Construction Project Uncovers Ancient Artefacts

Elpidoforos Pappas
One of the largest building construction projects in recent Greek history, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) has a welcome impact on the local economy, providing jobs and infusing capital into a challenging economic landscape.

The SNFCC is a donation to the Greek state by Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF). The project includes the construction and fitting out of new facilities for the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, as well as the creation of the 170,000 m² Stavros Niarchos Park. Designed by Italian architect Renzo Piano, the complex is expected to open in early 2016, when the SNF will transfer control to the Greek state.

The SNFCC Visitors Center, which is a light temporary structure and opened in October 2013, will operate until the SNFCC’s completion at the beginning of 2016. Two young Greek architecture students, Agis-Panagiotis Mourelatos and Spyridon Giotakis, were chosen by Renzo Piano as the winning designers in the National Architectural Student Competition, organized and funded by the SNF. The Visitors Center has simple design lines and a transparent form, which matches the aesthetics of the SNFCC. The center will provide information about SNFCC’s role, history and structure, and serve as a venue for cultural and educational events.

The Faliron Delta is steeped in history, just 6km from the Acropolis, symbol of the classical spirit and civilization. Archaeological finds were discovered during construction at the 25-hectare SNFCC site, leading to a full excavation. Sections of an ancient road and a circular well with engraved clay plaques were unearthed. The construction of the well is dated in the Early Classical period (500 BCE) and was used until the Hellenistic period (323 BCE).

Archaeological finds were discovered during construction at the 25-hectare SNFCC site, leading to a full excavation.

Also discovered was a 700BCE-450BCE burial ground, containing 1059 graves, funeral pyre areas and infant burials. Early bioarchaeological study of the skeletal material points to a population with interesting pathological conditions and traces of everyday hard labour. Some skeletons have metal bonds on their upper or lower extremities, and other evidence of maltreatment and possible execution. Interesting ceramic pots and other grave goods have also been found.

The SNF is funding the restoration and study of the skeletal material, supervised by the 26th Ephorate of Prehistoric and Classical Antiquities, Greek Ministry of Culture, to discover more about the lives of the ancient inhabitants. Individuals’ origin, social stratification, family relationships, nutrition and diseases will be under scrutiny. Some of the artefacts will form an exhibition in the SNFCC’s canal building.

Faithful+Gould has shaped the careful scheduling and management needed to support the works, yet minimise project delays during the archaeological investigations.

Alongside the archaeology, the SNFCC project progress has continued. Construction works have been ongoing for a year and there are now 600 workers on site. Faithful+Gould has shaped the careful scheduling and management needed to support the works, yet minimise project delays during the archaeological investigations.

This disruption to the historical record needed sensitive and expert handling by the archaeology team of 70. The artefacts were recorded in situ and then removed, allowing methodical ground clearance in small sections. Weekly archaeological progress meetings with the contractor ensured good communication and informed sequencing. Although this is a region where construction timescales are typically relaxed, the project has successfully remained on schedule. The cost impact has been mitigated by our proactive risk management strategy, defined at project outset. Faithful+Gould is providing project management, programme management, cost management and LEED certification coordination.

Written by