david chipperfield unveils design for the national archaeological museum of athens

david chipperfield unveils design for the national archaeological museum of athens

the winning entry by chipperfield architects

 

In January 2023, it was announced that the National Archaeological Museum of Athens selected David Chipperfield Architects as the winner of an international competition to design its highly anticipated expansion. The largest museum in Greece and perhaps among the most important in the world, the original neoclassical building was constructed at the closing of the nineteenth century and housed a humble collection of excavations mainly from the immediate region.

 

One month later, in February 2023, the Berlin-based architectural firm unveiled the much-anticipated design, which draws on the essence of the original structure — a romantic Philhellenic idea of an urban landscape articulated through lush open spaces within the dense urban network — and uses the monumental building as a starting point to frame it with nature.

david chipperfield unveils design for the national archaeological museum of athens
streetview of the new complex | all images © Filippo Bolognese Images

 

 

a subterranean expansion of the athens archaeological museum

 

The architects led by David Chipperfield, together with local practice Tombazis & Associates, proposes an expansion of the plaza fronting the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. New exhibition spaces will be subtly housed beneath the plaza, while a contemporary and new facade will present a sensitive new face for the museum alongside a grand stair, expanding the neoclassical architecture without obstructing or mimicking it.

 

The logic of the design follows the existing topography of the site: an imposing neoclassical building facing a large green square. The extension houses the museum’s main public functions – ticket office, store, restaurant, auditorium, and spaces for permanent and temporary exhibitions – arranged symmetrically and respecting the historic architecture. The main entrance is brought forward to street level, strengthening the museum’s relationship with the city. Through a new façade, the museum communicates openly with its urban surroundings and offers passers-by glimpses of the new exhibition spaces. 

david chipperfield unveils design for the national archaeological museum of athens
neoclassical building sitting in the new park

 

 

Upon entering the museum, visitors pass through two floors of continuous, flowing exhibition spaces that lead them to the existing building. A refined architectural language of pure and clear volumes, diagonal vistas, and rammed earth walls contrasts with the historic spaces. Combined with a precise play of light and shadow, the feeling of subterranean caves is evoked, providing a sensitive setting for the exhibition of artifacts and sculptures from the collection.

 

The museum garden provides a cool, quiet public space that sits above the bustling city. It recalls the ancient Greek ideal of a public gathering space for all citizens. Designed by Belgian landscape architects Wirtz International, the landscape is rich in texture. The volumes on the lower level allow for the planting of monumental trees on the roof. Generous gravel areas and pathways, lawns, groups of umbrella pines and Aleppo pines with evergreen holm oaks and tailored groups of shrubs are reminiscent of 19th-century parks. The park is accessible from all sides, and a sunken, sheltered courtyard at the heart of the complex connects old and new and provides an attractive meeting place for museum visitors and Athenians.

david chipperfield unveils design for the national archaeological museum of athens
a new setting for the historic landmark building

david chipperfield unveils design for the national archaeological museum of athens
entrance and access to the park

david chipperfield unveils design for the national archaeological museum of athens
new entrance to the museum

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spaces around the central courtyard

david chipperfield unveils design for the national archaeological museum of athens
enclosed exhibition space

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flowing exhibition space with diagonal views

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