Contemporary Architecture

Bernard Tschumi – New Acropolis Museum

New Acropolis Museum, Athens, 2001 -:

  • The design by Bernard Tschumi was selected as the winning project in the second competition for the design of the New Acropolis Museum.
  • Tschumi’s design revolves around three concepts: light, movement, and a tectonic & programmatic element, which together “turn the constraints of the site into an architectural opportunity, offering a simple and precise museum” with the mathematical and conceptual clarity of ancient Greek buildings.
  • The new Acropolis Museum is situated at the southern base of the Acropolis, at the ancient road that led up to the “sacred rock” in classical times.
  • Set only 800 feet from the legendary Parthenon, the museum will be the most significant building ever erected so close to the ancient temple.
  • Visitors to the museum will be able to see the Parthenon from the glass gallery.

A movement concept :

  • The visitor’s route forms a clear three-dimensional loop, affording an architectural promenade with a rich spatial experience extending from the archeological excavations to the Parthenon Marbles and back through the Roman period.
  • Movement in and through time is a crucial dimension of architecture, and of this museum in particular.
  • With over 10,000 visitors daily, the sequence of movements through the museum artifacts is conceived to be of utmost clarity.

A concept of light :

  • More than in any other type of museum, the conditions animating the New Acropolis Museum revolve around light.
  • Not only does daylight in Athens differ from light in London, Berlin or Bilbao, light for the exhibition of sculpture differs from that involved in displaying paintings or drawings.
  • It is first and foremost a museum of natural light, concerned with the presentation of sculptural objects within it.

A tectonic & programmatic concept

  • The base of the museum design contains an entrance lobby overlooking the Makriyianni excavations as well as temporary exhibition spaces, retail, and all support facilities.


  • The middle is a large, double-height trapezoidal plate that accommodates all galleries from the Archaic period to the Roman Empire with complete flexibility.
  • A mezzanine welcomes a bar and restaurant with views towards the Acropolis, and a multimedia auditorium.
  • The top is the rectangular Parthenon Gallery around an outdoor court.
  • The characteristics of its glass enclosure provide ideal light for sculpture, in direct view to and from the reference point of the Acropolis.
  • The enclosure is designed so as to protect the sculptures and visitors against excess heat and light.
  • Base insulation system was used  for protection from earthquake.  Base is anchored to the ground  but the upper  part separated by cushion like ball bearings.
  • There is a gap between the double-glazing of the top floor, so the hot air from the galleries circulates through the glass wall gaps, via the ceiling and ends up in the basement, where it is cooled and brought back up in the galleries.

A brief biography:

  • Bernard Tschumi is an architect and educator born in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1944.
  • He spent half of his childhood in Lausanne, Switzerland and half in Paris, France due to the fact that his mother was French and his father was Swiss.
  • His father studied architecture in Paris, and at the end of World War II he set up the School of Architecture of the Ecole Polytechnique in Lausanne.
  • Presently, a permanent United States resident who holds both French and Swiss nationalities, Tschumi studied in Paris and at the Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich, Switzerland, from which he received his degree in 1969.
  • From 1970 to 1979 he taught at the Architectural Association in London.
  • He also taught at the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies at New York in 1976 and at Princeton University in 1976 and 1980.
  • From 1981 to 1983 he was visiting professor at the Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York.
  • He has been Dean of the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University in New York from 1988 to 2003.
  • ‘Form follows fiction’ is one example of Bernard Tschumi’s rules of architectonic notation that have made him an internationally influential theorist.
  • He has applied his theories to the problems of cultural and educational institutions, with his approach evident in his successful proposal for the project that catapulted him to prominence, the Parc de la Villette, Paris in 1998.

Awards and Honours:

Tschumi has garnered numerous awards, among them are:

  • the Legion d’Honneur (1986)
  • the Ordre des Arts et Lettres (1998)
  • the French Grand Prix National d’Architecture (1996)
  • the British Royal Victoria Medal (1994)
  • The American Architecture Award (1999).

Advertisements for Architecture, 1976 – 77:

“There is no way to perform architecture in a book. Words and drawings can only produce paper space, not the experience of real space. By definition, paper space is imaginary: it is an image.”

  • Several of Tschumi’s early theoretical texts were illustrated with Advertisements for Architecture, a series of postcard-sized juxtapositions of words and images.
  • Each was a manifesto of sorts, dealing with the dissociation between the immediacy of spatial experience and the analytical definition of theoretical concepts.
  • The function of the Advertisements -reproduced again and again, as opposed to the single architectural piece – was to trigger the desire for something beyond the page itself.
  • When removed from their customary endorsement of commodity values, advertisements are the ultimate magazine form, even if used ironically.
  • The logic presumes that since there are advertisements for architectural products, why not advertisements for the production (and reproduction) of architecture.

