedented inability to make use of the foundation’s offer. Since the problems that have emerged at the Fix building are not unprecedented but reflect an almost endemic malaise in the entire system, one would expect the Culture Ministry to take the necessary initiatives to ensure that the procedures can stand up to scrutiny in either Greek or international courts. According to the architectural design by 3SK Stylianidis Architects, Tim Ronalds Architects, and I. Mouzakis and Associates Architects, an attempt is being made to achieve a symbolic reference to the local topography. The neighboring Ilissos River, which flowed past the site until the 1950s when it was covered over by Kallirois Avenue, is to be recalled in the stone «curtain» on the building’s facade, a reference to the sedimentary deposits on the riverbed. The lack of outdoor areas is to be compensated for by making full use of the roof, with an outdoor sculpture exhibition and restaurant.