Recently in 2000 it was chosen as permanent home of the NMCA (National Museum of Contemporary Art), the abandoned for decades factory of beer production. An industrial building with outstanding architectural value in the center of Athens, designed by the architect Takis Zenetos. It was chosen to get modified in order to serve the operational and functional needs of the new Museum.
Google map view of the area
In addition to the partial demolition, the existing building still has autonomous areas of total area of 20,000 square meters and a volume of 90,000 cubic meters, which allowed the fusion of the main functions of the museum, such as spaces for permanent and provisional exhibitions, management areas, archives, library, multifunction hall, offices, exhibitions laboratories, roof garden and restaurant. Of notable importance, as regards the position, is the short distance from the historical and commercial center of Athens.
Especially, the adjacency with the archaeological site of the acropolis and the recently built museum of the acropolis, promotes the attraction of the many Greek and foreign guests of the capital and the creation of a “Continuous attractive path”, in which antiquity intersects with contemporary art. Also the possibility of direct access for the public, from the underground transit metro station and the new tram network passing through the avenue of Kallirois, are unique advantages in terms of services transport from the largest area of the capital.
History of the industrial building.
In 1863 Ioannis Fix produces the first brewery in Greece, in the Kolonaki area. After his death, his son Carolos Fix, decided to expand the company. In 1893 he decided to build a brand new and large scale, industrial building in the same place where today is the existing building, on the west bank of the river Ilissos and south, in a short distance, from the columns of Zeus. At that time, that area was still devoid of building. The neighborhoods south of the Acropolis, including the area of the building, began to grow after 1900-1910.
Image of Zenetos Building 1900s
The good performance of Carolos Fix company, during the first decades of the 20th century, led the continuous expansion of the factory until 1920, always remaining in the same position. Until the mid-1950s, the urban grid of the city and the progressive spread of it, covered the area around the factory. However, the area was still characterized by low densities with buildings from 1 to 2 floors. Just before the application of the compensation system, which in the coming decades completely altered the character of the area. In the mid-1950s, in a period of industrial reconstruction of the country, we have an important restoration – repair of the entire building. This work was assigned by the Fix family to the architect Takis Zenetos (1926-1977), pioneer of modernism in Greece in the post-war period.
Zenetos underlined the horizontal trend of the Fix complex along leoporos Syngrou and Kallirois with a horizontal linear glass. Furthermore, he did not look for the construction of a usual industrial plant, but in the context of his philosophy. He worried about the future operation of the building in the decades to come. At the end of 1970, the FIX plant was moved outside of Athens and the structure, even if in excellent condition, has been vacated. Over time pass, it has begun to show signs of abandonment and aesthetic tampering, with advertising publications on billboards on the front view and visible damage to the interior and exterior of the building. The problem of using such an important industrial architecture has caused in the coming years, many discussions and there have been several options, with the most interesting, the one of defending and operating the old factory as a National Museum of Contemporary Art.
Image of Zenetos Building 1900s
Since December 1994, the building of the former company Fix has been expropriated in the public interest after its decline, in particular, for the Athens metro projects, which is owned by Attiko Metro SA. After demolishing part of the construction for the needs of the Metro, the company has completed works on the adjacent subway station, which began operating in early 2000. Two years later, on October 29 of 2002 it was signed the lease of the building between Attiko Metro SA and the NMCA for a period of 50 years, with the prospect that the former factory of Fix will be rebuilt to be the permanent seat of the National Museum of Contemporary Art. The entire installation of the transit station includes six basement floors, parking with 650 seats, four bus lines, parks an commercial shops in a section of the underground sector and direct access to the metro.
The past in the state of fact at FIX, unfortunately can not be completely safeguarded in morphological terms, because then it would already be a museum. Meanwhile, the fact that it was built for different needs in the past and now is transformed into a museum of contemporary art, means that space carries with it, the memories of its era and this makes it special. What makes this project even more intersting is the ancient history of the place, with unique testimony, the ancient names that surround the new museum. We find ourselves at the ancient bank of Ilissos (today Oddos Kalirois), the river that crossed the whole Attiki up to Piraeus. Kaliroi was the ancient nymph of Illisos, while its source was near the hill of Filopappou, therefore the area of FIX. The Veikou street is the road that once accompanied the river to Piraeus, today in its place there is Leoforos Sygrou. The urban layout today has changed, you can easily notice the areas of “rotation hinges” that absorb them and transfer them to the buildings. A complex and disordered urban grid.
Looking from above, the road that creates one of the so-called “rotation impact” is the Veikou street, probably the first and oldest road near the acropolis. Trying to respect the strict constraints of the municipal regulation, we have highlighted the direction of Veikou with an inclination of 10 degrees compared to leophoros Sygrou. The arrangement of the two rectangular volumes (90 m x 30m and 60m x 21m) generated by a 3×3 square module, follow the two directions creating an articulated system full of suggestive spaces.
From the intersection of the memories, of the 20th century and the antic ones, as well as the two roads directions an their history, the new Museum finally is born. In the Kalirois elevation the ancient bank of illisos is rediscovered with its red rocks that after many centuries emerge again from the earth like a gigantic wall that hides the exhibition spaces of the museum on one side. On the other side the continuous visual research for the Illisos water reflections … where nowadays we only find a sea of cars, an opaque path named Kalirois.
Regarding the elevation on leoporos Sygrou, we tried to maintain the horizontal layout of the Fix complex from 1950, with the horizontal linear motif of Takis Zenetos, which ends with Odos Fratzi, showing the curvilinear course of the river. Since there are no public outdoor spaces, this time the square is part of the museum, hosting works of art for the public. It is a 21 meter high “foyer” which represents the starting point for visiting the museum, with a sequence of continuous internal spaces, which take you to the last of the floors, where one finds the restaurant to rest and enjoy the panoramic view towards the acropolis of Athens. This is the point, where the history of antiquity and recent memories intersect with the contemporary art.
That was my degree study 11 years ago.
Was a different approach with regard to the architectural design and the restoration of Zenetos industrial building, the building that nowadays is the seat of the National Museum of Contemporary Art.
Below you can see the final exam tables.
By Nikolaos Moschos