In the summer and fall of 2002, when archaeologists discovered even more ruins on the 5.68-acre site, the design team was forced to move and rotate the foundation structural grid. Although design was still in the schematic phase, the process of resolving the conflicts between the excavations and the new building was “traumatic,” requiring negotiation of each column location, says Joel Rutten, Tschumi Architects’ project director.
When NAM opens next spring, after a 10-month-long installation period, visitors will enter by way of a bridge that crosses over an area of excavations at the northwest portion of the site. Then, in an ascent that mimics the climb up the Acropolis, they will travel from the lobby, through exhibition spaces organized in a chronological sequence around a skylit atrium, to the top of the four-story building. There, surviving Parthenon frieze elements, of which Greece currently possesses about half, will be displayed, surrounded by a glass-enclosed court. The dimensions and orientation of the space will replicate the 2,500-year-old temple’s cella.