Akademia is a neoclassical building between Panepistimiou Street and Akademias Street in the centre of Athens. The building was designed as part of an architectural “trilogy” in 1859 by the Danish architect Theophil Hansen, together with the University and the National Library. Funds had been provided by the tycoon Simon Sina specifically for this purpose and the foundation stone was laid on 2 August 1859. Construction proceeded rapidly after 1861 under the supervision of Ernst Ziller, but internal unrest during the last years of King Otto’s reign, leading to his ouster in 1862, prevented construction until it was halted in 1864. Work resumed in 1868, but the building was not completed until 1885, at a total cost of 2,843,319 gold drachmas, most of which was provided by Sina and, after his death, by his wife Iphigenia.
The Greek neoclassical sculptor Leonidas Drosis created the main multi-faceted sculpture of the pediment, on the theme of the birth of Athena, based on a design by the painter Carl Rahl. This won first prize at the 1873 Vienna Exhibition. Drossis was also responsible for the figures of Athena and Apollo with the lyre on the side columns of the Academy, and for the seated marble figures of Plato and Socrates, which were executed “by the Italian sculptor Piccarelli”. The interior frescoes and paintings were done by the Austrian artist Christian Griepenkerl.
On 20 March 1887, the building of the “Sinaic Academy”, as it was called, was handed over by Ziller to the Greek Prime Minister Charilaos Trikoupis. In the absence of a national academy, the building was used to house the Numismatic Museum in 1890 and in 1914 the Byzantine Museum and the State Archives. Finally, on 24 March 1926, the building was handed over to the newly established Academy of Athens.
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