A rich present in the past
Third birthday celebrations for the Acropolis Museum, Marcus Megalokonomos takes a retrospective look at the Museum that’s graced the Acropolis mountain since 2009
In the shadow of the Acropolis, in the historic neighbourhood of Makryianni, a very special birthday party is being held. And with a guest list of thousands, it's going off with a bang.
Despite her young age, the guest of honour has always been present in our lives, always shared her secrets with us and like most three year olds, has plenty to say.
A fascinating mixture of old and new, past and present, ancient and modern, the new Acropolis Museum is turning three this year.
An imposing building, the Museum was designed with a dual purpose - to display the masterpieces of antiquity and the dialectical relationship with the Parthenon - one of the major monuments of the global cultural heritage. Indeed it is a building that was long awaited, having been born decades after the need for a museum dedicated to the sacred rock was realised.
To mark the Museum's third birthday and to the delight of travellers from all over the world, the entry fee has been reduced to three euros. There is special entertainment on every level - traditional Greek music in the form of live bands as well as music and song from other countries including Spanish and Italian. There are special activities for the children and a free concert in the evening - all showing that despite the problems being faced, Greece is very much alive and kicking.
The new Acropolis Museum and in front of it the historical Weiler Building constitute the old next to the new. This co-existence continues inside the Museum - where the combination of modern materials and design interact creatively with the classical beauty of the ancient works of art.
The specifications which the competing architectural firms had to fulfil were very particular: the new museum had to incorporate the excavation of the ancient quarter so as to make it visible to visitors; natural light had to be used so as to give a sense of open space; there was to be a balanced relationship between the building's architecture and the ancient monuments on the Acropolic rocks; and the museum had to be satisfactorily integrated with the immediate and broader urban environment and enable the visitor to see both the architectural sculptures of the Parthenon and the Parthenon itself on the Acropolis at the same time.
The building that was opened on 20 June 2009, responds inventively to all of the requirements.
The visual link between the Parthenon sculptures exhibited in the Museum and the monument from which they originated is achieved through the transparent glass outer walls of the Parthenon Gallery. From the Gallery the visitor is treated to a breathtaking view of the Acropolis, the surrounding historic hills and the modern city of Athens.
At the base the Museum appears to be floating, as it is supported by more than 100 concrete pillars which provide an impressive shelter for the site's archaeological excavation.
Excavations carried out on the site of the new Acropolis Museum unearthed an important part of the ancient city of Athens, featuring many architectural phases and thousands of finds that provided valuable insights into everyday life as well as in the peculiarities encountered in life under the towering form of the Acropolis. Visitors to the museum are provided with a glimpse of the excavation through the openings and glass floors at the Museum's ground level.
The new Acropolis Museum succeeds in giving visitors the opportunity to discover for themselves the unsurpassed quality of the masterpieces of ancient Athens that have fascinated western civilisation for thousands of years.
The first gallery of the Museum houses finds from the slopes of the Acropolis. Its spectacular glass floors afford a view to the archaeological excavations while the rise in the floor alludes to the ascent to the Acropolis.
Excavations brought to light parts of the urban fabric of ancient Athens - provided evidence of its almost uninterrupted habitation from the end of the Neolithic Period (about 3000 BC) until late antiquity (6th century AD) and later. Houses and workshops, roads and squares, wells and reservoirs as well as thousands of objects left behind by the locals provide insight into the past.
Museum archaeologists and hosts are available to answer questions about the exhibits, assisting visitors to delve into the ancient past. Using the techniques of dialogue, inquiry and storytelling the staff work to enrich a Museum visit and are available to discuss various issues relating to and emerging from the Museum's collections.
Certainly Greece is going through one of the most difficult periods in its modern history with radical changes now required in almost every aspect of life and public management
in order to ensure her survival as a democratic and prosperous nation. It is a monumental task but as the long history of this great country shows, it is achievable.
Greece and the Greeks are resilient and it is to be hoped the same courage that saw triumphs through wars, occupations and natural disasters will serve Greece well again in the face of her current adversities.
As one strolls through the the new Acropolis Museum - and feels the place where democracy, philosophy, art, science and so much more have been flourishing for thousands of years - one feels hope for the future. In the words of Le Corbusier in 1935, "Upon the Acropolis, within the silent recess of this place, rises a language, full of passions, almost a cry....voluminous, piercing, sharp.....the marble of the temples carries the human voice." That same voice is heard today, loud and proud.
As birthday parties go, this one was special.
A day of unbelievable. A lifetime of unforgettable.
A celebration of a world that exists beyond the imagination, where dreams once discovered and exquisite beauty, shared.
A place where extraordinary moments were born and gifted to the world.
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