Sometime in mid-June I noticed an event keep popping on my Facebook feed: the opening of Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center aka SNFCC. SNFCC is located in Kallithea, a coastal suburb of Athens in an area that used to be a racetrack until 2004. The area now houses the new Greek National Opera and National Library of Greece buildings as well as a beautiful park. Ten years ago, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation announced its plans to fund the development of this cultural center.
Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center is designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop helmed by renowned architect Renzo Piano. Design began in 2008 and construction in 2012. The center was completed in June and opened to the public along with various activities. One of these activities was free guided tours inside the buildings of the Greek National Opera and National Library of Greece, which were very popular and more than often “sold out”. I was delighted when I managed to secure 2 spots on one of these tours for me and my husband. So without further ado here are our photos and experience from the guided tour.
Greek National Opera
As you can see in the first photo and subsequent ones, both buildings are very similar. Their common traits are glass, wood and open space. Inside the Opera building we got the opportunity to get backstage and check out rehearsal rooms for ballet, choir and orchestra and of course the main stage. This is the most beautiful stage I’ve ever seen as it is very modern and minimal! Also loved the fact that the chairs are covered by red velvet-like fabric. This is also the stage where Barack Obama, the President of the United States of America gave a speech on November 16th, while visiting Athens!
You can find more details about the Opera building at SNCFF’s website.
National Library of Greece
Now on to the building that is going to house National Library’s collection of books which currently is split in 3 different locations in Athens. I have to admit that I was less impressed by this building compared to the Opera one, probably because it’s currently empty. The library’s ground floor is going to host a lending library, while the other floors will be accessible to researchers. During the guided tour we walked through the various levels, visited the reading rooms as well as the storage area where rare books and first editions are going to be placed.
You can find more details about the Library building at SNFCC’s website.
The last part of the tour was getting to the top of the Opera building, an area which is also accessible from the Park. It’s the perfect spot to see the entire park as well as Athens. When you walk to the top you can also see towards the sea and Piraeus. The park features a wide range of trees, plants, water fountains, paths, playgrounds and open spaces (including a labyrinth). The larger open space was used for open air cinema screenings and concerts during the summer. A few days after the tour I returned to the park to watch Breakfast at Tiffany’s, a movie I must admit that I’d never seen!
The pièce de résistance of the park though, has to be the canal especially at night. It provides the perfect reflection pool for both buildings making them look very amazing. It is also very photogenic and Instagram friendly!
So, that pretty sums up my experience in Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center I guess. You can find more information about the SNFCC and its current activities on their website.
For my Athenian readers, have you visited SNFCC? What do you think about it?
For my international readers, next time you visit Athens definitely add SNFCC in your list!