THE NIKOS SOFIALAKIS CENTER OF NEOCLASSICAL SCULPTURE

A BRIEF HISTORY

From Atelier to Center

Architect Sofia Tsiraki, and supervising architect, Professor Tasos Biris, recall the particular challenges implicit in orienting the space of the new building, first, in relation to the art works within, and second, with respect to its active external environment: 



“Defining the appropriate relationship between the (sculpture) exhibition space and the verdant park directly across from it was not at all an easy affair.  Initially, the idea that the former should have a maximal view of the latter was considered the patently obvious choice, the park being such a rare yet vital, open area embedded into the dense urban landscape. 

Ultimately, however, we opted for a more constrained view facing the park, with only a few openings, very specific in terms of their size and shape.  [The Center] ought to delineate its own area clearly, both in terms of its exterior and interior space, where strong, clear walls will act as surfaces that accentuate the sculptures. The structure should thus orient the viewer’s attention inward, focusing on the art itself, undistracted by outlets to external scenes.  Instead, the exhibition reveals itself to the park through the symbolic accent of an unusual, round window that ‘conceals’ the happenings within [the Center] with its sandblasted glass, eliciting in this way the curiosity of the casual observer.



 

We were quite concerned to present this proposal to Mr. and Mrs. Chraniotis, our employers in this venture and closest relatives of the late artist. We were quite certain that they would prefer the opposite of what we envisioned, namely, that the Center should powerfully project unto the park.  Oh, what wonder, that their reaction was not as anticipated; they proved to be ardent and well-read supporters of the internal orientation of space with few – if any – apertures! In fact, they reminded us that the master himself had preferred to sculpt all of his pieces within the austere lines of the ‘hermetically sealed’ atelier that once stood where the Center stands today, having only a single, visual ‘gateway’ to the small garden within its walls, and this, because as Sofialakis often noted, the park would not let him focus his thoughts to work in peace.

And so, here lies a good lesson: quite often, the “patently obvious” certitudes regarding what architecture “ought” to do conflict with what the individual inhabiting that daily space truly knows, desires, and needs…”



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The Sculptures Hall, as seen from the main entrance

View of the Center

from Gazias Street 

 

View of the Sculptures Hall

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