About ten years before the first signs of crisis were even visible in Athens, at a time when the Greek capital was gradually turning into an endless construction site due to the upcoming Olympic Games in 2004 and the forthcoming enlargement of the euro zone which would put the country in the deadlock club of the single currency, the idea of ​​building a new cultural center was born.

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation had already expressed its willingness to support the construction of new facilities for the National Library of Greece, while in parallel and independently of this initiative, the Foundation was considering a proposal to support the Greek National Opera. The plan to create a unique cultural park of international stature would take shape in 2006 when the Stavros Niarchos Foundation announced its intention to make its largest individual grant to date, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC).


The project included the construction and equipment of the new National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera as well as the creation of a 170,000 square meter park on the shore of Faliro Bay (in the district of Kallithea where was the old racecourse). bequeathing to the Greek people a great civic, cultural, environmental and educational landmark. The total project budget was set at US $ 854 million and the SNFCC would become the first such public-private partnership in Greece, as after its completion, the Foundation will gradually transfer the operation and full management of the Center to the ‘Greek State, from 2017..


By selecting the famous Italian architect Renzo Piano, the Foundation chose an architect at the forefront of the architectural profession who, thanks to his place of work, the Athens Riviera, would be among the pioneers of architecture. in Europe for the 21st century. The so-called ‘flying carpet’ roof, the graceful rows of columns, the colossal glass panels allowing natural light to enter the main buildings and halls of the Center as well as the rectangular lake located in the surrounding environmental park (including the playgrounds, racing tracks, a maze, etc.) brought a revolution to Athens, a city with limited public space and in desperate need of vital green spaces. “From our first observations, the idea emerged that by raising the ground – with a slight slope and a gradual course – we could restore the ‘beautiful view’ of Kallithea … Thus, without realizing it, the visitors walking through the park are at a height of 30 meters, ”Piano explained.

Millions of people have already visited the site for free public events, concerts and the first guided tours.


Today, just a few months after its opening to the public, there is no doubt that the SNFCC is a project that looks to the future and anticipates a brighter tomorrow than the present of the country in crisis. The buildings and open spaces of the SNFCC can accommodate up to 32,000 visitors. Of these 4000 visitors, they can be accommodated inside the buildings of the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, including performance halls, halls and the so-called Lighthouse.

“The SNFCC can be a global landmark for Greece and its people, a monument of modernity and sustainability for the city of Athens. Not only can this improve Greece’s image internationally, SNFCC’s visibility is also likely to boost tourism in Greece at a critical time. The SNFCC is expected to be a milestone of inclusion, providing access for those from all walks of life and those with special needs, to the rich offer of Greece’s cultural and educational heritage. The local community will have a better quality of life with clean air, exercise facilities and twice as much green space, ”the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) noted in a 2010 impact assessment for the newly planned project.


The SFNCC was born on June 23, 2016, transforming into an open space accessible to all as the four-day event included performances and other programs by internationally renowned Greek and foreign artists. It was a living space of ideas, exploration and interaction through an innovative program of cultural, sporting and educational actions for all age groups, significant of what will follow during the functioning of the Center. In tandem, visitors had the opportunity for the first time to enter the new premises of the Greek National Opera and the National Library of Greece, as well as to enjoy the surrounding green space in its entirety.

Since then, a number of important events have taken place at the premises of the SFNCC, namely the SNF Run “Running into Future” from Panathenaic Stadium to Stavros Niarchos Park, the exhibition of the first Marathon Winner’s Cup presented to Spyros Louis at the first edition of the Modern Modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, as well as the speech by US President Barack Obama at the conclusion of his two-day visit to Athens.


In addition, the SNFCC obtained, among others, the prestigious Platinum Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification and was named best international project of the year at the internationally renowned UK Building Awards 2016.

The full-time operation of the unique cultural center has given Athens growing stature as a destination for all seasons.

SNFCC winter opening hours are →

Stavros Niarchos Park 06h00-20h00, Agora, Lighthouse, Track 06h00-0h00, Visitors center 09h00-22h00.

From December 22 to January 6, the Stavros Niarchos Park will be open from 6 a.m. to midnight.

* For more information on upcoming public events and the December program, visit www.snf.org

GCT team

This article was researched and written by a member of the GCT team.

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