Innovative Concept Takes Visitors Underground in the National Archeological Museum of Athens

Proposal for National Archeological Museum Athens by Kengo Kuma

Though their proposal didn't win the competition, Kengo Kuma and Associates and K-Studio created a memorable design for the expansion of the National Archeological Museum in Athens, Greece. Titled Unearth, the underground extension looks like it was formed by slightly raising the earth as a tent for archeological treasures.

The idea is that the design evokes the concept of buried treasure in an effort to remind the public of the museum's history. “The slit-like opening by lifting the earth would evoke curiosity and draw visitors into the deep spacious underground realm as if one would be discovering, submerging, maneuvering among the artifacts in their buried state,” explain the architects.

A museum garden stretching over the entire expanse of the lifted earth roof almost appears as a floating garden to pedestrians on the sidewalk. Sitting at the same level as the existing building, the lush landscape would provide continuity between the current building and the new expansion.

Below, in the warm and earthy interior, visitors are greeted by an enormous open space that is partially illuminated by a large clerestory. This opening allows natural light to penetrate the space. The column-free interior is quite different than the linear exhibition spaces in the existing building. The open floor plan allows for both permanent and temporary exhibitions and would mean the museum could show large sculptures that are difficult to display in the existing museum.

While a more conventional design by David Chipperfield Architects ultimately won the commission, we can't help but admire the bold architecture proposed by Kengo Kuma and Associates and K-Studio.

Kengo Kuma and Associates and K-Studio teamed up for an expansion of the National Archeological Museum of Athens.

The proposal called for an underground extension to evoke the idea of looking for buried treasure.

Proposal for National Archeological Museum Athens by Kengo Kuma

Proposal for National Archeological Museum Athens by Kengo Kuma

While the innovative design did not win the commission, it should be applauded for its unique approach to the brief.

Proposal for National Archeological Museum Athens by Kengo Kuma

Proposal for National Archeological Museum Athens by Kengo Kuma

Kengo Kuma and Associates: Website | Facebook | Instagram
K-Studio: Website | Instagram

All renderings via Michail Kafasis. My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Kengo Kuma and Associates.

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Jessica Stewart

Jessica Stewart is a Staff Editor and Digital Media Specialist for My Modern Met, as well as a curator and art historian. Since 2020, she is also one of the co-hosts of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. She earned her MA in Renaissance Studies from University College London and now lives in Rome, Italy. She cultivated expertise in street art which led to the purchase of her photographic archive by the Treccani Italian Encyclopedia in 2014. When she’s not spending time with her three dogs, she also manages the studio of a successful street artist. In 2013, she authored the book 'Street Art Stories Roma' and most recently contributed to 'Crossroads: A Glimpse Into the Life of Alice Pasquini'. You can follow her adventures online at @romephotoblog.
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