In collaboration with the Greek firm Alexandros N. Tombazis & Associates, David Chipperfield Architects was selected among ten other teams as the winner of the international competition for the New Greek National Archaeological Museum, in Athens. The museum, located in the Exarcheia district of Athens, houses one of the most important collections of prehistoric and ancient art in the world. The original neoclassical building was built by Ludwig Lange and Ernst Ziller between 1866 and 1874. Over time, the museum has undergone numerous interventions and structural changes to be more integrated with other buildings.

National Archaeological Museum_[Rendering]_(Athens: Greece)_© Bolognese, F. (2022)

The renovation proposal | Athens museum

“David Chipperfield and Alexandros N. Tombazi’s proposal shows a clear vision, gives life to a unique landmark within the urban fabric and is people-centered. It expresses the national dimension of the Archaeological Museum while putting it in relation to the global scene. [… ] We want a museum that looks far ahead, in constant dialogue with society, with a dynamic look toward the future,” said Lina Mendoni, Minister of Culture and Sports. The renovation proposal includes an extension of the museum complex in the direction of the square in front of the pre-existing National Archaeological Museum, with the stated intention of initiating a process of regeneration of the historic center of Athens and further expanding the space available to the largest museum in Greece (currently capable of displaying only 10 percent of the objects in the collection).

National Archaeological Museum_[Rendering]_(Athens: Greece)_© Bolognese, F. (2022)

Symmetry and architectural balance

With the main aim of respecting the historical value of the building, the extension is not intended to compete with it, but to create a harmonious set of spaces so that a serene balance between new and old is fully achieved. The entrance will have a new facade with a monumental staircase, fully integrated into the neoclassical architectural style. Through the new street entrance, there will be direct access to the exhibition spaces created by the expansion, which will also include a ticket office, a store, a restaurant, an auditorium, as well as rooms dedicated to temporary exhibitions, totaling 20 thousand square meters of the project. According to the firm, these functions are organized symmetrically, giving due and fundamental value to the historic architecture. From inside the structure, visitors can walk through the different exhibition spaces, located on two levels, until they gradually reach the historic building. Walking inside the structure, they will perceive an intelligent architectural continuum of geometric volumes, enjoy interesting perspective views and play of light and shadow. All this gives the feeling of being inside a cave, in perfect harmony with the nature of some of the exhibits.

Rammed-earth extension for Athens museum designed by David Chipperfield - Sheet1
National Archaeological Museum_[Rendering]_(Athens: Greece)_© Bolognese, F. (2022)

A road to sustainability 

The sustainability strategy adopted is mainly summed up in the design of volumes with low energy consumption and equipped with green and public infrastructure. Revitalization of the existing structure by taking advantage of natural climatic factors also has a prominent place within the design. In fact, the integration of the roof garden benefits the urban ecosystem by mitigating the impact of the heat island on the city center. In addition, the choice of materials for the new volumes was also designed with moisture control in the exhibition spaces in mind. The design of the green space is inspired by the tradition of 19th-century romantic parks. The parks that surrounded neoclassical museum buildings in European cities were configured as a set of varied plots, with the elevation above street level giving the appearance of a green paradise, an oasis looking down on the city from above. Conceptually, this agora garden will be based precisely on the ancient Greek ideal of a “gathering space” intended for all citizens and international tourists. Through the words used by the firm, it “echoes the ancient Greek ideal of a public gathering space for all citizens.” Wirtz International’s Belgian landscape architects envisioned a significant mix of plants, with monumental trees, paths, lawns, evergreen oaks and bushes typical of nineteenth-century parks.

Rammed-earth extension for Athens museum designed by David Chipperfield - Sheet4
National Archaeological Museum_[Rendering]_(Athens: Greece)_© Bolognese, F. (2022)

The design of the park-agorà | Athens museum

The extension was designed with an “architectural language of pure and clear volumes” that do not distract from the original building, while the rammed earth walls are intended to create the feeling of being inside the grounds, echoing the nature and character proper to archaeological displays. “While respecting the historic value of the building, the extension does not aspire to compete with the existing architecture, but forms a harmonious set of spaces, striking a balance between old and new,” the firm said. The park, designed in the same style as the great parks of the 19th century, is accessible from all sides and, thanks to the presence of a sheltered courtyard in the heart of the complex, an important link is made between the old and the new: a symbolic and real meeting place for museum visitors and Athenians alike. “The rebirth of the National Archaeological Museum, which represents a strong link between modern Greeks and their heritage, also symbolizes the strengthening of Greece’s cultural offerings for international visitors, following a year in which record numbers of tourists to the country were recorded,” said David Chipperfield Architects Berlin.

Rammed-earth extension for Athens museum designed by David Chipperfield - Sheet5
National Archaeological Museum_[Rendering]_(Athens: Greece)_© Bolognese, F. (2022)


Livia Montagnoli (2023) David Chipperfield designs the new National Archaeological Museum in Athens (Online) Available at: [Accessed date: 2023/02/26] 

Lucia Brandoli (2023) This is what the Athens Archaeological Museum will look like once renovated and expanded by David Chipperfield (Online) Available at: [Accessed date: 2023/02/26] 

Elisa Scapicchio (2023) David Chipperfield to curate expansion of Athens Archaeological Museum (Online) Available at: [Accessed date: 2023/02/26] 

Lizzie Crook (2023) David Chipperfield designs rammed-earth extension for Athens museum (Online) Available at:  [Accessed date: 2023/02/27] 

World Architecture Community (2023) David Chipperfield Architects Extends National Archaeological Museum With Rammed-Earth Walls (Online) Available at: [Accessed date: 2023/02/27] 

Greek City Times (2023) David Chipperfield unveils design for the National archaeological museum of Athens (Online) Available at:  [Accessed date: 2023/02/27] 


Laura Salurso is an architecture and design graduate with a strong passion for traveling, writing and photography. She has always looked at things around her from an architectural point of view, observing and studying the strong and archetypical connection between architecture and people.