NEWS

Cultural oasis in works

It has taken some time but at last results are visible to the passerby. Work has gone ahead on the area surrounding the Byzantine Museum, which will become a park in the heart of Athens, with outdoor exhibitions, a cafe-restaurant, a shop and a 150-seat theater. Eventually it will be connected to the 1-hectare site of Aristotle’s Lyceum on Rigillis Street. Work has not begun at the Lyceum, despite all the promises that have been made, because there are not sufficient funds to highlight it as it deserves. Eleven years since its discovery by Effi Lygouri, the Culture Ministry is still seeking funds to complete an implementation study, that will include a proper roof to shelter the archaeological remains. Work began on the forecourt of the museum two months ago and is advancing on several fronts. The cafe-restaurant in the western wing is being extended into the courtyard of the museum and will operate without being restricted to the museum’s opening hours. Tenders will soon be called for the cafe. Exactly opposite is the museum’s shop, in a space four times its present size, while the former outlet will be occupied by administrative offices, currently crammed into the entrance on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue. Among other items, the shop will sell works inspired by Byzantium and made by contemporary artists. Meanwhile, the museum’s emblematic building, the winter residence of the Duchesse de Plaisance, will get its first refurbishment. Next in line is the landscape project, which involves planting hundreds of trees and shrubs that are suited to the area and will offer museum visitors the opportunity to take a pleasant walk. Museum director Dimitris Constantios has planned two flexible routes for walkers: «the marble road» and «the architecture of death,» which sounds more macabre than it is. The museum will present three Early Christian tombs that were found at Koukaki during excavation for the metro. The idea is for the public to get acquainted with the architecture of funeral monuments and to understand how these voluminous finds were transported and became museum exhibits. The other walk sheds light on the development of sculpture from late antiquity until the 19th century through several representative examples. The museum has a vast collection of works in storage that have never been on display, such as a Late Roman water pipe found 20 years ago that will soon be exhibited for the first time. The theater, adjacent to Vassileos Constantinou Avenue, will be ready for educational and cultural events once the stone covering is laid. A competition is already in process for the renovation of the winter residence, which will have an information lobby on the lower floor and temporary exhibitions on the upper. Exhibitions are already in the works, starting with an exhibition of photographs of Gothic architecture, organized by the Culture Ministry, which opens September 20. Lyceum eroded The second stage of the project will link the park around the museum with the archaeological site identified in 1996 as Aristotle’s Lyceum. The Lyceum’s location had long been a controversial issue among scholars, but this was the first time hard evidence was produced. An outstanding monument, it is made of fragile material. Archaeologists and conservators have worked to save it, but the rain continues to erode it. The slightly domed, 9-meter structure with a metal roof and copper leaves on the exterior is designed to give the impression of a thin protective cover floating above the ruins. It took the Third Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities 11 months to excavate the site, and 11 years of promises have gone by since then.