National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (EMST)





The old FIX brewery factory was completed in 1964 and was initially about 190 metres long. FIX beer enjoyed a virtual monopoly in Greece for about 100 years but in 1983 went out of business, thus in 1994 the building lost half of its size to allow for the construction of the new metro station. The new FIX brewery was designed by Takis Zenetos, a very well-known Greek modernist architect (1926-1977) and became an iconic building of Athens. The remaining brewery 90 metres long, was renovated and structurally reinforced to house the National Museum of Contemporary Art (Εθνικό Μουσείο Σύγχρονης Τέχνης ΕΜΣΤ). The total building area is about 18.000,00 square metres and its foot print is 3.050,00 square metres.

The building comprises of a basement, ground floor and mezzanine, three levels of further exhibition spaces, a recessed floor level and the roof terrace. In the basement, ground and mezzanine floors the visitor will find various welcoming areas and the reception, communal use spaces and temporary exhibitions. The intermediate three levels house all permanent exhibitions. Part of the recessed floor (level four) houses the restaurant and part exhibition spaces, whilst the roof top will accommodate all open-air activities.

The spatial organisation was based on a large circulation composition parallel to the arterial road of Sygrou Avenue. The escalators and lifts that were located here create a strong diagonal axis which leads the visitor from the ground floor all the way up to the roof top open air exhibits whilst at the same time, connecting all internal exhibition spaces on every level via this route. The Museum has two entries, the main one is on Kallirois Avenue and the secondary one is on Sygrou Avenue; both also form a diagonal circulation axis in plan, on the ground floor. The Frantzi Street and Sygrou Avenue elevations are heritage listed as they were designed by Zenetos, something which dictated the internal spatial organisation and layout of the new Museum.

The original elevations were structurally supported internally and that led to the design of an internal concrete scaffolding at such a width so that it could function both as circulation and as a small-scale exhibition area. This multi storey circulation scaffolding structure along with the escalators acts as a light well for the whole building. Due to the exhibit’s requirements, most of the gallery spaces were located behind the Kallirois Aveneue elevation which is practically blind. Those spaces are hidden behind this new stone clad elevation which signifies the new Museum and its main entrance. Illissos river used to run along Kallirois Avenue and this inspired the stone clad facade of various textured finishes that is elevated above the street level and ends on a wall-water fall. This element is a reference to the former river. The fourth elevation of the building that overlooks the Attica Metro area was treated not as a completed facade but as the side that long awaits to be completed after the demolition of the old FIX brewery factory.

In 2006 the offices 3SK Stylianidis Architects and Ioannis Mouzakis & Associates Architects won the 1st prize of the international architectural competition held for the NMCA.

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