New York.- By Vicki James Yiannias
The spectacular view of the Acropolis crowned at the top by the Parthenon, as seen through the huge window of the Acropolis Museum in Athens, raises goose bumps even in the calm and collected, the un-ruffle-able. So did the photograph of this site opening the piece, “Athens, Rising”, in the June 24 New York Times; Greece in the news in a great way. The article with the metaphorical title had a trendy slant emphasizing what the writer perceives is an upturn in Greece’s economy.
What comes across more than that, however, is the resiliency of her friends, some of Greece’s unemployed young people, who through determination, flexibility, and talent—their “can do” attitude—have so far chosen to stay when the cards are stacked against them.
The crisis isn’t over. GreekNews campaign, “Let’s Go to Greece This Summer and 365 Days a Year!” urges the Greek American community to make a trip to Greece this summer, joining what are hoped to be 32 million visitors that would make 2018 a banner year for tourism to Greece,
Chancing on a stunning photograph of the sun-splashed, bright turquoise and white bay of Navagio Beach in Zakynthos a moment ago, I gasped. Who doesn’t want to revive in Greece this summer!
A “Greek Revival” (my words), involves not only the hedonistic enjoyment of sun and sea, but soaking up what I have loved since living there, Athens’ cosmopolitanism, which endures, despite—and beside—the critical signs of social and economic upheaval. Aside from the simple things to do, like sipping icy ouzo with friends in an outdoor café in the evening, and going on to delicious dining in little tavernas, and bumping into a significant relic of the ancient past every time you turn a corner, Athens has new,world-class cultural venues to enjoy. If you haven’tgone to any one of the three venues that have come on the scene in the last decade and more recently,The Acropolis Museum, The Onassis Cultural Center, or The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center,yourtickets to Greece are waiting!
When it was built to house the historically and esthetically priceless antiquities from the archaeological site of the Acropolis (and the Parthenon Marbles), everything about Bernard Tschumi’s ultramodern, deliberately non-monumental, glass and steel Acropolis Museumwas of international interest, including the glass floor,looking into the excavation of the Bronze Age site under the museum, and the spectacular view of the Acropolis, making the Sacred Rock part of the intimate experience of the museum.
The Acropolis Museum,located in the Makriyianni district of Athens, has the world’s richest collection of Classical period sculptures. Suggesting the EMBCA-sponsored June event and lecture by Greek artist Pavlos Samios, “The Parthenon Frieze Reenvisioned”, at the Rubin Museum in Manhattan, in which Samios showed his recasting and painting of parts of the frieze, thereis a not-to-be missed exhibition of the museum’s sculptures that show traces of their original paint on view until December 18. The great progress made in the research of these sculptures through using of new technologyfor color detection, the use of color on marble surfaces, and digital reconstruction of color hasopened an extensive discussion with the public and various experts on these issues.
Andthe surprising conclusions that have been reached so far to a large degree refute the past stereotypical assumptions (the coloration of ancient statues still astonishes many) It turns out that the coloration of ancient sculptures was not just a decorative element lending to the sculpture’s aesthetic quality, as one might think today. The colors used on sculpture by the ancient Greekscharacterized various attributes: the blond hair of the gods projected their power; the brown skin of warriors and athletes was a sign of virtue and valor, and the white-painted skin of the korai expressed their grace and the radiance of youth.
The renowned Onassis Cultural Center — Athens, exclusively funded and overseen by the Onassis Foundation, was inaugurated in December 2010 with the mission of supporting the arts and culture of a nation in crisis. The Center emphasizes contemporary cultural expression, supporting Greek artists, cultivating international collaborations, and educating children and people of all ages through lifelong learning.
Designed by the French firm, “Architecture Studio”, the cultural landmark occupies a full block on Syggrou Avenue and houses two main auditoriums. The biggest, the Main Stage, is an amphitheater that can seat 880 enthusiasts, with all the modern technology available to host a wide variety of abstract, large-scale theatrical dance performances, lectures and conferences, or even high quality cinema screenings.
At night when artificially lit, the inside of the building shines through, revealing a warm shell surrounding the rooms and auditoriums, and during the day, elements in the construction of the building create the impression of gentle waves across its surface. There is a ground-floor bar, commented on as being “cozy”, and a top-rated restaurant at the top of the building extends onto the rooftop terrace during the summer months, offering breathtaking views of the Acropolis, the Philopappos monument, Lycabettus Hill and the Saronic Gulf.
A free shuttle bus from Syntagma Square can take you to the newest of the three, the Renzo Piano-designed Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in the Athens suburb of Kallithea, includes Built by the foundation in 2016, donated to the Greek state in 2017 but financed by the foundation for a period of time, the SNFCC includes the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera (a 1,400-seat opera auditorium and a 400-seat black box theater), and the 42-acre Stavros Niarchos Park, where concerts, screenings, and festivals are staged on the Great Lawn.
Sustainability is at the heart of the SNFCC. Built on the site of a former hippodrome that served as a parking lot during the 2004 Olympic Games, it is the first European public building on this scale to achieve LEED Platinum certification.
Piano made room for the culture hub, park (whose landscaping includes olive trees, and garden complex by building the two facilities into the hill, allowing the park to serve as a green roof. A glass observatory at the top has a vast solar canopy that powers the buildings below, representing, in Piano’s words, “a cloud hovering over the highest point of the hill”; and at the top of the hill, the opera house’s upper floors directly face the Acropolis, revealing the entire city in breathtaking detail below.
A 400-metre sea-water canal, where people can learn to sail or kayak creates a cooling microclimate; after dark, it’s a backdrop for live jazz or tango classes. Except for bike rental, activities including crafts, petanque, chess and gardening lessons rental are free of charge.
Athens has outdone itself. Let’s Go to Greece!