Acropolis: Parasite to a Natural Host

Acropolis: Parasite to a Natural Host
by Joel Pominville

Acropolis, Athens, Greece
          Location. Place. Site. All of these are important terms when talking about any work of architecture. Whether it is a condominium near the beach resting on stilts to avoid floods or a house that carefully dangles on the edge of a cliff, location, place, and site are all words needed to discuss the work. However, the parasitic architecture that I have previously discussed lacks a sense of this terminology. Autonomous architecture also has the same lack of location, place, and site. The Acropolis in Greece is a prime example of a work of architecture that is autonomous. However, with autonomous architecture, the host is not a building, but it takes form in the site. As I will discuss with the Acropolis, this form of parasite attaches to a location, place, and site, in a way that almost disregards these terms.
To begin, one must look at the plan of the Acropolis on the site in which it is placed. More specifically, I would like to examine the placement of the Parthenon (highlighted in red) on the site. As you can see in the site plan image, the Parthenon is in a partially centralized location. But more important to notice is its disregard for any type of regulated alignment. It is not aligned against the axis of cardinal directions, nor is it in particular alignment with any other structures of the complex. The other buildings suffer the same lack of alignment. Although the Acropolis, once the complex of a citadel, is strategically placed at the top of a hillside above Athens, it lacks a sense of direction. Le Corbusier may have described the Acropolis best as a parasite. He commented that the Acropolis is simply an architectural landscape without plan or direction. You can begin to observe this in more depth as you analyze the acropolis in different location situations.

Acropolis in woodlands near Athens, Greece
          The same complex can be observed in three different sites: a natural forest, a city, and another citadel location. The forest is the easiest to analyze. A forest has no sense of direction. Therefore, when the Acropolis is placed into the site, there is nothing to orient it. In a way, the Acropolis works better on this site than any other because there are no outside forces forcing it to align in any direction. 
However, it even still disregards alignment to the cardinal directions, which are elements needed to be considered in architecture by the designer. 
Acropolis Placed in Manhattan
          The next place to analyze the Acropolis in is a city center. A good example of this is Manhattan. As you can see, the Acropolis does not follow any kind of regulated patter as is typical in cities, even in complexes as old as the Roman forums. So, not only does the Acropolis not have a correlation to the cardinal directions, but it also does not have any form of modulation.

Acropolis Placed on Budapest Citadel
          Now, take the Acropolis and sit it on another Citadel complex. Although there are hundreds and hundreds of years difference between the Hungarian complex and the Grecian complex, there is still something to learn from the citadel in Budapest. One can see a level of parallelism in the Hungarian complex and the building that compose it. The Acropolis, on the other hand, has no parallel lines that help organize it. Without any of these factors that help organize a building or complex on a site, it is safe to say the Acropolis has no real place. Although it is situated on a site, it lacks any architecture design of location, place, or site.

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