The Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center has been officially handed over to the Greek state on Thursday. In a spectacular open ceremony attended by thousands of people, the SN Foundation gave to Greeks one of the most significant cultural, educational, environmental and aesthetic projects in the country.The SNCC is located in Faliron Delta, some 5km south of downtown Athens.
The handover occurred ten years after the Stavros Niarchos Foundation initially announced its intention to proceed with a large-scale grant for the creation of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC). The total budget of the grant is 630 million euros.
The SNF withdraws fully from the project’s management and has no involvement in the management of SNFCC.
“It’s Yours!” the SNF said in a statement adding that the SNFCC was delivered “to its permanent owner, the Greek State and, by extension, to the Greek society, the citizens and daily visitors.”
Addressing the official ceremony Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed “a generous donation” and acknowledged widespread concerns about the center’s fate in public hands.
“The 617 million euros is a generous donation which gains even greater significance as it was made in conditions of major practical difficulties,” Tsipras told an audience of politicians, entrepreneurs and people of the arts at the SNFCC’s premises in the Faliro Delta.
“The concerns are very real,” he said, referring to widespread media speculation about the center degenerating under state control. “They are due to the fact that many Olympic facilities on which the people spent hundreds of millions [of euros] remain unexploited, virtually in ruin,” Tsipras said, referring to the Athens 2004 Games.
“However, it is not right to create the impression that the state and citizens are not in the position to keep this jewel, to make use of it and to make it into something even better,” the premier said.
The director of the Foundation, Andreas Dracopoulos, said the center had been “embraced” by Greeks, noting that 760,000 citizens have visited it to date. “It should be an example to show that the country can go forward and not the opposite,” he said.
some television networks reported also. Dracopoulos mentioned that the SNF has received e-mail by citizens expressing their concern over tha handout to the Greek state – which is notorious for mismanagement or neglect.
Opening the event earlier in the evening, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that any shortcomings in the maintenance of the center by the state “will not be a breach against the donors but against culture itself.”
Renzo Piano, the Italian architect who designed the center, also addressed the gathering via video link. He said it was a “great day” as the institution was being given to the “community.” Piano has said that the undertaking was inspired by light, air and breeze.
The complex, characterized by the extensive use of marble, steel and glass, has many features to boast of, such as the breathtaking 100 square meter wafer-thin concrete canopy covering the opera house.
The roof, made of ferro-cement, was engineered by the London company Expedition, and is the largest roof made of the material in the world.
Another highlight is the 14-meter-high artificial mound which comprises a part of the park, affording stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea on the one side, and the sprawling city on the other, including the Acropolis.
Upon the delivery of the project, the Foundation intends to continue to actively support the SNFCC, at least for the next five years, with grants of up to €50 million. These grants will cover operating expenses for SNFCC SA, as well as programming and event costs for the SNFCC.
The project houses the Greek National Opera, a two-million-book National Library and the 170,000m2 Stavros Niarchos Park on the Faliro Bay shoreline,.
The relocation process of the National Library of Greece (NLG) and the Greek National Opera (GNO) to the SNFCC has began but not concluded yet.
The SNFCC opened its doors to the public in August 2016.
The Foundation has been named after Stavros Spyros Niarchos (1909 – 1996) a multi-billionaire Greek shipping tycoon. Starting in 1952, he had the world’s biggest supertankers built for his fleet. Propelled by both the Suez Crisis and an increasing demand for oil, he and rival Aristotle Onassis became giants in global petroleum shipping.
When Niarchos died, he had left half his fortune – estimated at 22billion USD – to a charitable trust to be established in his name.
PS A problem that has not be solved yet is that there is no metro connection between the SNFCC to downtown Athens.