05. Aug 2010

Pure unadulterated art
The New AcropolisMuseum in Athens/GR

Text: Arup Lighting, Alison Ritter
Photos: Christian Richters, Peter Mauss, KTIRIO Technical Editions, Arup Lighting

It may not be one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, but the Acropolis in Athens would probably be recognized by your average schoolboy anywhere, and acknowledged by extra-terrestrial life forms as one of the blue planet’s most famous set of ruins. Among architects and lighting designers the Parthenon itself, the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, is often quoted as being a fine example of daylight architecture, which made it practically compulsory to have daylight as the prime source of light for the exhibits in the NewAcropolisMuseum. The museum directors expressly wanted the ancient art pieces to be viewed under the same lighting conditions as they had been 2600 years before: pure, unadulterated art.

The artefacts on display in the original AcropolisMuseum, built in 1874, are a mere fraction of the site’s treasures, many of which are in storage or overseas. The international debate on the return of the Parthenon Marbles, removed by the seventh Earl of Elgin in the early 1800s,has raged for decades and become a national cause célèbre. A major objection to their repatriation has been the perceived lack of a suitable location to display them. With the opening of the NewAcropolisMuseum, this particular argument is met head on. The Parthenon Marbles have a home: a modern high specification museum flooded with daylight as an optimum display medium. Nearly 4,000 objects, most of them coming from the Acropolis, are exhibited over an area of 14,000 square metres. The museum opened to the public in June 2009and in the first two months it was visited by 523,540people (an average of 9,200 a day).Arup Lighting began the journey of choreographing the light, museology and spatial experience in close collaboration with Bernard Tschumi Architects after the architectural competition was won in 2001. The lighting team in London, led by Florence Lam, was appointed by OCNAM (Organization for the Construction of the NewAcropolisMuseum) to provide daylighting and architectural lighting design, following the project through to the opening exhibition. More than any other quality, light is the theme of the NewAcropolisMuseum and a central requirement of the architectural design. Large glass surfaces on the facades and roof optimise opportunities for daylight in recognition of the special luminosity of the Attica sky. This museum does not only unfold around a specific collection but is a symbol of modern architecture inviting and open to the public, therefore it is pre-eminently a daylight museum. Light is used as a tool to replicate, as far as possible, the outdoor conditions under which many of the architectural sculptures were originally seen. This close connection of daylight and art is what makes the NewAcropolisMuseum unique. […]

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The full version of the article can be found in PLD No. 72

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