Piano deal hits the right notes

There is little doubt that world-renowned Italian architect Renzo Piano is the first choice of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for the creation of a new seafront cultural, educational and recreational complex at the Faliron Delta, comprising the new National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera. A memorandum of cooperation was signed by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and representatives of the charitable foundation in June last year. The foundation is donating the funding for the construction of two 60,000-square-meter buildings, as well as the development of a park covering an area of about 12 hectares – approximately the size of the National Garden. With the official announcement by the foundation expected sometime in the spring, Kathimerini contacted Piano’s headquarters in Genoa. There was no hint that anything could upset the deal on the Italian side. The choice of such a leading name confirms the extremely high standards set by the foundation for the development of a truly monumental cultural, educational and leisure center. At the same time, the new complex will substantially revamp the city’s architectural product in an increasingly competitive environment. Speaking at an earlier date, Andreas Drakopoulos, a member of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation board of directors, had set the bar high. «We are looking for the top people in the field and to my great surprise those who design and carry out works on this scale are not that numerous at an international level. They are all very well known, but there are not many of them,» noted Drakopoulos in an interview with Kathimerini. Against this background, the foundation did not hold an open competition – fearing, in other words, that the so-called «star» architects would not turn up to participate. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation and Piano will be collaborating for the second time. The Italian architect was at the helm of the renovation and expansion of the Morgan Library and Museum in New York. A project funded by the Greek foundation, the restored building was inaugurated in 2006. Piano is a member of the elite of the global architectural scene, having developed landmark works around the world. Among them the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris (in collaboration with Richard Rogers); the Debis Tower in Berlin’s Potsdamer Platz; the Cite Internationale in Lyon; the Jean-Marie Tjibaou Cultural Center in New Caledonia and the new New York Times building in Times Square, New York. In 1998, Piano was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize. At the age of 70, Piano is about to undertake his first Athenian project at the peak of a sensational career.