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In Greece, Renzo Piano Unveils Design of Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center

June 29, 2011

By David Sokol

Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center
Image courtesy Renzo Piano Building Workshop

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As Greece grapples with its ongoing debt crisis, a major cultural project there is moving forward.

Today, Renzo Piano presented his final designs for the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center (SNFCC), a privately funded project slated to rise on the Saronikos Kolpos waterfront in southern Athens. Construction of the $803 million, 85,000-square-meter building will start later this year and conclude in 2015, at which point the Stavros Niarchos Foundation will transfer ownership of the facility to the Greek government.

Early Renderings of SNFCC have circulated since 2009, and the completed design refines major concepts of the initial plan. The building will rise within the new 42-acre Stavros Niarchos Park, in the community of Kallithea. Piano has folded the park over the structure, lifting the landscape to a height of 32 meters.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop was commissioned separately by the Municipality of Kallithea to design the neighboring Kallithea Municipal Sports & Leisure Park, and Piano is orchestrating the sites to complement one another. The Stavros Niarchos Park alone doubles the amount of per-capita parkland in this part of the metropolitan area.

SFNCC’s submerged interior will include a 1,400-seat theater for the Greek National Opera, as well as a smaller, 400-seat performance space. The new building also replaces the 1832 National Library, providing a home for more than two million books. The very top of the complex will emerge from the hilltop and cantilever over its slope; Piano has compared this volume to a contemporary agora.

In addition to its giant green roof, SFNCC will boast other vastly scaled sustainability features. A canal will recycle water on site, filtering it for irrigation uses, and a photovoltaic canopy measuring almost 2.5 acres in area should meet all electricity demand. SFNCC is forecasted to be the first public building in Greece to achieve LEED-Platinum certification. In fact, analysts predict that the completed project will sequester 2,750 tons of carbon-dioxide emissions annually.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation will operate a public exhibition of the final scheme through July 3 at the construction site.

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