Greek gift: Athens’ new cultural centre

Greek gift: Athens’ new cultural centre

With apartment blocks wedged between busy roads, the Athenian suburb of Kallithea doesn’t really live up to its name, which means “beautiful view”. But thanks to a €596m gift from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and a visionary design by architect Renzo Piano, the neighbourhood has recently benefitted from an enthralling cultural landmark: the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center. The views from it are definitely of the spectacular variety.

The centre’s rooftop space. Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center, Athens, Greece.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest
The centre’s rooftop space. Photograph: Michel Denancé
Piano used rubble to create a slope that doubles as a green roof for the new Greek National Library and Opera. At the top is a glass observatory with a vast solar canopy that powers the buildings below. Sustainability is at the heart of the design, the first European public building on this scale to achieve LEED Platinum certification. Footpaths lined with Mediterranean herbs lead to a 42-acre park, with playgrounds, water jets and vegetable gardens. Concerts, screenings, and festivals are staged on the Great Lawn.

A 400-metre sea-water canal, where people can learn to sail or kayak, creates a cooling microclimate; after dark, it’s a backdrop for live jazz or tango classes. All this is free, as are tours and activities including crafts, petanque, chess and gardening lessons. The only thing visitors pay for are rental bikes and opera tickets.

Interior view of the library at the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center in Athens, Greece.
Facebook Twitter Pinterest The library at the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center. Photograph: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty Images
Currently managed and funded by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the centre will be handed over to the Greek state by the end of 2017, a controversial decision at a time of strained public finances. “Income generated by the cafes, restaurants and performances will go towards the maintenance of the buildings, park and programme of events,” says grant manager of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Elly Andriopoulou. “This is a long-term investment in the regeneration of Athens that will generate around €140m a year for the Greek economy.”

As 2018 draws to a close….
… we’re asking readers to make an end of year or ongoing contribution in support of The Guardian’s independent journalism.

Three years ago we set out to make The Guardian sustainable by deepening our relationship with our readers. The same technologies that connected us with a global audience had also shifted advertising revenues away from news publishers. We decided to seek an approach that would allow us to keep our journalism open and accessible to everyone, regardless of where they live or what they can afford.

More than one million readers have now supported our independent, investigative journalism through contributions, membership or subscriptions, which has played such an important part in helping The Guardian overcome a perilous financial situation globally. We want to thank you for all of your support. But we have to maintain and build on that support for every year to come.

Sustained support from our readers enables us to continue pursuing difficult stories in challenging times of political upheaval, when factual reporting has never been more critical. The Guardian is editorially independent – our journalism is free from commercial bias and not influenced by billionaire owners, politicians or shareholders. No one edits our editor. No one steers our opinion. This is important because it enables us to give a voice to those less heard, challenge the powerful and hold them to account. Readers’ support means we can continue bringing The Guardian’s independent journalism to the world.

About The Author