Summer celebration: the SNFCC, Athens’ newest cultural complex, opens its doors

the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre in Athens
This weekend sees the first viewing of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre in Athens. The project has been in the works since the 1990s
(Image credit: Yiorgis Yerolymbos)

Financially troubled Athens may not seem like the obvious place for the next big public building opening. Even so, the Greek capital has just seen a grand new cultural complex open its doors for the first time, courtesy of the non-profit Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) and architect Renzo Piano.

The project has been a long time in the making. Located in the southern Athenian district of Kallithea, it includes the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera and a 210,000 sq m landscaped park. It was kick-started in the 1990s by the library and opera authorities and the SNF – the philanthropic organisation set up by the eponymous Greek shipping magnate – and commissioned to the Renzo Piano Building Workshop in 2008.

The area is one of the capital’s most densely populated municipalities and this injection of green space is a much-needed addition. Piano’s design also aims to restore the long-lost connection between Kallithea and the sea, through its carefully picked orientation and raised vistas.

The architect's proposal includes an artificial hill on the site’s southernmost tip, under the highest point of which are nestled the two buildings, and on which the large public park unfolds. The two-auditorium opera house and the library are topped by a glass-enclosed multifunctional space called the Lighthouse. A public piazza, called the Agora, links the two main functions together.

Offering great views of the sea (enhanced by the presence of a 30m-wide esplanade running along the site’s main north-south pedestrian axis) the park, designed by Deborah Nevins & Associates, is also packed with eco-friendly elements. These include solar panels, water recycling and flood defence mechanisms; sustainability and a green element for the neighbourhood were both key to the team’s overall approach.

The complex was built using foundation funds, but upon completion it will be donated to the Greek state. The coming weekend will be marked by a series of events, artworks and performances, called 'Metamorphosis: The SNFCC to the World', to celebrate the new Cultural Centre’s first viewing.

SNFCC Athens

Located in the southern Athenian district of Kallithea, it includes the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera and a 210,000 sq m landscaped park

(Image credit: Yiorgis Yerolymbos)

SNFCC Athens

The area is one of the capital’s most densely populated municipalities and this injection of green space is a much-needed addition

(Image credit: Yiorgis Yerolymbos)

SNFCC Athens

Offering great views of the sea (enhanced by the presence of a 30m-wide esplanade running along the site’s main north-south pedestrian axis) the park, designed by Deborah Nevins & Associates, is also packed with eco-friendly elements

(Image credit: Yiorgis Yerolymbos)

INFORMATION

'Metamorphosis: The SNFCC to the World' will be on view until 26 June. For more information, visit the SNFCC website and Renzo Piano’s website

Photography: Yiorgis Yerolymbos

ADDRESS

SNFCC Visitors Center
Evripidou & Doiranis Streets
Kallithea, Athens
Greece

VIEW GOOGLE MAPS

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).