State assumes control of SNF cultural center amid concerns


Addressing the official ceremony for the handover of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center to the Greek state on Thursday, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras welcomed “a generous donation” and acknowledged widespread concerns about the center’s fate in public hands.

“The 617 million euros is a generous donation which gains even greater significance as it was made in conditions of major practical difficulties,” Tsipras told an audience of politicians, entrepreneurs and people of the arts at the SNFCC’s premises in the Faliro Delta.

“The concerns are very real,” he said, referring to widespread media speculation about the center degenerating under state control. “They are due to the fact that many Olympic facilities on which the people spent hundreds of millions [of euros] remain unexploited, virtually in ruin,” Tsipras said, referring to the Athens 2004 Games.

“However, it is not right to create the impression that the state and citizens are not in the position to keep this jewel, to make use of it and to make it into something even better,” the premier said.

Tsipras also appeared to take a dig at the management of the Athens Concert Hall, a private initiative that culminated in millions of euros in debt that the state assumed. “There are opposite examples where a private initiative used public space for selfish purposes. And when it assumed millions of euros in debt, it handed it over to the state to operate it,” he said.

The director of the Foundation, Andreas Dracopoulos, said the center had been “embraced” by Greeks, noting that 760,000 citizens have visited it to date. “It should be an example to show that the country can go forward and not the opposite,” he said.

Opening the event earlier in the evening, President Prokopis Pavlopoulos said that any shortcomings in the maintenance of the center by the state “will not be a breach against the donors but against culture itself.”

Renzo Piano, the Italian architect who designed the center, also addressed the gathering via video link. He said it was a “great day” as the institution was being given to the “community.”
Piano has said that the undertaking was inspired by light, air and breeze.

The complex, characterized by the extensive use of marble, steel and glass, has many features to boast of, such as the breathtaking 100 square meter wafer-thin concrete canopy covering the opera house.

The roof, made of ferro-cement, was engineered by the London company Expedition, and is the largest roof made of the material in the world.

Another highlight is the 14-meter-high artificial mound which comprises a part of the park, affording stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea on the one side, and the sprawling city on the other, including the Acropolis.