Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre | Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The Stavros Niarchos Cultural Centre is located in Kallithea, 4 km south of central Athens. An important cultural and educational project, the site will comprise the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera in a 170,000 sq m landscaped park. Currently a parking lot left over from the 2004 Olympic Games, once the site of a racetrack, the project restore the site’s lost connections with the city and the sea.

In 2006, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation ( announced its plans to fund the development of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC), a project that includes the construction and complete outfitting of new facilities for the National Library of Greece (NLG) and the Greek National Opera (GNO), as well as the creation of the 210,000 m² Stavros Niarchos Park.

Education and culture are the backbone of any advanced society. In funding the SNFCC, the Foundation’s vision is to provide the country and the city with the new institutional foundations it needs to move forward and with a framework for the future. Education, culture and sustainability, the SNFCC’s three main elements, are essential requirements in enhancing the potential of the city and its people and placing them within a twenty first century global context.   

The magnitude of the project and of the Foundation’s dreams and hopes required the impact and the creative presence of a visionary architect. In February 2008, following a closed international design competition, the Foundation’s Board of Directors unanimously selected the Renzo Piano Building Workshop ( In selecting renowned architect Renzo Piano, the Foundation chose an architect at the forefront of the architectural profession, who possesses vision, intellectual curiosity and a historical and geographical understanding of the project’s location and significance. 

The project site is located 4.5 km south of the center of Athens, on the edge of Faliro Bay, and the SNFCC is designed as a multifunctional arts, education and entertainment complex. The project's total budget of $867mil (€620mil) includes two grants of $6mil (€5mil) each to the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera respectively, aiming to support the organizations’ transition to their new facilities. Upon SNFCC’s completion, the Foundation will transfer the control of the center to the Greek state, which will assume its full operation and management. The SNFCC is the first private-public partnership of its type in Greece, and one of the most important civic (cultural/educational) projects ever undertaken in the country.  As one of the largest construction projects in recent Greek history, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center will have an immediate impact on the local economy, providing jobs and infusing capital into a challenging economic landscape.

The idea for the SNFCC started to form in 1998 with the Foundation’s decision to support the construction of new facilities for the National Library of Greece (NLG). The plan was consistent with the Foundation's extensive and continuous support of a wide variety of educational initiatives worldwide. The plan was not only to consolidate the Library's holdings, but also to upgrade significantly its facilities and consequently elevate its status to become a true national library.  The vision for the new National Library was that of a public institution that would provide access to the world of knowledge and information to learners of all ages, offer a wide range of research and information resources, and connect with other libraries in Greece, as well as with other National Libraries around the world. The concept was presented to the Government, which expressed its support.

At the same time and independent of this initiative, the Foundation was considering a proposal to support the Greek National Opera (GNO), an institution also in need of a major physical and therefore organizational upgrade. An exciting possibility emerged from these disparate plans, one that was a perfect synthesis of the Foundation's mission and its commitment to Greece, and could provide a lasting and transformative impact. The plan envisioned including the National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera, and an educational and cultural park in one site, and thus bequeathing to the Greek people a great civic, cultural, educational and environmentally responsible landmark of international stature. In 2006, ten years after the commencement of its grant-making activities, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation announced its intention to proceed with its largest individual grant to date, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center.

After discussions between the former Ministry of Environment and Public Works and the Municipality of Kallithea, a consensus emerged that the Project will be developed at the site of the old horse racing track. 210,000 m² (50 acres) of the site's total area of 240,000 m² were designated for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center and Esplanade. The remaining seven acres (30,000 m²) were designated for the creation of a Municipal Sports and Leisure Park for the Municipality of Kallithea. In 2007, once preliminary studies had demonstrated the project's viability, the Foundation and the Greek State signed a Memorandum of Understanding. In March 2009, the two parties signed an agreement for the construction of the SNFCC, which four months later was ratified by the Greek Parliament. The agreement stated in part that the Foundation undertook the responsibility to assume the total cost of building the SNFCC, and that, upon completion, will donate it to the Greek State, which will undertake its full control and operation, to be used and enjoyed by the Greek people.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop

The new building for the National Library of Greece (NLG) ( ) will modernize an institution founded in 1832, allowing it to strengthen its research role while expanding, at the same time, its focus from an exclusive research facility to an all-inclusive public resource. In its new and enlarged role, the Library will support patrons of all ages and education—from academic researchers to children and young adults destined to become the next generation of users.
Within its new premises, at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, the entrance to the Library leads into a large open lobby that provides an immediate visual orientation to all the organization’s functions. The NLG Public Library Section, bolstered by a significant book collection and other media, will include separate areas for adults, teenagers, and children and will offer a wide range of educational and cultural programs. The natural light available throughout the National Library will help create an open hospitable environment for individual and collaborative learning. Events and seminars will be hosted for both children and adults, and classes will incorporate natural learning opportunities originating from collaborative programs at the Stavros Niarchos Park as well.
The nearly 24,000 m2 (235,000 sq. ft.) state-of-the-art building combines traditional with technological innovation, conservation with information and communication. The flexibility of its design, informed by consultations with the prominent British Library (, ensures that the National Library can respond effectively to ever-changing needs and the challenges of the digital age. A nationwide digitization project will help make heritage materials available to the public and will offer access to the Library’s various collections. Connectivity with other libraries both nationally and globally will allow the Library’s users access to material abroad that is relevant to Greece or Hellenism. In addition, a Business Center will provide the public with an active hub for enterprise, knowledge, and innovation, offering computer workstations, laptops, and wireless connectivity.
A modern academic research facility found within the National Library will be an exemplar for other institutions. The new building will enable all existing research collections, currently located in three separate buildings, to be housed in a centralized location, with optimized access to collections for researchers and scholars.
Holdings include over 4,500 manuscript codices from the 9th to the 19th century and a rich variety of important historical documents and archives. Modernized climate control and preservation and digitization facilities will ensure that the Library’s significant rare manuscript collection is available for future generations of scholars. The National Library of Greece will also have the capacity to function as a venue for exhibitions of its holdings. Selections of the National Library’s manuscripts could be exhibited on a rotational basis, affording the public the opportunity to view Greece’s treasures and cultural heritage.