Major renovation planned for Athens archaeological museum

ATHENS, Greece (AP) – The Greek Ministry of Culture on Wednesday announced plans for a major renovation of the National Archaeological Museum, expanding the exhibition space at the Athens site that houses what is considered the most important collection of Greek antiquities. of the world.

The project, expected to last four years, will be led by British architect Sir David Chipperfield, whose main works include the restoration of the Neues Museum in Berlin and the design of the East Building at the Saint Louis Art Museum.

Chipperfield said new construction covering 20,000 square meters (215,000 square feet) was planned around the existing 19th-century neoclassical building and would include new above and below ground exhibition areas, garden space and a new front entrance.

“Our architectural approach was to create a plinth growing out of the existing building, therefore fundamentally connected to the 19th century building. But at the same time, it develops into a powerful piece of architecture,” Chipperfield said during an event at the Athens museum on Wednesday.

“The challenge, of course, is balancing those two things.”

The National Archaeological Museum, the largest in Greece, has over 11,000 pieces spanning millennia. Its treasures include the 3,500-year-old gold burial mask known as the Mask of Agamemnon and the Antikythera Mechanism, a device used to track the sun, moon and planets.

But most visitors to Athens prefer the more centrally located Acropolis Museum, designed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi and opened in 2009. It’s where Greece hopes to house the Parthenon sculpturesalso known as the Elgin Marbles, which are currently in the British Museum in London.

The Acropolis Museum attracts around 2 million people a year, about four times the number who travel across the city to visit the National Archaeological Museum.

That’s something Greece’s prime minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, hopes will change with the reform.

“More exhibition space will be created for the large exhibitions of one of the most important collections in the world. Today we exhibit less than 10% of what we have in our warehouses,” said Mitsotakis at Wednesday’s event.

“It has always bothered me that just over 500,000 visitors visit the museum every year when it houses an incredible wealth of world cultural heritage,” he said.

Chipperfield will work on the Athens project with Greek architect Alexandros Tombazis, Wirtz International Landscape Architects of Belgium and German architect and structural engineer Werner Sobek.

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