The Acropolis Museum by Bernard Tschumi Architects

The Acropolis Museum, located in Makryianni district, Greece, sits close to the Parthenon, roughly 1000 feet away from the heritage site. Apart from a modern urban fabric, its top floor provides a panoramic view of the city. The program for the Museum is pretty simple. The structure not only includes an 8000 square meter exhibition space but has a variety of visitor amenities. These staggered masses depict the life and evolution of Acropolis and unite its different institutions in a single form.

The Acropolis Museum - Excavation
Underground events excavation at the Acropolis Museum ©Why Athens

The Acropolis Museum : Factfile

Concept and Challenges:

Acropolis is one of the most raised places in Athens and, the Acropolis Museum superimposes this fine blend of contours. Apart from the challenges of the subtle upfront of how Acropolis stands, the architect identified three design problems that needed solutions. One of the challenges was integrating dramatic sculptures in the architectural process that need thoughts from both sides. Besides this, the proposed location of the Museum posed a threat of problems in excavation as the town already has a heavy street grid with a contemporary city around it. Apart from these two threats, the final challenge was that of earthquakes. The city is hot and dry and prone to earthquakes that forced the architect to resort to minimalism in design.

Concept of Museum

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The Acropolis Museum Design

The design of the Acropolis Museum started with its subdivision in three parts – a base, middle, and top. Furthermore, the Museum sits on the ruins of an archaeological site, carefully justifying its grandeur, while the column network stands stiff on the ground. The Acropolis Museum favors the use of about three materials in design – glass for its facades and floors, concrete for its core and columns, and marble for its galleries. Consequently, reinforced concrete, steel, and iron columns support the whole base.

Moreover, the building supports an entrance lobby, a temporary exhibition space, a 200-seat auditorium, and support facilities at the base level. Once inside the Museum, visitors use a glass ramp for circulation that overlooks the lobby of the Acropolis Museum. Similarly, archaeological findings from settlements as old as 3000BC highlight both the edges of the ramp. As the ramp ends, visitors come across the ruins of the first large temple of the Goddess Athena on the Acropolis.

The Acropolis Museum - Elevation treatment
The Acropolis Museum, Athens ©Definitely Greece

Circulation.

Circulation of the Acropolis Museum devotes its learning from the streets of Athens and ascends to different periods of archaeology. Visitors move along a three-dimensional loop and a promenade that showcases excavations that are underneath a glass floor. Moreover, the Parthenon Frieze in a gallery captures attention as it offers panoramic views of the city and comes back to antiques from the Roman period. Thus, the Museum exemplifies movement in and along time. Though the Acropolis Museum welcomes about 10,000 visitors daily, circulation and movement patterns remain the same throughout.

Circulation
Glass and concrete used for utmost simplicity in the museum ©Discover Greece

Besides minimalism in design, Glass, Concrete, and Marble offer a simplistic approach. Glass filters the light using a silk-screen shading process, while concrete structures the building and its corresponding background. Furthermore, marble segregates the circulation. Black marble indicates the lobbies, while light beige marble highlights the galleries.

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The Acropolis Museum : Impact resistance.

Since millions of visitors will come to the Acropolis Museum, impact resistance determines the design process. The architect used indoor cement boards for the design. It had the same qualities as that of brick but a faster installation process. Since the whole building binds in Marble, Concrete, and Glass, the architect chose cement boards even for exterior purposes to create a monotonous look. Besides being water-resistant, the cement ceiling board spanned across 1200 square meters of exterior ceilings, visible on the building itself.

The Acropolis  - Cement boards
Cement boards used in the construction of the Acropolis Museum ©Discover Greece

Lighting at The museum

Just like any other Museum, lighting drives the design of the Acropolis Museum. The architect cared to incorporate as much natural light as possible since it is a museum of sculptures. Impromptu wells of light highlight the modules, architectural pieces, and monuments, thus creating visual effects. For example, light from the skylight floods the Parthenon gallery at the top. Similarly, light reflected from the suitable openings penetrates through the galleries until the core of the building, touching the excavation below it.

