Behind the Image

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre, Athens

Lionel Eid, George Garofalakis, Rosie Garvey and Alice Strang

Axis and views: the scheme was developed by creating an artificial hill at the southern edge of the site, providing spectacular views towards the sea in one direction and the city centre on the other. The Esplanade is the main axis of the site in the north-south direction which conceptually links the Acropolis and the Temple of Zeus with the sea.

An enormous visual respite: the sloping park rising up to 32 metres above sea level, is populated with indigenous Greek flora. Designed by Deborah Nevis & Associates, this landscape, which runs on top of the roof of the opera house and library, softens the roofscape of the new buildings and creates an enormous visual respite by providing a generous green open space at the edge of the built-up city.

Activities: dispersed through the park are areas of activities for all ages such as urban gymnasiums and small playgrounds.

Fronting the sea: located near one of Athens’ oldest ports, an elevated pedestrian bridge connects the site to the seaside – overcoming the physical and visual barrier of a major highway.

Responding to climate: the glass-walled reading room at the top of the building is located underneath a canopy, providing essential shade to it as well as to the spectacular terrace which is publicly accessible.

Details: the palette of materials used for paving and surfaces across the site mirrors the slightly coarse texture and pale colour of concrete typically used across the city.

URBAN DESIGN 160 Autumn 2021 Publication Urban Design Group

As featured in URBAN DESIGN 160 Autumn 2021

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A former 2004 Olympic Games car park has been transformed into a cultural and educational destination by Renzo Piano Building Workshop. It houses the National Library of Greece and the National Opera beneath a sloped park.

In each issue of Behind the Image, one of our contributors visits a contemporary public space from around the world. The photography tries to reveal an alternative perspective on a familiar precedent, famous space or place. These images illustrate how the public space works in practice: exploring its features (designed and unintended), and the way it relates to the surrounding context.