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Gemma Copeland

The path to the Acropolis

 —  The path to the Acropolis

We were in Athens last week, so naturally we visited the Acropolis. What surprised me was that the pathway to the Acropolis is a masterpiece in its own right. (Thanks to my dad for sharing this.)

One of Pikionis' sketches of the pathway, in plan view.

Designed in the mid-50s by Dimitris Pikionis, it’s a collage of historical references, regionalism and modernism. They build it with reclaimed stones from demolished buildings nearby, celebrating their imperfections and making a direction connection to the local history.

Throughout the path, there are bold, gestural forms made from concrete, inspired by the artwork of Paul Klee. By choosing a modernist material like concrete, Pikionis created a dialogue with the International Style of architecture that was spreading throughout Athens at the time.

A photo of the gestural concrete forms amongst the stone pathway.

What I loved most was that he worked with local craftsmen and let the design emerge from the bottom up:

Pikionis enlisted a crew of skilled local Greek artisans and craftsmen to work the stones and materials. At the outset of the construction, Pikionis eschewed typical dogmatic plans and chose to set the tone for the design through few drawings. He encouraged the local workers to the find the path within the landscape and imbue the materials with their own particular spirit and design through shapes, textures, and patterns. Pikionis was employing the traditional method of the master builder, constructing the site through the hands of the craftsmen and generating a pluralistic design.

Detail sketches by Pikionis showing permutations of the stone patterns.