The origins of the ‘monumental axis’ of neo-classical Athens and its relationship with the antiquities

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  • Author(s): Roubien, Denis
  • Source:
    The Journal of Architecture; April 2013, Vol. 18 Issue: 2 p225-253, 29p
  • Additional Information
    • Abstract:
      This essay attempts to illuminate some aspects of the creation of the ‘monumental axis’ of Athens: a line containing most of the city's monumental buildings and touching the eastern side of the urban triangle which, according to the original master plans, constituted the city's core. Although that triangle concentrated the essential part of the city's activities, it never became its ‘representative’ centre. For, contrary to the master plans predicting a dispersion of the monumental buildings within the triangle, these are to be found along an axis seeming to ignore it. This article seeks an explanation of that fact in the existence of a special need in the process of creating the re-born city of Athens after Independence (1830) and during the whole nineteenth century. Apart from creating a modern European capital, like all the others, an additional requirement emerged: according to the city's neo-classicist creators, its monumental buildings ought to be closely related in space to the antiquities which were also their stylistic prototypes and even the reason Athens became the capital. That ‘idealistic’ demand led necessarily to choices different from those resulting from a rational town planning process. This essay presents the conditions set by that ‘idealistic’ requirement and explores its impact on the Greek capital's monumental architecture.