[intro]The British Museum was the least of the worries during the building of the Acropolis museum.[/intro]
The Wall Street Journal looks at the archeological discoveries made possible by the Acropolis Museum excavation but those finds also created tensions with the projects architect, Bernard Tschumi.
A decade of excavation work, the largest to take place in central Athens, caused extensive delays to the building’s construction but unveiled an ancient city beneath the museum site — inhabited from the golden age of the fifth century B.C. to the mid-Byzantine period in the 12th century.
The well-preserved city was a wealthy enclave and many of the villas, cisterns, bathhouses and workshops were exceptionally well preserved:
“Thankfully, due to the construction of the new museum we were able to conduct the biggest-ever dig near the Acropolis and were given insight into people’s daily habits and the way they worshipped,” says Stamatia Eleftheratou, who headed the excavation. “We knew that we would find antiquities when construction began, but what we did not expect was to find so many and in such a well-preserved state.” […]
For Ms. Eleftheratou, an archaeologist from the Greek Culture Ministry, the findings have been a dream discovery. For the architects building the museum, they were a major challenge.
Under the suspicious and watchful eye of hundreds of archaeologists, many of whom did not want the museum built above an ancient city, Mr. Tschumi decided to raise the entire building on huge concrete columns, enabling the museum’s entry plaza and first floor to hover over the site.
He spent months negotiating with academics on how to preserve the artifacts as much as possible while at the same time planting concrete pillars into the ground to stabilize the museum against earthquakes. In many cases the supports are erected only a few inches away from the millennia-old walls.
At the Foot of the Acropolis (Wall Street Journal)