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Greek courts rule against New Acropolis Museum

Greece’s courts have ruled against the legality of the planning permission for the New Acropolis Museum. The government has however vowed to ensure that the project can continue & is attempting to rectify the issues that led to this decision.

Kathimerini (English Edition) [1]

Monday May 19, 2003
New blow to Acropolis Museum?
Court reportedly rejects plan

The much-delayed project to build a new Acropolis Museum under the ancient citadel before the 2004 Olympics appears to have suffered a new blow, according to weekend reports that Greece’s highest administrative court has rejected initial plans for the 94-million-euro building.

Sources quoted by the Athens News Agency on Saturday and the Sunday Ethnos said the plenary session of the Council of State unanimously decided that the initial study for construction of the building, on the basis of which the construction permit was issued, illegally allowed the destruction of antiquities on the site that had been set aside for preservation. The ruling, which will not be officially made public for several weeks, also reportedly mentions that the Culture Ministry’s Supreme Archaeological Council has not sanctioned the destruction, as it is legally bound to do.

The initial study was approved by Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos, a professor of constitutional law.

The court was ruling on an appeal by residents of Makriyianni who complain that significant antiquities will be destroyed to allow construction of the new museum in their neighborhood. They have also tabled a suit questioning the legality of the final museum plans.

The 20,000-square-meter building, designed by Swiss-US architect Bernard Tschumi in collaboration with Greece’s Michael Photiadis, is scheduled to be built on the southeastern fringes of the Acropolis site, next to the early 19th century military hospital built on land donated by General Yiannis Makriyiannis, a hero of the 1821 War of Independence.

Greece has repeatedly linked the museum’s construction with its campaign for the return of the British Museum’s Elgin Collection of sculptures from the Parthenon. But works are 11 months behind schedule, and the foundation stone has still to be laid.

While insisting that the museum will have been built by the summer of 2004, officials have conceded that not all the exhibition areas will be ready in time.

The Tschumi-Photiadis plans were approved after a building designed by two Italian architects had to be scrapped when antiquities were found on the site.

Kathimerini (English Edition) [1]

Tuesday May 20, 2003
Museum project ‘to go ahead’

While vowing to comply with any court decision on the legitimacy of the New Acropolis Museum project, the government yesterday said it would also do all it could to proceed with the building which Athens has inextricably linked to its bid to wrest back the British Museum’s Elgin Collection of Parthenon sculptures.

On Saturday, Council of State sources said the supreme administrative court has rejected as illegal initial plans for the 94-million-euro glass and concrete structure the government has undertaken to erect in Makriyianni, on the southeastern fringes of the Acropolis. The court reportedly found that the plans allowed for significant antiquities to be destroyed without Culture Ministry approval. The decision will be published in a few weeks. The project is already 11 months behind schedule.

Yesterday, Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said once the ruling is published, “all fitting action will be taken to ensure that respect is shown for law and order and that the [museum] is built.” He criticized the leak to the press as “a heavy blow to the prestige of [Greek justice].”

BBC News [2]

Last Updated: Monday, 19 May, 2003, 21:01 GMT 22:01 UK
Greek museum plans ‘thwarted’

Greece highest court has ruled against the government’s plans on a new museum at the Acropolis in Athens, according to court officials.

They are quoted as saying the decision was influenced by fears that the construction work on the slopes of the Parthenon – the proposed site for the new museum – could damage nearby antiquities.

Correspondents say such a ruling is a serious setback for the Greek Government’s efforts for the return of the Parthenon frieze known in Britain as the Elgin Marbles, which once adorned the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis, from the British Museum in London.

Greece had hoped a new modern Acropolis museum would put pressure on Britain to return the sculptures for display during the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

The 2,500-year-old sculptures depicting religious and mythological scenes have been held at the British Museum since 1816.


The Council of State’s decision has not yet been published, although it is common practice in Greece to release information about rulings to reporters first.

But the court appears to have sided with local residents and cultural associations which said the construction study did not address risks to buried antiquities.

The 90m-euro museum – a glass building designed by New York-based architect Bernard Tschumi – is behind schedule.

However, the Greek Government had pledged to have a purpose-built hall for the marbles ready for the Olympics.

The ruling means that the project will remain on hold until a decision is taken on whether to appeal or seek an alternative location.


Greek high court rules against new Acropolis museum
By Karolos Grohmann

ATHENS, May 19 — Greece’s highest court has dealt a blow to government efforts to win the return of the Elgin marbles by blocking plans for a museum at the foot of the sacred Acropolis hill, court sources said on Monday.

The Council of State’s ruling against the new museum is a serious setback for Greek efforts to win a 200-year-old tug-of- war with Britain over dozens of ancient friezes and statues removed from the Acropolis by the British diplomat Lord Elgin in the 19th century.
Greece had hoped the new state-of-the-art building, which will replace a small and ageing museum on top of the hill, would help convince Britain to offer the marbles for display during the 2004 Athens Olympics.
For years the British Museum, which houses the 53 blocks of friezes and the 19 statues, has refused to give up or even lend the marbles, claiming the lack of a purpose-built museum in the Greek capital put the artefacts at risk.
Court sources told Reuters the Council of State ruled the construction of the 90-million euro museum on the southeastern slopes of the Parthenon — the capital’s trademark temple — would mean other nearby antiquities would be destroyed.
”There has been a decision by the court and it will be made public in a few weeks,” the source said. ”It basically says you can’t build your museum there because you will damage other ancient artefacts in the area.”
The case was brought to court by residents of Makriyanni, the area earmarked for the new museum — a glass building designed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi.
Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos said last October he was ”optimistic” the marbles would be on display in Athens by 2004 and the century-old ”war of the marbles” with Britain would finally be resolved.
Government officials refused comment on Monday, saying they would only do so when the ruling was officially announced.
But the ruling means the museum plans are on hold until the government decides whether to challenge it or seek an alternative location for the building, whose construction is already a year behind schedule.
Even before the ruling, Greece had conceded the museum would not be completed in time for the games but had pledged to have the purpose-built Parthenon marbles hall completed by August 2004 to exhibit the Elgin marbles.