After hosting the 2004 Summer Olympics, Athens has fallen on hard times and its economy is deteriorating. However, there is one saving grace amidst the ruins of the 3,400-year old city and that is the new 1.8 million square feet glass and grass multiplex that was built by Italian architect Renzo Piano. The Parthenon has a modern companion in the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center that houses a theater, library, park and plaza.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center was named after the late billionaire shipping tycoon whose foundation donated the $660 million project to Athens, Greece. The cultural center will be the new home of the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera. It also includes a public park, a reflection pool and the Agora Plaza where visitors can walk and mingle on the landscaped Deborah Nevis-designed pathways.
Piano who is a Pritzker Prize winner has transformed the colossal space by raising the foundation artificially. The panoramic sloped hill that extends upwards to 105 feet has literally formed the rooftop of the library and the opera house. The building was designed by Piano to gain optimum view from the surrounding districts through the combination of glass, wood and cement. Floating staircases inside the hall makes a visitor feel like he is ascending to Mt. Olympus. The long soaring stairways are contrasted by the interminable exterior stairs that are adjacent to the reflection pool.
The National Library of Greece will house a vast collection of 5,000 manuscripts, documents, records and engravings that date back to the 9th century. The Greek National Opera will feature two auditoriums – a 450-seat for traditional operas and ballets and a larger 4,500-seat hall for unconventional performances.
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