Screenplays, 1978:

“The Screenplays are investigations of concepts as well as techniques, proposing simple hypotheses and then testing them out. They explore the relation between events (“the program”) and architectural spaces, on one hand, and transformational devices of a sequential nature, on the other.”

  • The use of film images in these works originated in Tschumi’s interest in sequences and programmatic concerns. (“There is no architecture without action, no architecture without event, no architecture without program.”) Rather than composing fictional events or sequences, it seemed more informative to act upon existing ones.
  • The cinema thus was an obvious source. At the same time, the rich formal and narrative inventions of the only genuine 20th-century art inevitably encouraged parallels with current architectural thought. Flashbacks, crosscutting, jumpcuts, dissolves and other editing devices provided a rich set of analogies to the time and space nature of architecture.
  • Yet the concerns of the Screenplays were essentially architectural. They dealt with issues of:
    • material (generators of form: reality, abstraction, movement, events, etc.)
    • device (disjunction, distortion, repetition, and superimposition)
    • counterpoint (between movement and space, events and spaces, etc.)
    • The Screenplays aimed at developing a contemporary set of architectural tools.

The Manhattan Transcripts, 1976 – 81:

“Architecture is not simply about space and form, but also about event, action, and what happens in space.”

  • The Manhattan Transcripts differ from most architectural drawings insofar as they are neither real projects nor mere fantasies.
  • Developed in the late 1970s, they proposed to transcribe an architectural interpretation of reality. To this aim, they employed a particular structure involving photographs that either directed or witnessed events (some would call them “functions” others “programs”).
  • At the same time, plans, sections, and diagrams outlined spaces and indicated the movements of the different protagonists intruding into the architectural “stage set”.
  • The Transcripts explicit purpose was to transcribe things normally removed from conventional architectural representation, namely the complex relationship between spaces and their use, between the set and the script, between “type” and “program”, between objects and events.
  • The dominant theme of the Transcripts is a set of disjunctions among use, form, and social values, the non-coincidence between meaning and being, movement and space, man and object was the starting condition of the work.
  • Yet the inevitable confrontation of these terms produced effects of far ranging consequence.
  • The Transcripts tried to offer a different reading of architecture in which space, movement and events were independent, yet stood in a new relation to one another, so that the conventional components of architecture were broken down and rebuilt along different axes.

“Architecture only survives where it negates the form that society expects of it. Where it negates itself by transgressing the limits that history has set for it.”

“To achieve architecture without resorting to design is an ambition often in the minds of those who go through the unbelievable effort of putting together buildings.”

“Architecture is not about creating a static envelope. In other words, the building is always about movement in space.”

In many ways I prefer the images of Lerner with people because they show what the building is for.

One day, a dance company decided to use the building for a performance. People were sitting outside the building and looking into the spectacle on the ramps. They had understood the building.


  • Tschumi’s style of design is often an integration of linear and curvature forms in his architecture. An example of this integration may be found in the Parc de la Villette in Paris, France.
  • The primary basis of Tschumi’s designs is the grid, whether it be horizontal or vertical, angled or straight, it is usually a dominant part of his designs.
  • The grids incorporated in his designs are usually derived from characteristics of the building site or the city.
  • The linear characteristics of Tschumi’s designs are often accompanied by those of curved or organic form.
  • Tschumi combines the urbanistic and naturalistic qualities of the site in his building designs to create modernist qualities in his designs.
  • Another key to defining Tschumi’s design style is that his designs strive to integrate into the environment they encompass. However, they don’t integrate in a way that they blend in, the integrate in a way that they work functionally and visually portray Tschumi’s design intentions.


  • With these projects Tschumi opposed the methods used by architects for centuries to geometrically evaluate facade and plan composition.
  • In this way he suggested that habitual routines of daily life could be more effectively challenged by a full spectrum of design tactics ranging from shock to subterfuge.
  • The extreme limit-conditions of architectural program became criteria to evaluate a building’s capacity to function as a device capable of social organization.
  • Tschumi’s critical understanding of architecture remains at the core of his practice today.
  • By arguing that there is no space without event, he designs conditions for a reinvention of living, rather than repeating established aesthetic or symbolic conditions of design.
  • Responding to the disjunction between use, form, and social values by which he characterizes the postmodern condition, Tschumi’s design research encourages a wide range of narratives and ambiences to emerge and to self organize.
  • By advocating re-combinations of program, space, and cultural narrative, Tschumi asks the user to critically reinvent him/herself as a subject.


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