Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
A world-class cultural resource, a gift to a community, a beacon of sustainability, a tribute to a legacy, a symbol of the future. Designed by architectural firm Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW), the project is an ecologically sustainable multifunctional centre located about 4.5 km from central Athens, on a 232,000 m² site consisting largely of public parkland. The initiative also provides for the construction of the new Greek National Opera, with a main 1400-seat theatre and an experimental 400-seat theatre, and the National Library for the general public, to house up to 750,000 books.
Renowned architect Renzo Piano has designed an icon that represents the aspirations of Greeks in the third millennium by incorporating essential elements of the national ecology – the sea, sun, stone, and earth. A beacon of sustainability is borne out in every aspect of the design—from the Park, which also functions as a green roof for the National Library and Greek National Opera, to the canal which can also function as an additional anti-flooding measure to the whole site, to the photovoltaic canopy which produces energy for the two buildings’ needs and contributes to the goal of low emissions.
“In difficult moments like this, you need hope. Making a good building is an important civic gesture. It makes you believe in a better world.” – Renzo Piano says
The approximately €566 million (US$803 million) project is a culmination of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s commitment to the culture, prosperity, and future of Greece. This is the first public-private partnership of its kind in Greece, and the largest cultural/educational project ever undertaken in the country. When completed, it will be fully operated and controlled by the Greek State. As one of the largest construction projects in recent Greek history, the Center will have an immediate impact on the local economy, providing jobs and infusing capital into a challenging economic climate.
Intrinsically designed to draw visitors, the SNFCC extols the public benefit of community and of urban civic spaces. Tree-lined side streets entice visitors into the Park. Once visitors are inside the Park, a host of spectacles and access to arts and educational programs entices them to explore, discover and learn.
Underneath the Park, two buildings have been brilliantly combined into one fluid, glass-walled structure, sculpted to include an urban Agora – both a gathering place and a portal to the National Library and Greek National Opera. An iconographic tower of books, a functional and welcoming symbol of accessible learning, defines the character of the new National Library of Greece, which will offer a plethora of public services and will include a lending library, while serving as a center of research and scholarship. The Greek National Opera will offer technological sophistication and acoustic perfection that will accommodate the most demanding productions including ballets, concerts, musicals, and more intimate solo performances.
- LIBRARY: The new building for the National Library of Greece (www.nlg.gr) will modernize an institution founded in 1832. An iconographic tower of books, three stories tall and visible from a distance, is a discernible indication that the Library has expanded its focus from an exclusive research facility to an allinclusive public resource. In its new and expanded role, the Library will support patrons of all ages and education—from academic researchers of classical manuscripts, important documents, and archival material to children and young adults destined to become the next generation of users.
- OPERA HOUSE: The new opera house presents the Greek National Opera with opportunities to strengthen its educational and outreach programs through lectures, seminars, and other events. The organization has developed in the last few years, a children’s stage to attract younger audiences and engage future generations of opera-goers, and expanded its children’s programming to include tours of children’s performances, educational programs, age-specific seminars, and innovative activities. The Greek National Opera will be able to take advantage of new wireless technologies to present productions via the Internet to other Greek cities, as well as employ the Stavros Niarchos Park as an outdoor theater for selected video-link and also outdoors live performances. A smaller alternative stage with a capacity of 400 people will host more intimate productions, including GNO’s experimental performances, contemporary Greek music, dance, dramatic readings, and theater productions in a venue with technical capabilities on par with the main performance space. The small theater has a flexible layout with no fixed seating, making it ideal for experimental productions. A school of dance will also reside at the SNFCC.
- PARK: A lifeline for the SNFCC and surrounding community, the Stavros Niarchos Park epitomizes the core values of the Center: sustainability, access to the arts and education, and enjoyment. One of the largest green spaces in Athens—welcome news to a city with the lowest per capita green space in Europe—the Park covers 85 percent of the SNFCC site. As visitors approach the SNFCC site from the North, the urban landscape begins to give way to tree-lined side streets leading patrons to their destination. Once there, guests will be able to rest in meditative seating areas or explore a circular labyrinth. Children will play in playgrounds, especially designed to spark their creativity and imagination. For active patrons, the adjoining Esplanade, which readily accommodates wheelchairs and strollers, is suitable for running, biking, and roller-blading.
At ground level, a tree-lined pedestrian Esplanade runs parallel to the glass façade of the structure. Alongside is a wide canal, a figurative extension of the adjacent sea. The Esplanade readily accommodates people with special needs, and is suitable by day for running, biking, and other activities. Directly across the Agora and on the other side of the canal, wide marble steps offer a space for impromptu performances.
