May 23, 2003

Legal issues surround New Acropolis Museum construction

Posted at 4:49 pm in New Acropolis Museum

The New Acropolis Museum has taken a long time to get to this stage, but many in Greece seem desperate to stop it from being built at all, despite the fact that the proper procedures have been followed & that the building has been deliberately designed to avoid disturbing the archaeological remains below.

Athens News

FRIDAY , 23 MAY 2003
No. 13015
Acropolis Museum builders unfazed by imminent court ruling

PROTESTERS opposed to the construction of Athens’ new Acropolis Museum in an area rife with archaeological remains have reportedly won a legal battle in their campaign to halt the project, but Greek media indicate that a final court decision on the issue could take months.

Reports on May 19 said that the Council of State sided with residents of Makriyianni – the area selected for the new museum at the foot of the Acropolis – who claim that the building’s foundations will damage a valuable housing complex dating from the Classical to the early Christian era.

“[The decision] basically says that you can’t build a museum there because you will damage ancient artefacts in the area,” a court source told Reuters. “It will be made public in a few weeks.”

But according to To Vima daily, the reported ruling by Council of State concerns preliminary museum plans which have already been modified in the construction phase. The venue’s builders argue that the most significant remains will be protected under a glass floor designed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi.

“The preliminary study may have been modified, but 80 percent of the final museum plans are based on it,” says lawyer Leonidas Thanopoulos, representing Makriyianni’s residents.

The Council of State is expected to examine by October a complaint made by the residents against the final museum plans and a request to halt all construction.

In the meantime, Demetrios Pantermalis, director of the Organisation for the Construction of the New Acropolis Museum (OANMA), says that work is continuing. He declined to comment on what practical effects the reported Council of State ruling might have on the project, which is months behind schedule.

“There’s no point discussing this issue until the ruling is officially published,” Pantermalis told the Athens News. “Right now all we have is speculation. The museum’s construction continues.”

The Acropolis Museum is the cornerstone of Greece’s argument for the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles, which have been on display at the British Museum since the 19th century. So far, the British Museum has refused to contemplate even the prospect of a loan for the Athens 2004 Games.

Construction delays and difficulties have pushed the museum far beyond its original aim to open before the Olympics. Culture ministry organisers are now focusing on finishing the gallery designed for the Parthenon Marbles.

The Art Newspaper

Battle for the Acropolis
New Acropolis Museum project to go ahead despite plans being ruled illegal

ATHENS. On 21 May Greek newspaper Kathimerini reported that the previous day, while vowing to comply with any court decision on the legitimacy of the New Acropolis Museum project, the Greek government said that 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 17 May, Council of State sources said the Supreme Administrative Court has rejected as illegal initial plans for the €94 million 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.

On Tuesday 20 May Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos announced that once the ruling is published, all fitting action would 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].

For an analysis of the situation regarding the Elgin marbles and the proposed museum see Art Newspaper 131, Dec. 2002, pp. 8-12

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