David Chipperfield wins competition for ‘subterranean’ extension to National Archaeological Museum in Athens
By Niall Patrick Walsh|
Thursday, Feb 16, 2023
David Chipperfield Architects has been chosen as the winner in an international completion for the design of an extension to the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece. Developed in collaboration with Tombazis & Associates Architects, Wirtz International, wh-p ingenieure, and Werner Sobek, the project will expand the existing neo-classical building through an extension of its plinth, creating two levels of subterranean galleries and a raised roof garden.
The competition was launched with the recognition that the existing building, constructed between 1855 and 1874, needed to adapt to new standards of openness and sustainability. Drawing on the spirit of the existing building, the new addition was driven by principles of “respecting the classical hierarchy and responding to the existing topography.” To that end, the new low-rise plinth extends toward the street, allowing the original structure to maintain its symbolic power.
The extension contains 215,000 square feet of additional space including two floors of subterranean galleries. Many of the museum’s public-facing functions will be housed in the extension, including the ticketing facilities, cloakroom, shop, and restaurant, as well as an auditorium and permanent exhibition spaces. The extension also seeks to strengthen the relationship between the museum and the city, with a new entrance located closer to the street and a largely glazed facade offering the public views of the new building.
Inside, the extension’s plan is formed of a series of “dispersed solid elements” that define what the design team calls a “fluid sequence of spaces that draw visitors towards the historic building and offer oblique views into the galleries along the way.” Rammed earth walls reinforce the ‘excavated’ nature of the interior, which combines with a play of light and shadow to create an atmosphere akin to subterranean caverns.
Above, the museum garden manifests as a quiet, green public space elevated above the city. The Wirtz International-designed landscape includes gravel spaces and paths, lawns, and a selection of pine trees, oak trees, and shrubs. The center of the landscape contains a sunken sheltered inner courtyard, while a connection between the new landscape and the existing original entrance staircase to the museum creates a newly-defined meeting space.
News of the scheme comes months after Chipperfield formed part of a team to deliver a $1.4 billion cultural-retail complex in Shenzhen. 2022 also saw the firm complete its Morland Mixité Capitale renovation in Paris, while 2021 saw the firm complete its high-profile restoration of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
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