The spectacular features of the Stavros Niarchos Park are not all earthbound. The energy needs of the buildings will be met by a 100m x 100m photovoltaic canopy. Soaring 14 m above the summit, the canopy extends outward from its perimeter. An engineering and construction wonder, supported by 40 sinewy metal pillars, the canopy will make a fascinating addition to the city skyline. Coupled with other environmentally innovative designs and practices, the project aims to earn Platinum or Gold Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the first such designation in Greece and the first for a project of this scale in Europe.
Renzo Piano Building Workshop:
The Stavros Niarchos Cultural Centre is located in Kallithea, 4 km south of central Athens. An important cultural and educational project, the site will comprise the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera in a 170,000 sq m landscaped park. Currently a parking lot left over from the 2004 Olympic Games, once the site of a racetrack, the project restore the site’s lost connections with the city and the sea.
As one of Athens’ earliest seaports on Faliro Bay, Kallithea has always had a strong relationship with the water. At present, however, despite its proximity, there is no view of the sea from the site. To restore this, an artificial hill is being created at the south (seaward) end of the site. The sloping park will culminate in the cultural centre building, giving it spectacular views towards the sea.
Both opera and library are combined in one building, with a public space, known as the Agora, providing access and connections between the two main facilities. The opera wing will be composed of two auditoria, one (450 seats) dedicated to traditional operas and ballets, the other (1400 seats) for more experimental performances. The library is intended not only as a place for learning and preserving culture, but also as a public resource, a space where culture is truly accessible to share and enjoy.
The entirely glass-walled library reading room sits on top of the building just underneath the canopy roof. A square horizontal transparent box, it will enjoy 360-degree views of Athens and the sea.
The site’s visual and physical connection with water will continue in the park with a new canal that will run along a north–south, main pedestrian axis, the Esplanade. The canopy roof provides essential shade and will be topped with 10.000 sq m of photovoltaic cells, enough to generate 1.5 megawatt of power for the library and opera house. This field of cells should allow the building to be self-sufficient in energy terms during normal opening hours. Wherever possible, natural ventilation will be used.
The visual connection with the water will continue to the park, where it will focus on a channel to the side of the Esplanade, the main pedestrian axis of the site, in the north-south direction.
The complex is aiming for a LEED platinum rating.
Project name: Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center
Location: Leof. Andrea Siggrou 364, Kallithea 176 74, Greece
Coordinates: 37.939957, 23.691777
Type: Cultural Center
- Total floor area: 210,000 sqm
- Usable floor area: 121.000
Project Period: 2012-2016
Cost: approximately €566 million (US$803 million)
Completion Year: 2016
Visit Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center’s Website: here
Client / Owner / Developer: Stavros Niarchos Foundation – 86A Vasilissis Sofias Ave. 11528 Athens, Greece
- Renzo Piano Building Workshop – Via Rubens 29, 16158 Genoa, Italy
- G.Bianchi, V.Laffineur (partner and associate in charge), S.Doerflinger, H.Houplain, A.Gallissian with A.Bercier, A.Boldrini, K.Doerr, S.Drouin, G.Dubreux, S.Giorgio-Marrano, C.Grispello, M.A.Maillard, E.Ntourlias, S.Pauletto, L.Piazza, M.Pimmel, L.Puech and B.Brady, C.Cavo, A. Kellyie, C.Menas Porras, C.Owens, R.Richardson; S.Moreau; O.Aubert, C.Colson and Y.Kyrkos (models)
Executive Architect: BETAPLAN
- Structural Engineer: EXPEDITION In collaboration with OMETE
- MEP Engineer: ARUP In collaboration with LDK
- Landscape Architect: DEBORAH NEVINS and Associates, Inc. In collaboration with H. PANGALOU AND ASSOCIATES
- Theater Design Consultant: THEATRE PROJECTS CONSULTANTS
- Acoustic Design: ARUP Acoustics
- Library Consultants: British Library
- Façade Consultant: FRONT
- Signage Design: Atelier Martine Harlé
- Food Service Consultant: SefronHornWinch
- Traffic Consultant: DENCO
- Irrigation Design: SOTIRIOS MAVRAGANIS
- Environmental Studies: HPC – PASECO
- Project manager / LEED-Sustainability & Cost Consultants: FAITHFUL+GOULD
- Commissioning Consultant: Ebert & Baumann Consulting Engineers Inc.
- Occupational Safety & Health Consultants: Ergonomia
Text Description: © Courtesy of RPBW, SNFCC,
Images: © RPBW, Michel Denancé, Yiorgis Yerolymbos, Arup Lighting, Vasilis Chouliaras, Nikos Markou