loading video...

kengo kuma & k-studio's submerged proposal for national archaeological museum in athens

kengo kuma & k-studio’s unearthing PROPOSAL for NAM


Kengo Kuma and Associates has teamed up with the greek architectural office K-Studio for an architectural competition for the National Archeological Museum expansion in Athens, Greece. Although it didn’t get first place, after David Chipperfield Architects’ proposal was selected as the winner, KKAA’s proposal sees stunning architecture through a subtle yet impressive gesture of lifting the earth. The intended scheme is developed through an act of ‘unearthing’ in an attempt to symbolically reveal the treasures buried over time. 


Watch the full-header video above, where the team explains the concept and the reasoning behind the subterranean design. ‘Our proposal for the museum is not to create an iconic architectural object or a mass in a formalistic gesture, but to create a journey of spatial, sensorial experiences that would convey the narratives and its profound history. Given the extension of the museum being underground, our architectural design approach would naturally be humble and discreet but distinctive,’ shared the Athens-based practice.

kengo kuma & k-studio's submerged expansion for national archaeological museum in athens
all renders by Michail Kafasis



resembling a floating garden


The proposal by Kengo Kuma (more here) and K-Studio (more here) was planned at the elevation of the existing building’s ground floor entry to provide smooth accessibility. For this project, the design team created a sunken architectural form to be gradually diminished. The expansion of the museum is subtly housed beneath the busy urban boulevard, while above, the roof holds lush greenery, creating a seemingly floating garden.


A slit-like opening was strategically formed by lifting the earth to evoke curiosity and guide visitors into the deep, spacious underground scheme. This gesture prompts guests to submerge, discover, and meander among the artifacts, marking the beginning of the underground exhibition journey. The height of the roof is kept low from the street level to maintain the human scale.‘ The garden on the lifted plane extends horizontally at the same level, while 2 side streets slope down towards the large boulevard,’ shared the Greek practice. 


kengo kuma & k-studio's submerged expansion for national archaeological museum in athens
a gradient of light shows the way from outdoors through the subterranean obscurity



emphasizing the subterranean obscurity


When it comes to the interior, the architects opted to clad the tall and deep column-free spaces with an earthy and warm material palette, while the lighting setting plays a fundamental role in the sensorial experience. The dimmed light directs visitors into the space, while natural light gently penetrates from the crack-like clerestory to highlight the quality of artifacts. The absence of columns generates a cave-like feeling and maximizes flexibility, allowing the exhibition of large sculptures and building parts that were difficult to display in the current spaces.


Additional programs, such as the auditorium and museum restaurant/ café, with their independent entrances, are placed along the pedestrian promenade between the university and NAM to foster public interaction and engagement. ‘The new extension of NAM is an opportunity to create a coherent architectural enhancement and restructuring. It can alter its architectural presence to modern expression, preserve and enhance the existing, promote the new active urban scene and interaction.’ 


kengo kuma & k-studio's submerged expansion for national archaeological museum in athens
the slit is created between the roof slab and the access level of the boulevard


‘The planning strategy to create ‘one museum’ experience with the existing and the new extension is to introduce a linear continuous spine to generate a smooth flow with generous space for distribution and circulation. This linking spine is planned continuously from the central hall in the existing building to the new entrance of the extension. It serves as a welcoming space with supporting entry functions, access control points to enter and host various exhibition spaces and as gathering, resting and break out spaces,’ explained the team.


‘It would solve the congestion in circulation and make it easy for visitors to orient themselves towards desirable ways around. Our strategy to enhance and improve the planning in the existing part of the museum is to reorganize in simpler, clearer program zoning and in planning of circulation and exhibition/operational flow,’ they added.


project info:


name: National Archaeological Museum
location: 44, 28th of October (Patission) str., Athens 106 82 – Greece
total floor area: 23 000 sqm new extension

lead design architect: Kengo Kuma And Associates (Yuki Ikeguchi, Yasemin Sahiner, Nicolas Guichard, Sara Mucciola, Jeanne Krings)

executive architect: K-Studio (Dimitris Karampatakis, Giorgos Mitrogiorgis, Konstantina Mavridou, Katerina Paitazoglou, Greta Davetta, Georgina Erotokritou, Dimitra Vasileiadou, Georgia Mouratidou, Foteini Kontoleon, Lina Kantere)

engineer – structure, MEP & sustainability: Buro Happold (Anna Wendt, Florian Foerster, Sabine Mueller, Neil Francis, Gencay Tatlidamak, Peter Goff)

landscape architect: MASU planning (Sune Oslev, Malin Blomqvist, Gauthier Durey)

videographer: © Vincent Hecht | @vincenthecht.photography

3D visualisation observations: Michail Kafasis


suscribe on designboom
- see sample
- see sample
suscribe on designboom
happening now! for over 50 years, florim ceramiche spa has been creating porcelain stoneware ceramic surfaces for all architecture, building industry and interior design needs – explore the new mystic luxe collection on designboom! 

architecture in greece (238)

k-studio (9)

kengo kuma (263)

museums and galleries (661)

vincent hecht (22)


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

designboom will always be there for you

milan, new york, beijing, tokyo,  since 1999