The Acropolis Museum - Skylights
Skylights of the Acropolis Museum ©Tear and Trail

The Acropolis Museum : Spaces.

Each constituent of the program breaks down according to suitability at the base, middle and upper levels. An entrance hall sits at the base level, overlooking the excavation site, while temporary exhibition spaces support services and gift shops align in the spillovers of this entrance space. As the construction of the Acropolis museum was over an archaeological site, the architect used clear pavement glass in some sections to allow the visitor to see the excavations underneath.

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Above all, the center of the Acropolis Museum lies as a large square of double-height trapezoidal shape that shelters the galleries of the archaic period. A sliding glass here offers complete flexibility in transition. Moreover, a mezzanine overlooks the center and contains a multimedia auditorium, a bar, and a restaurant offering city-wide views of Acropolis. Apart from the ground floor and the mezzanine, the upper part hides a rectangular, covered yet transparent Parthenon gallery that turns to guide the main arena. As the visitor grasps the chronology, an architectural and historical story unfolds in front of him. Penetrating piles support the structure and the bedrock while floating on roller bearings. Additionally, these are capable of withstanding an earthquake of up to 10 Richter scale. Moreover, the upper floor rotates to about 23° to align with the Parthenon.

The Parthenon Gallery at the Acropolis Museum ©Focus Greece

The Acropolis Museum : Glass

The architect preferred the use of Glass in the Acropolis Museum to create a transparent, glowing, and reflective platform against concrete. Apart from wind loads, the self-supporting Glass can withstand earthquakes up to 6.5 Richter scale. Additionally, a clear coat of DIAMANT highlights the Glass and helps avoid the typical green hue of conventional Glass. The Glass maximizes color rendition and minimizes the distortion caused by natural daylight.

Glass Facade of the Acropolis Museum ©Greece IS

The Parthenon facade is a suspended, double-skinned Glass facade that helps to create a chimney effect. Cool air coming in from the inlets at the bottom edge gets heated by the sun rays and rises towards the outer facade. Roof level outlets extract this warm air and keep the interior of the Acropolis Museum cool. The outer Glass cover of VARIO Glass is well insulated and reduces solar glare, while the inner Glass is a laminated one. There is a gap of 70cm between the facade and Glass fins and, they float about 2.25M high from the ground. A SUNEX coating protects the Glass further from solar glare. A LITEX screenprint in six patterns works efficiently to reduce temperature. The indoor temperatures are 23°C when the outdoor temperatures are over 40°C. The exposed facade remains shaded by solar sails.

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Shading at the lower level

At the lower level, cantilevered floors shade the facade when the sun is at the highest angle. Thus, this avoids summer heating. When the sun is at the lowest orientation, externally oriented glass fins provide shade. Moreover, the glass facade is 9.3M high and uses the VARIO structural glazing system with the same solar control measures as the Parthenon. Furthermore, Glass floors using LITE-FLOOR have been used, especially in the excavation exhibits at the lower level. To further support the transparency, the architect used free-standing glass balustrades. If measure correctly, there are 11,000 square meters of glass surface in the Acropolis Museum.

The Excavation site at the new Acropolis Museum ©My WOWO

Let us look at some of the elements of the Acropolis Museum in a nutshell.

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Signage

Besides being visible and discrete, the architect arranged the signage to not compete with the artifacts during navigation.

Theater

A fully equipped theater having 180 seats, projection facilities, and translation booths sits at the bottom of the Museum.

Cafe and Terrace

A terrace with views of the Acropolis shades a 770 square meters restaurant. Moreover, the shading devices incorporated allow the usage of the space, both during the day and at night.

Landscaping

The architect used regional plant species so that the 23,000 square meters landscaped area does not look alien. The zone opens to public spaces in and around the Museum to interact with the neighborhood. Moreover, the North and East sides welcome visitors to the area.

Access

Though parking is absent on-site, it is available in the immediate neighborhood.

Section of Museum
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