Located in the historic district of Makryianni, the Museum stands roughly 300m (1000ft) southeast of the Parthenon, of which the top-floor Parthenon Gallery offers a panoramic view. The Museum is entered from the Dionysios Areopagitou pedestrian street, which links it to the Acropolis and other archeological sites in Athens.
The Acropolis Museum tells the story of the Athenian Acropolis and its surroundings by uniting collections formerly dispersed in multiple institutions, including the small Acropolis Museum built in the 19th century.
Designed as a succession of concrete slabs and with the utmost simplicity, the Museum is deliberately non-monumental: with the greatest possible clarity, the design translates programmatic requirements into architecture.
The Museum is conceived as a base, a middle zone and a top, taking its form from the archeological excavation below and from the orientation of the top floor toward the Parthenon.
- The base hovers over the excavation on more than 100 slender concrete pillars. This level contains the lobby, temporary exhibition spaces, museum store, and support facilities.
- The middle (which is trapezoidal in plan) is a double-height space, accommodating the galleries from the Archaic to the late Roman period; a mezzanine features a bar and restaurant with a public terrace looking out toward the Acropolis.
- The top is the rectangular, glass-enclosed, skylit Parthenon Gallery. It is rotated 23 degrees relative to the rest of the building so as to orient it faciong directly the Parthenon. Here the building’s concrete core, which penetrates through all levels, becomes the surface on which the marble sculptures of the Parthenon Frieze are mounted. The core also allows natural light to pass down to the Caryatids and to the levels below.
The collection consists primarily of works of sculpture, a large part of which are architectural pieces that originally decorated the monuments of the Acropolis, so the building that exhibits them is a museum of ambient natural light. The use of various types of glass allows light to flood into the top-floor Parthenon Gallery, to filter through skylights into the archaic galleries, and to penetrate the core of the building,down to the archeological excavation below the building.