Buildings that renew the city’s image

A part from the Acropolis Museum, there is little new in the urban fabric of Athens. Or maybe it just seems that way to those of us who see it every day. Certainly those who have less frequent contact with the city, notably foreign tourists, notice changes and, for the most part, welcome them. But these changes rarely concern architectural renewal. They are more to do with infrastructure and a sense of newly acquired prosperity, at least before the financial crunch. With its symbolic and architectural clout, the Acropolis Museum is one exception; the final plans for the new Stavros Niarchos Cultural and Educational Park at the Faliro Delta will be another. The next few months will see the inauguration of several important cultural infrastructure projects. Informal competition among private foundations (Onassis, Niarchos and Hellenic World) has helped inspire some exceptional projects in which architecture deservedly plays a leading role. The Onassis and Niarchos foundations chose well-known foreign architects through international competitions, while the Foundation of the Hellenic World has so far opted for local architects, with commendable results. Meanwhile, the Culture Ministry has been actively promoting a number of smaller construction projects to update the infrastructure of major cultural organizations, such as the National Theater, Film Archive, National Museum of Contemporary Art, as well as extensions to the National Gallery and the National Archaeological Museum and the renovation of the Acropole Palace. In this report, Kathimerini charts projects that will either reach or near completion within the next 12 months in Athens.