The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Center is a game-changer. Making every single Greek stand a little taller, this € 596 million wonderland includes 170,000 m2 of greenery, a cooling canal and a towering building complex, housing the Greek National Opera and the National Library of Greece. Designed by master architect Renzo Piano, whose musical name reverberates across the halls of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Shard in London, the Whitney Museum in New York and so much more, this immense project revolves around three key concepts: nurturing the spirit, enhancing social life and producing energy - in more ways than one! The towering glass-paneled edifice is a testament to sunlight, the country’s most prominent feature, and was designed to amplify the osmosis of music and literature. Considering that neither instruments nor books are strictly necessary to produce either in this day and age, the cutting edge facilities are masterminded to celebrate both the virtual and the spiritual connection to culture.
Topped with photovoltaic panels, the sun is left to do all the heavy lifting, producing 2.5 megawatts of power, enough to run the entire building. At ground level, the opera and library complex overlooks a plaza dubbed the Agora, a tribute to the precious Ancient Greek habit of coming together. That’s when things start to get social. Children can be seen kayaking or sailing on the cooling canal, while a jazz band or two serenades parents pushing baby strollers. And that’s exactly when you’ll realize the green roof over the Opera and Library you half-glimpsed from below is actually a gently sloping park that lusciously crowns the entire building! The SNFCC exterior is an energizing cluster of Mediterranean gardens, playgrounds, and open-air performance venues and sports facilities, all tinged with the herbaceous smells of oregano, lavender, thyme and rosemary. Once you’ve reached the edge of the park and are virtually walking on the roof of the National Library below, do yourself a favor and step inside the Lighthouse, a glass shell observatory offering unobstructed views of the city and sea, which is really the best place to drink it all in. Because it is only if you give yourself up to the spirit of the SNFCC, that you’ll truly understand that this isn’t about money or power. It’s about putting your best foot forward and celebrating the future.