Precedent Studies

The Propylaea

Location: Acropolis, Athens, Greece
Architect: Mnesikles
Opened: 431 BC
Boarders: Erechtheum, Acropolis Museum, Parthenon

Propylaea Site plan


Propylaea gets its name from the Greek word ‘Pro’ meaning before and the plural of the Greek word ‘Pylon’ meaning gate which together literally means ‘before the gates’. The Propylaea is the monumental gateway of the Acropolis. It is made up of a central building and two lateral wings. In 431BC, the entrance to the Acropolis was controlled by the Propylaea. Permission into Acropolis was controlled; runaway slaves, miscreants and those not ritually clean were denied permission. For those permitted in, it provided sanctuary and protection of the Gods. It also housed the state treasury and so its security was important.

Link to the Thesis Project
As mentioned, Arnold van Gennep was of the first researchers to study cultural rights of passage. In any rite of passage, “so great is the incompatibility between the profane and the sacred worlds that man cannot pass from one to the other without going through an intermediate stage”. Applying this type of thinking to spatial experience, liminal spaces are viewed as zones which transform the occupants from the wicked to the sacred world in Acropolis. The Propylaea, as the entrance to Acropolis, serves as the transformative zone or ‘intermediate stage’ between the city and the sanctuary of the Gods. The space is clearly transitional, as the occupant moves through a series of thresholds, to ascend to the sacred space. The two wings of the building extend out as if to almost pull the occupant into the space and create a zone of separation from the rest of the world. When going up the Propylaea stairs, the occupants separate themselves from the city and the rest of Greece and is about to enter a transition zone. There they they find themselves in between; not part of the city and not yet a part of the sanctuary of Acropolis. The next phase is between the transitional zone and the Acropolis, this is where the incorporation into the following space happens. When the occupant passes through the Propylaea and into the path that leads to Acropolis, the occupant has now entered the post-liminal zone.

Propylaea Plan

Propylaea Section



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