Losing sight of the creation

Arecent New York Times article on the new Acropolis Museum is a lesson in how such a subject should be approached and how to get the desired result. The journalist, without singing the praises of the architect, places the project within a solid chronological, historical and aesthetic framework. He talks about the city in which it is located and the museum’s (much discussed) «dialogue» with the Parthenon, while noting its value as a piece of architecture. His dialogue with the reader gives the subject breadth and reveals the different facets of the debate without losing the main point: The Parthenon Marbles belong in Athens. The new museum is presented as a sound argument in favor of their return, without emotion and nationalist fervor. Outside their natural environment, the Marbles are stripped of their importance, meaning and content. There is a profound, esoteric relationship between the Marbles and the civilization that created and produced them, a relationship reflected even in the fundamental design of the museum. «Mr Tschumi’s great accomplishment is to express this truth in architectural form,» concludes the journalist. Nicolai Ouroussoff sets a dilemma for Greece and underscores a weakness. He went to the effort to travel to Athens and London so that he could compare the current home of the Marbles with their possible new one and looks at the debate on the Marbles’ return from this fresh perspective. The bridge he builds is made of new materials, not of recycled arguments from the past. Ouroussoff expresses a school of thought among journalists and society that brings together many different pieces of information and knowledge and gives a topic a sense of universality. In short, the return of the Marbles is not a Greek demand, it is a universal (historical and cultural) necessity. For months the only debate being conducted on the subject in Greece is whether we should demolish the two buildings on Dionysiou Areopagitou Street that obstruct the museum’s view of the Parthenon. Bernard Tschumi has, generally speaking, been presented in this debate as an arrogant interloper who wants to express his over-inflated ego in a monumental building and who wants to tear down anything that stands in its way. By psychoanalyzing the creator, we have lost sight of the creation. What has happened to public dialogue, debate and arguments for and against? What does a building of such scope mean for the city? Is it a major public work of a cultural nature that will henceforth reflect our cultural identity? Tschumi says it is people that bring a building to life. We say that it is dialogue too. Without debate, the building will remain a foreign, unfamiliar thing.