The brand new, centre of all attention, cultural playground for the surrounding neighbourhoods and visitors, is finally opening its doors to the public. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC) is an architectural treasure, designed by Renzo Piano. It has taken over and restored an abandoned seafront piece of land in the southern suburbs, which practically oversees Athens at its whole. Today the lot has been transformed into the Stavros Niarchos Park, also home to the modern building, which houses the National Library of Greece (NLG) and the Greek National Opera (GNO).
The Stavros Niarchos Park offers many surprises. Guests can rest in specially designed seating areas or explore a nearby circular labyrinth. Children can play in creative playgrounds of innovative design. The Park is ideal for the children, but also for all citizens, who will be able to enjoy their leisure walk, exercise or attend concerts, exhibitions, and a multitude of other events.
Allées leading further into the Park, lined with tall pine and olive trees interspersed with smaller trees, create contrast between closed and open space, light and dark, color and texture. At the center of the Park is the Great Lawn, an open space for larger gatherings, which can also function as a venue for concerts, festivals and films.
Greece’s strong horticultural tradition is celebrated in the open, sunlit Mediterranean Garden. Each month will bring a new color, and each season will introduce a different combination of flowers or foliage.
From the Mediterranean Garden, curving landscaped pathways wend their way up a gentle grade to a summit 32 m high. Beneath the earth is the building that houses the National Library and Opera House, making the hill the green roof for the structure. One of the largest in Europe, the green roof significantly reduces air conditioning requirements. The summit offers spectacular 360-degree views of the sea to the west, the Acropolis to the east, and the cultural and educational park below, as well as of the Agora, the central plaza between the National Library and the Opera House. Another prize awaits the visitors of the Park’s summit: a 900 m2 glass-walled Reading Room, a space for people seeking a quiet area to read and reflect or to appreciate the view. The Reading Room is in terms of functionality an extension of the Agora, and will become a place to organize cultural and educational events as well.
Furthermore, the GNO’s facilities, covering an area of 28.000 sq.m., are a multifunctional space that can accommodate opera productions, ballet, children’s shows, concerts, theatrical performances and multimedia art projects, while the scene is one of the largest in the world. On the other hand the facilities of the NLG cover an area of 22.000 sq.m., combining tradition and innovation in a charming and functional way.
The “lighthouse” (faros), located on the 8th floor of the building, is an area where various events can be held with a view of Athens from above. The roof of the 8th floor is covered with solar panels, producing energy that suffices the buildings needs.
Finally, 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.