Construction on the site of the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki started in 1960 at a 4.2 acre plot in the centre of the city, at ΧΑΝΘ Square (YMCA Sq.) opposite the International Trade Fair grounds. The building was designed by the renowned Greek architect Patroklos Karantinos, a prominent representative of the Modernist movement in Greek architecture.
In 1962 its erection was complete and the museum opened to the public. It is one of the most representative examples of modernist architecture in Greece and the most important post-war creation of Karantinos. Karantinos' schematic approach delineates the character of the building, the layout of its forms, its proportions and building requirements, which separate the exhibition halls from the working spaces. Its general layout is rectangular with two atria. The building is horizontal, minimal, simple and functional, inspired by the architectural layout of an ancient Greek house, where all spaces were centered around a central, inner atrium. Hence all spaces open up to the central, inner atrium so that natural light can easily be distributed on the exhibited antiquities, while glass bricks on the outer walls and skylights ensure the presence of sufficient lighting. Apart from the wide use of glass bricks, the element of apparent stonework on the museum's base is also present for the first time in Karantinos' work.
An two-storey annex was built in 1980 on the southeastern zone of the surrounding space, designed by Alexandros Vogiatzis.
The Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki was regisered as a Listed Building and a work of art in 2002, as it is an important example of public architecture in the city during the second half of the 20th century.
The need of a renovation and more updated museological demands, led to a thorough modernisation-repair-expansion of the museum during 2001-2006, funded by the 3rd Community Support Framework. The architectural study was conducted by a team of architects led by Nikos Fintikakis and Giorgos Albanis. The building's shell remained intact, while its inner spaces were redesigned. the level of the central atrium was lowered, creating a new hall (known as J.Vokotopoulou Hall) roofed by a glass roving ceiling. The museum's basement as expanded to make room for technologically updated electromechanic facilities. The renovated building, with specially-designed air-conditioning and stable temperature conditions in its exhibition halls, its storerooms and state-of-the-art laboratories, alongside its new exhibition design, made the Archaeological Museum of Thessaloniki one of the most modern and well-equipped museums in Greece. Apart from its air-conditioning system, it is also equipped with inner networks of computing and voice, gas networks for the conservation labs as well as extensive systems of fire-protection, in order to minimize any danger for the visitors or the exhibits.
The layout of the eastern zone of the surrounding area was completed in 2009, with the creation of the open-air archaeological exhibition "Field - House - Garden - Grave" and its relevant surrounding wall.
Finally, in 2014, a new underground storeroom was built on the western zone of the surrounding area, and another open-air exhibition was opened to the public, "Memory in Stone", along with speical educational facilities, funded by NSRF 2007-2013.