Vassileia Manidaki (Architect NTUA, The Acropolis Restoration Service (Y.S.M.A), Hellenic Ministry of Culture), "The λόγος ὀπτικός in the Athenian Acropolis Architecture"
The depth, the clarity, the degree, the completeness, or the absence of visibility are basic
tools in the hands of architects who are planning their work within the urban fabric; this is
the λόγος ὀπτικός according to Vitruvius, who prefers to use the Greek term for the
regulation of visibility and the treatment of viewing.
Visibility is the heart of the physical relationship between viewer and building. And it is
more than that. Particularly in the case of a Classical Greek temple, visibility has
associations with monumentality, impressiveness, memory, symbolism, divine epiphany,
divine protection, designation of a landmark in urban scale, formation of the city identity,
demonstration of wealth and power, inspiration of emotions like awe, and pride.
Of course, there is no architectural work where visibility has not been taken into account;
however, the study of the planning of temples and other important public buildings of the
ancient Greek city has not received the importance it deserves. When the question comes
to the grouping or to the synthesis of buildings in Archaic and Early Classical cities, the
usual studies, based on the measure of the foot unit, a modular system, a grid, or a
proportional system do not offer solutions. In the historiography of the Greek architecture,
the phenomenon of asymmetrical synthesis has been considered as a result of the
picturesqueness of the composition, or of optical corrections, or of the orientation towards
a sacred landmark, and most intriguing of all, as part of the concept of σκηνογραφία, the
third sort of Greek drawing as described by Vitruvius. In my understanding, the aspect of
visibility could be relevant to all approaches above, but at the same time could be useful
as a methodological tool for the interpretation of the given physical evidence.
In this paper-a study in progress- I will concentrate on the Late Archaic, Early Classical
and Classical period of the Athenian Acropolis. I will deal with the planning process of
architecture by examining visibility as a criterion for the siting of buildings within
sanctuaries, and the synthesis of the buildings in an ensemble. After defining the
terminology, the clarification of the subject, and a short overview on the historiography of
the older research, I will deal with previously known and new evidence from the Athenian
Acropolis, the testimonies from ancient sources and some ideas that are implied by this
evidence. Finally, I will attempt an explanatory synthesis that brings these ideas together.