Athens has something for every visitor! Apart from beautiful new museums, concert buildings, artistic metro stations, and roof gardens, Athens also has a spectacular cultural landmark: the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC). Needless to say, a must-see, during your next Athens visit.
Who is Stavros Niarchos?
Stavros Spyros Niarchos was born on July 3rd, 1909 in Athens. He obtained a degree in law at the University of Athens and after that, he started working in his family’s grain business (1929). His vision and insight made him understand that their business would save a lot of money if they would own the ships that were transporting the grains. This was the beginning of his career in the shipping industry. Later on he became the owner of one of the largest private fleets in the world. But he was not the only known Greek shipping magnate. So was Aristotle Onassis (1906 – 1975). The two of them have spent much of their lives battling for supremacy on the high seas. Stavros Niarchos died in 1996.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation
After his death, a significant part of Niarchos’ estate was used to establish the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, creating one of the biggest private international philanthropic organizations. Through the grants made since 1996, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation has helped non-profit organizations around the globe. Furthermore, in 2012, an amount of €300mil was granted to Greece, in an attempt to help the country in its battle against the crisis. With a budget of €617mil, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center is the Foundation’s largest single gift.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC)
The SNFCC’s vision is “to re-anchor Greece firmly, amid the great currents of global cultural exchange and development.” Following this vision, the design is based on 3 major components:
a. The National Library of Greece,
b. The Greek National Opera
c. The Stavros Niarchos Park.
The National Library of Greece
The library will be hosting both a public and a research library and will give its visitors easy access to a collection of over one million books, journals, manuscripts and much more.
The Greek National Opera
The new Greek National Opera will bring the public in touch with the contemporary cultural life from both Greece and abroad. With 1400 seats, exceptional acoustics and state-of-the-art equipment and infrastructure, it is capable of hosting the most demanding opera and ballet productions. Also a second smaller stage was built to host mainly experimental, alternative and educational performances.
The Stavros Niarchos Park
The first tree planted in the park, in May 2014, was an olive tree and by now 1.450 different trees have been planted. The 210.000 sq. m. park also has playgrounds, gardens, walking paths and open spaces. It has significantly expanded the area’s green surface, creating a substantial environmental value for the city.
The implementation of the cultural center was designed and lead by Italian born world-renowned architect Renzo Piano & his team. In Athens, Renzo Piano managed to create a building that is not only integrated in its surroundings, but also has an inspiring effect on the whole area. The focus on green areas, water and the use of glass, resulted in a building that gives the city of Athens the fresh lung that it needed. Also, the 100 x 100 roof, called the « flying carpet » by Renzo Piano, is covered by a hectare of photovoltaic panels that generate 2.5 megawatts to power the building.
Considering the current economic situation of Greece it is of great importance to also see the economic value of this project : 6.000 people were employed in its construction, 2.300 permanent positions are expected to be created, while 32.000 visitors can be hosted in its indoor and outdoor facilities at the same time. The operation of the SNFCC is expected to generate over €140 million per year.
Donation to the Greek State
On February 23, 2017, the SNFCC was handed over to the Greek state, as was the original intention. Now, this complex of culture, learning and creativity belongs to Greek society.
We have been visiting the SNFCC regularly with our Omilo students who are learning Greek in Athens , but it is also easy to visit it yourself. The center has a rich program of athletic and educational activities, as well as concerts and exhibitions, so something for everyone.
Info: www.snfcc.org/events, www.SNF.org
Easiest and fastest way to reach the SNF:
Take the metro till the “FIX station” (Red line), and then take a taxi to the SNF (5 minutes and about 6 euro).
The cultural center is a great place to take pictures, have a look at our Photo album and we hope you will be able to visit the SNFCC soon.
Tip: If you are an art-lover, then take the opportunity to also visit the Contemporary Art Museum in the renovated FIX-building, exactly next to the FIX metro station.
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