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Greece’s National Gallery expands to meet modern demands June 12, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.
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Addition of a third floor is under way

national_gallery1.jpg  national_gallery2.jpg  A model from the study by Constantinos Mylonas and Dimitris Fatouros for the extension to the National Gallery. Above Left: A view from the staircase from Building A to Building B. Also visible is the slope, a water feature, a glass roof over the temporary exhibition space in Building C, the graduations of the surrounding area toward Vassileos Constantinou Avenue and the outdoor area of the cafe in Building A. Above Right: A partial view of the temporary exhibition hall.

The National Gallery is bursting at the seams and has been for years. The unfinished building, designed by Pavlos Mylonas (1904-2005) and Dimitris Fatouros, can no longer meet the most basic requirements of the country’s leading gallery. The National Gallery has a closed-in, almost provincial air that does not suit its role or the city of 4 million people that Athens has become.

A few weeks ago, Culture Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis officially announced the expansion of the National Gallery and its inclusion in the Fourth Community Support Framework, to the tune of 30 million euros in funding. The Minister also said that 2.8 million euros for the final implementation study plus a further 400,000 euros would go to the studios of Constantinos Milonas, son of the late Pavlos Milonas, and Fatouros, who will update the original 1970 design.

The new preliminary study has received the approval of the Central Council of Modern Monuments, but the architects’ fees and inclusion of the final study in a reliable funding program had not been settled. The addition of the third floor will add 6,000 square meters to the National Gallery.

“We’re talking about new exhibition space, an amphitheater, a sales point and modern storerooms,” Gallery Director Marina Lambraki-Plaka said. “We’ll have a lovely cafe with a view of the Acropolis, and the building will be stabilized in accordance with the new anti-seismic regulations.”

The updated study includes additions that did not appear in the original study, such as two new basements and a spiral staircase that will inject dynamism into the facade on Vassileos Constantinou Avenue.

“The Ministry has been working hard on this for the past six months and the Prime Minister himself has made the extension of the building a top priority in the government’s culture policy” Lambraki-Plaka said.

As for the timetable, she thinks it unlikely that work will begin before 2010. It will take two-and-a-half years and the existing building may continue to operate while work is in progress. Part of the gallery’s activities will be transferred to the National Glyptotheque in Goudi. Lambraki-Plaka hopes that the gallery will be given two more buildings in Goudi. “There are two more buildings, one identical to the Glyptotheque and a large bakery. We could put our Collectors’ Museum there, an area we are planning for items donated by collectors.”

At present, the National Gallery lacks such an area, which is why the Papaloukas collection was lost, and collectors want, at the very least, an independent, named area for their donations. The buildings belong to the National Defense Retirement Fund, and only strong political will and satisfactory trade-offs will persuade the veterans to drop their objections.

Lambraki-Plaka has long-term plans in mind. “An older plan of sinking Vassileos Constantinou Avenue would allow the gallery to be united with Rizari Park and our extension, albeit underground, toward the park. It is a feasible plan and Public Works Minister Giorgos Souflias has shown an interest.”

The National Gallery was originally housed in the main building of the National Technical University of Athens, where it remained until 1940 when war came. Its unification in 1954 with the legacy of Alexandros Soutzos significantly boosted the gallery’s development, but the gallery still did not have a real home. In 1956 an architectural competition attracted the architectural elite of Greece. The younger generation, Milonas and Fatouros, won. The winning entry, to which Nikos Moutsopoulos had also contributed, was a five-story building in the brutalist style.

What is not generally known is that the original competition was for the gallery to be located on a plot of land next to the Byzantine Museum. Eventually the new building was erected on the triangle formed by Vassileos Constantinou and Megalou Alexandrou Avenues and Michalakopoulou Street, opposite the Hilton Hotel. The study took 13 years till 1970, with the foundation stone being laid in 1964.

Only the basic idea was retained from the original study. The building was lowered by two floors to create the long, narrow, two-story parallelogram of the main building and the single-story cube of the Alexandros Soutzos Museum, joined by a bridge to make an asymmetrical H shape. It was opened in 1976. The missing third floor, which is to be added now, became the subject of rumor. Gossips claimed that the management of the Hilton at that time took steps because it didn’t want its own view impeded.

National Art Gallery and Alexandros Soutzos Museum, 1 Michalakopoulou Street and 50 Vassileos Constantinou Avenue, Athens, tel 210 7211010, 210 7235857, 210 7235937-8, fax 210 7224889.

Related Links > http://www.greece-museums.com/url.php?id=10

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