Monday, January 15, 2007
Athens Concert Hall - [Athens]
The Athens Concert Hall, which was completed after 37 years of effort, is the foremost event in the musical history of the country. Its value as a building is considerably less, as despite its luxury and advanced technology, it is not an inspired building.
The main reason is something, that has to do with the Greek society, and that is the downgraded role of architects in the design and supervision of public buildings. The name of the architect is not viewed as a main part of the identity of the building. For those reasons the architect is most usually not known. The Athens Concert Hall, (or the Megaron, as the Greeks call it), is not an exception to this rule.
The effort to build this Hall started in 1954 on the initiative of the famous mezzo-soprano Alexandra Trianti and with the financial support of the politician L. Eftaxias. Its foundation, designed by architect Emmanuel Vourekas, was laid in 1976 and the construction works, which were financed by the "Friends of Music" society, ceased in 1979 when the concrete frame was completed. The work continued later with state funding and with the support of the Minister of Culture Melina Mercouri. The final phase was completed in 1987-91 on the initiative of the art-loving publisher Christos Lambrakis and contributions from many sponsors.
The luxury of its interiors and its high-tech equipment are the most characteristic features of the building. It has two concert halls, a large one with a capacity of 2000 spectators and the small one with a capacity of 500. The large hall, initially designed for symphony concerts, was redesigned to make it adaptable to other performances, such as opera, theatre productions and conference events. It is built of movable wood-panelled vertical sections which, when withdrawn, can increase the stage area, according to the demands of each performance. The large hall is equipped with sophisticated audio-visual systems and is famed for its flawless acoustics.
The small hall in the basement has similar features and audio-visual perfection. The foyer of the large hall is two storeys high, and in the basement there is a luxury restaurant and a shop that sells recorded music and books. The Athens Concert Hall also houses a music library, musical research centre, administration and office areas, dressing rooms and many auxiliary areas.
The rectangular volume of the building, the colonnade on the façade with its heavy twin piers, the sheeting of the exterior with white Pentelic marble and the large windows express the effort to reinterpret neoclassical models by using modern means of expression.