Lectures by Christina Papadimitriou on Reconstructing the Parthenon B. Tschumi and the New Acropolis Museum and Marc Britz on Zappeion Building, Zappos and Theophile von Hansen: a multi-purpose building from the start.
Lectures Day Nine June 16th
Christina described the long history of restoration and clearance of the Acropolis, after becoming an archaeological site in 1828. She reviewed plans for transforming Athens into a modern city and concerns of what to do with the Acropolis. There was Karl Friedrich Schinkel ‘s Plan 1834 to build the King’s Palace on its plateau, rejected because there was no water on the hill. There were many romantic and neo-classical idealize views of contemplated restoration; Gottfried Semper’s polychromatic drawings of Parthenon. Eventually the Acropolis became the icon of Greek modernity.
After restoration work began, some 200 houses on Acropolis, built to house the families of the garrison, were cleared away, as was a mosque inside Parthenon built in the early 18th century. Parts of the Parthenon were restored. Early photographs reveal the ground strewn with rubble which led Christina to dispute Auguste Choisy’s description of movement of the eye from the Erechtheion to the Parthenon, the interpretation of the architectural promenade of Le Corbusier following Choisy, and the scenographic interpretation made by Eisenstein also following Choisy. Such a walk would have been impossible, she argued, due to the clutter accumulated during the Persian wars and rubble from the base of an original temple to Athena.
She also described Bernard Tshumi’s New Acropolis Museum and the several competition prior to his winning proposal. The program called for a site close to the Acropolis but where? It must be a building neutral in appearance in order to preserve the dominance of the ancient landscape. During construction post-classical archaeological ruins were discovered requiring the museum to preserve their material traces. It is expected that 10,000 visitors per day will loop through the building. Tshumi has offered a look at the contemporary city while viewing the ancient marbles, thus presenting the visitor with dramatically different conditions.
Was the museum built to house the Elgin marbles? Will the marbles be returned? Might they start a great exchange of antiquities from London, New York, Berlin and elsewhere? Is this about moveable objects and international law, or is it about Greek identity and national possessions? These were a few questions raised in a discussion.
Marc Britz described the start of his summer research project, with Christina, on the Danish architect Theophil Hansen (1813 -1891) who was trained by Schinkel. Marc’s work begins with the Zappeion Building, intended to be a multi-purpose structure from the start. Built on the edge of the city but now enclosed by the city and a park, The Zappeion (1874 – 1888) was intended by its benefactor Evangelos Zappas to help revive the Olympic Games in modern times. It was used during the 1896 Oympics as a Fencing Hall, photographs of which were shown by Marc, and as an Olympic Village for the 1906 Olympic games, and as the press center for the 2004 Olympics. It has also been used for events that range from fashion week to the signing of documents for Greek EU membership.
A bemusing fact is Zappas’ head is buried within his statue, for an undisclosed reason. He died before the revival of the Olympics that he had worked for such since 1856, perhaps he desired to be close to their eventual re-enactment. The Building itself, as Marc explained, is a wonderful example of neo-classical architecture arranged around a circular atrium, with an academically correct façade and beautiful polychrome interiors.
Day Nine June 16th Tuesday
Late afternoon Katerina Sikianaki spoke to us about the 2009 Master Plan for Athens region, the creation of special entrepreneurial zones: such as a high technology park near the new airport or the western zone for heavy industry in which the government provides the infrastructure to support them and industries and enterprises self-relocate. She spoke about environmental protection: along the 42 klm coastal zone, the mountain areas and how the the vegetation of each are is given protection. Each municipality has developed capacity studies such as Glyfada has too many restaurants, they have to reduce the number.
Katerina Sikianaki also spoke about the old airport and plans to turn it into Helinikon Park. A big expanse of land, bigger than Central Park in New York City, it contains some 600 hectares: 100 hectares has been given to regionally important institutions and they will find the funds to create the park and to see that it functions afterwards. The old Saarinen airport building is planned to be an exhibition center; there will be zones for a marine park, an athletic park, a conference center, a high tech zone, housing zones, multi-functional cultural zones with handicraft. Nevertheless the local neighborhood rejected the plan for the City Planers had to take a new approach embodying environmental y strategic considerations combined with implementation plans. These were only a few of the many different aspects of city planning in the Athens region which Sikianaki explained in great detail.