“What about you: you like the new Acropolis Museum?” people often ask – and sometimes it’s clearly a leading question. In the runup to its June 20 inauguration, the New Acropolis Museum has been sparking hefty differences of opinion, polarising friends, entrenching ideological and aesthetic camps, even triggering some slightly extremist reactions.

But all this public resonance is already a first victory for Franco-Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi and his Greek collaborator Michalis Fotiadis. Traditionally, intense reactions, though not always pleasant, mean an artist’s creation has eluded the worst fate to which any human activity can be condemned: indifference.

The closer we get to the inaugural evening, the more impassioned the polemic and the louder the hullabaloo over the sheer magnitude of the edifice and its integration into the picturesque centre of Athens. And just before the grand opening, whether by sheer coincidence or not, a conference is being held on the future of two buildings located in front of the museum: these “historic monuments” have been delisted for demolition or removal so as not to “spoil” the incomparable view of the museum on the holy rock of the Acropolis.

In all fairness, we should say that this new museum simply leaves many Athenians baffled. We have a hard time coming to terms with two different dimensions of the project. For one thing, there is the “patriotic” motive behind this ideologically charged project, whose first and foremost raison d’être is to house the ancient marbles of the Parthenon. This avant-garde building was erected to force the repatriation of the marbles, which were pilfered from the temple’s eastern frieze by the English ambassador, Lord Elgin, back in 1801, when Greece was under Ottoman occupation.

For another thing, there is our traditional ambivalence toward architectural and urban innovations. Accustomed to small-scale edifices, we have a hard time cottoning to the “dominant” character of this new museum. But the history of Athens abounds in architectural “scandals”, often involving outsized constructions.