So, what is the secret of the building plan of the Propylaea at the Acropolis? First of all it is necessary to say that the central gates of Propylaea look symmetrically from a distance only. It is the so-called visual deception. The ground of Acropolic was rising, and for this reason, the process of construction was recognized to be very complicated.
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Because of the undulations of ground the porticoes had to be erected at different levels. One more point which is to be taken into consideration is related to the so-called Classical proportions. Because of the large height of the building the Doric columns diameters were too large to carry the weight of the roof.
So, the main architect Mnesikles decided to replace the Doric columns by Ionic ones. The principal aim of the axial plan of the Propylaea was to impress people visually. For instance, one may draw his/her attention to the statement that “the impressive façade of the Acropolis entrance with the mighty six-columned portal of the Propylaea in the centre framed by two almost symmetrical wings lies inside the Beulé Gate” (Goette 17).
Thus, one may affirm that the axial plan was worked out carefully to meet all necessary requirements. On the one hand, in our days the purpose to construct a building to impress people visually is considered to be obvious, however, at that time, religious and political aspects were of great importance. Thus, Hans Rupprecht Goette states the following:
The architecture of the Propylaea was planned to impress the visitor, an
obvious concept to us today, but an entirely new one then. Religious and
political considerations are also responsible for some of the peculiarities of
the building. For example, the extended ramp, which perhaps had grooves
across the middle, was built with the Panathenaic Festival in mind (18).
The idea to construct the entrance as the monumental edifice is not casual. If to look carefully on the plan of the building one may confirm the idea that “the entrance to the central temple of Athens is designed as a monumental edifice with façades which give the impression of a temple lying between two lateral projecting wings” (Goette 17-18).
For this reason, it is obvious that the axial plan does not always create ritual space. To prove this let’s consider the following example:
Opposite the Pinakotheke a symmetrically-shaped building was probably
planned, for which there was finally no room due to the simultaneous
construction of the Athena Nike Temple. For this reason the south-west wing
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was radically cut down from Mnesikles’ original plan and shortened (19).
So, while working out a plan one must take into consideration the act of Providence. The above-mentioned example proves that there some circumstances which can impact on the building erecting process.
Generally, the gates of the Acropolis impress by their beauty and remind us of Classical art as Goette states:
This was a characteristic of Augustan art policy; there are copies not only of
these decorative elements, but also, for example, of the Caryatids of the
Erechtheion, on building projects of Augustus and of other rulers throughout
the Roman Empire. Similarly, during the first two centuries AD earlier Greek
sculpture was much copied and used everywhere as decoration in public and
private buildings, further proof of the influence of the Classical art of the Acropilis (14).
Goette, Hans Rupprecht. Athens, Attica, and the Megarid: An Archaeological Guide. London: Routledge, 2001. Questia. Web.