The Light Artists Who Illuminate Athens’ Heritage

The city's major monuments are given a new and modern radiance that brings to light their timeless historical allure.

Resplendantly white Acropolis.

“It is not our artificial light that illuminates the Acropolis; it is the inner light of the monument itself, flooding with radiance those who want or are ready to see their own truth. And this light can only be white.” On Wednesday, September 30, 2020, Emmy Award-winning lighting designer Eleftheria Deko spoke these words as the Ministry of Culture and Sports unveiled to the world the new lighting design for the Acropolis, a project commissioned, funded and implemented by the Onassis Foundation. Deco, who led the project with her team, was watching this historic moment and seeing, like the rest of us, the Acropolis as if for the first time.

The Garden of Statues.

Few Athenians had associated the Zappeion, a garden at the heart of the capital, with some of the most brilliant examples of Greek sculpture until the “magic wand” of internationally renowned lighting designer Eleftheria Deko and her associates, who all worked pro bono, gave life and light to the faces of poets, benefactors, philhellenes and Revolutionary War heroes. As if emerging from the oblivion of the past, 17 sculptures on the grounds of the Zappeio have been reintroduced to us, with the help of the resident gardeners who have carefully trimmed some of the bushes and trees to give a clearer view of the sculptures. Thanks to these efforts, Athens now has a sculpture garden in a prominent downtown location.

Crowning a champion.

The Panathenaic Stadium, where the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896, lies on an imaginary straight line that runs through the Zappeion to reach the Sacred Rock of the Acropolis. This edifice, one of the most visited monuments in modern Athens, has been visually transformed, at least at night, thanks to the work of lighting designer George Tellos and his associates. The most impressive change is an innovative gradual adjustment of the lighting from cold to warmer tones as darkness falls. Another innovation is the decision to illuminate the trees of Ardettus Hill that circle the top of the stadium. The new floodlights, which distribute the light in various directions, highlight the presence of the stadium's Pentelic marble; this is the only stadium in the world made entirely of marble. The new floodlights have reduced light pollution by 70%-80% while still managing an energy savings of 50% over the old system.