Chapter 1 of 9
Everybody knows the Parthenon and the Acropolis. There is probably no more influential building in the whole history of western civilization. The Parthenon itself was not only the building, but a number of extraordinary sculptures attached, or part embedded in the stone of the temple itself. Over the years, over the centuries - we are talking about a building which was completed over twenty five hundred years ago - these fragments have started to be taken away from the building, either through accidents of history - earthquakes, wars - or simply looting by, or sometimes simply in order to protect those marvels, and they went to other museums. We'll come back to that part of the story in a minute. Namely, as the pieces of the Parthenon, and the pieces of Greek sculpture were disseminated. Eventually the Greek cultural establishment felt that it was important to bring things together in one single Museum, and about thirty years ago, a first competition was held, and another one and another one, to try to find a way to give the history, or the story, of that extraordinary period that was 500 BC, 450 BC, where art and architecture reached an extraordinary level of perfection. Meanwhile, there were other polemics, which of course had to do with the fact that one of the most extraordinary fragments of the Parthenon had found its way to the British Museum. Lord Elgin in the nineteenth century bought from - I won't go into the political detail and how they end up, ended up in London - but suffice to say that half of that extraordinary frieze that was around the Parthenon is in Athens, the other half is in London, and imagine to have to read a book by having one part of the book in one location and another in another location; the story is always incomplete. So when, in around 2000, the decision was made to organise one more competition, it is quite important because it has a number of issues attached to the fact of building a new museum at the foot of the Acropolis.