They say a city is only as famous as its most famous landmark. That’s only half true, or at the very least only as much as that image fits the narrative. And the narrative in Athens, these days is one of quiet confidence and outward mobility. That much is enough to put Athens on the map. Through a heady combination of technological innovations and a continued reverence and adherence to its history and tradition, the outcome is a streamlined version of a wood carved fishing boat; old and new fuse together seamlessly and offer a vision of how the future should look like. This week we’re going to take a look at 2 Athenian landmarks that have defined, and will define the landscape, and ultimately its future narrative.
The Acropolis is without question a global icon of freedom and advancement. It’s the lynchpin of western foundations and stands sentinel proudly over a 5,000 year old city that has seen, really, just about everything. And so the Parthenon, the shiny city on top of the hill, and its ideas live on through its fluted columns that Ictinus and Calicrates so deftly created, the freezes depicting the struggle of Gods against Titans and the golden ratio of mathematics that was so expertly applied to its geometry. The Acropolis is a testament to the glory of yesterday.
The glory of today rests not on worshipping deities. Instead, the building of today is a symbol to the accumulation of knowledge and the epicurean pursuit of ‘Eudaimonia’, or joy. Enter the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Foundation. A 600 million architectural marvel gifted to the Greek state by one of its wealthiest benefactors, this 210,000 square meters extend across the pretty Faliro bay on the up and coming Kallithea neighborhood. The steel and glass hyper modern, sustainable, and environmentally friendly design is home to the National Library, National Opera as well as fully equipped state of the art auditorium, a pond, and herbal garden. This new addition is hardly 10 years old, but the impact it has generated is exponential.
While we’re by no means equating the grandeur of the Acropolis to the Renzo Piano designed architectural feat of the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Centre, it is nonetheless vital to underline the continuum that these two buildings symbolize for Athens and its legacy. Both stand testament to the longevity and ingenuity of Athens.