Christos Lambrakis, president of the Athens Concert Hall, inaugurated part of the Concert Hall’s new section on Tuesday which, when completed, is going to be unique in Europe and only comparable to Lincoln Center in New York. The new extension, mostly underground, is three-and-a-half times larger in size than the existing Concert Hall and consists of about seven times the area. The opening’s greatest surprise was that, although the new section is mostly below ground level, it is constructed in such a way as to allow in plenty of sunlight, especially in the new great hall, which has a seating capacity of 1,750 people and includes stalls and two sets of upper tiers. Two new entrances have been built, one looking out on Vassilissis Sofias Avenue and the other on Kokkali Street and the pre-existing ground floor foyer has been united with the new, large central foyer for the public. All of the new sections, including the foyers of the new hall, are interconnected and all receive natural light via a large atrium, which is now the heart of the new Concert Hall complex. When standing in the atrium facing Vas. Sofias, one can see the musical library (which extends three floors below ground), while in the back is the new Alexandra Triandi Hall, which can be made use of on special occasions. And a new 400-seat smaller hall is situated one level below. The atrium has direct access to the nearby metro station. Lambrakis, who at the ceremony handed the new Concert Hall over to the State, and Minister of Culture Evangelos Venizelos both pointed out that the new complex belongs to the State, which also funded the construction of the new section at an overall sum of 176 million euros. Lambrakis added that the construction work was in the final stages of completion and that the remaining sections will open gradually. The section that opened on Tuesday includes the Triandi Hall, the foyers and the atrium. Another section will open in October and the complete complex, including the 32-acre park, will be completed by spring 2004. Lambrakis said that the new complex, created mostly by Greek architects and designers but with the contribution of some European architects as well, is a great achievement. He reminded the audience of a comment made at the opening of the Athens Concert Hall about 10 years ago: that it functioned as a «cultural nuclear reactor» and added that the new complex will by far exceed the already existing one in performance and brilliance, both nationally and internationally. He explained that the multifaceted Triandi Hall can be used for conferences, lectures, screenings and all sorts of cultural events. He also demonstrated the acoustics of the new hall, by inviting cellist Renato Ripo and clarinet player Spyros Mourikis onto the stage – both musicians sounded splendid. On behalf of the Concert Hall’s board of directors, engineer Nikos Desyllas provided technical information about the new building: The new section comprises about 700 cubic meters, which, added to the previous 200, make an overall impressive total of 900 cubic meters. The halls take up 125 million square meters (previously only 18) and the complex runs 48 meters into the ground. Desyllas mentioned that the new complex will have two great halls for cultural events and conferences (of 2,000 and 1,750 seats), two smaller halls (600 and 400 seats) and numerous much smaller chambers, for 25 to 150 people, for committee meetings and similar activities. There will also be a specially designed reception hall for 1,000 people, which can also be used as a stage, the musical library, a garage with 750 parking spaces, a large exhibition hall, restaurants, cafes and shops, just to mention a few. The main concern, he explained, was to use all the latest technology in order for the complex to live up to the many uses of its components and that, once inside it, people can feel safe and comfortable. When completed and functioning properly, the complex will be able to accommodate 10,000 people at the same time. Venizelos, expressing his pleasure, referred to what he called a great cultural as well as political act and made special mention of the State’s generous funding. He thanked and congratulated Christos Lambrakis, Deputy Minister of Finance Christos Pachtas, the Culture Ministry’s special secretary Barbara Belezini, the Athens Concert Hall’s board of directors and all those who contributed to the creation of this fascinating oeuvre. He spoke of the possibility of developing conference tourism, and announced that the exhibition halls will host the collections from the Museum of Contemporary Art until the former Fix factory, which is its permanent location, is ready. He added that the new Athens Concert Hall will collaborate with other state institutions, like the State Orchestra of Athens and the National Opera. He invited all involved to put their differences aside and appreciate the grandeur of such an achievement – to honor it and love it.