Mount Pentelicus

29 March 2017

Mount Pentelicus, a range of peaks that lie around 40km north-east of Athens, has been famed for its marble since antiquity. The Acropolis itself was constructed from Pentelic marble, a flawless white metamorphic rock that emits a golden glow in the Mediterranean sunlight.

The ancient quarries on Pentelicus's Athens-facing south side has long been closed, and was only reopened to aid with the Acropolis' reconstruction. On the north, however, Pentelicus is very much an active site of marble procurement. At Dionysos, a town named for the ancient deity of wine and pleasure, rocks are mined for the architecture of the present day. The marble thus stands as a bridge across history. The same rock used in projects such as Renzo Piano's Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (2016) was used to create idols by neolithic peoples of the 6th millenium 6BC.

For Disegno #13, Niki and Zoe Moskofoglou of On Entropy – an Athens and London based marble atelier that seeks to investigate the ongoing significance of Pentelic marble – penned a photoessay on the cultural implications of the Dionysos quarry. Disegno is delighted to publish a gallery of the photographer Nikolas Ventourakis's accompanying images below.

The marble at Dionysos is extracted from the parent rock with a method similar to that used 2,000 years ago. The means may be different – as timber wedges and manual labour are now replaced by wagon drills and diamond-wire saws – but the principle of employing the direction of natural fissures and veins for a smooth extraction is the same.
Once extracted from the mountain, the marble volumes are squared, numbered according to quality and project, and transported to the cutting area. There, marble is sliced into slabs or cut to the desired volume, with water used to cool down the diamond cutters. This is the stage where any remaining unique features of the marble, such as fossils or other types of crystallisation, come to the surface.
It is a geological feature of all marble formed in the southern Mediterranean region that the veins run in an east to west direction. With this in mind, and to enable an easier extraction, vertical and horizontal holes are created at each level of the open quarry, through which the diamond wire saws slice the rock. The marble bird, Num, is a design created by On Entropy using marble from Dionysos.