MPs approve vast cultural complex

A law that allows for the creation of Athens’s largest cultural complex at a currently abandoned site at the Faliro Delta in southern Athens was passed through Parliament after a clear majority of MPs voted in favor of the project. New Democracy, PASOK and Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS) deputies backed the law, which clears the way for the Stavros Niarchos Foundation to build the complex, which will also house the National Library and the Greek National Opera, currently without a permanent home, on a 25-hectare site. The foundation has earmarked 450 million euros of its own money to construct the cultural center and has enlisted Italian architect Renzo Piano to lead the project. The award-winning architect was the co-designer of the Pompidou Center in Paris and a 310-meter skyscraper known as «The Shard» which is to be built in London by 2011. «On behalf of the state, we express our unreserved gratitude to the foundation and the hope for more gestures of this magnitude,» said Culture Minister Antonis Samaras. PASOK urged the government to ensure that the state would have full control over the complex once it has been constructed. «There are no vagaries or murky sections in the contract,» said Deputy Public Works and Environment Minister Stavros Kaloyiannis. According to the plans, two 60,000-square-meter buildings will be constructed on the site to house the National Opera and National Library. A 12-hectare park will also be built on the land, which has hardly been used since the Olympic Games in 2004. The Communist Party and the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) opposed the project, although in the latter’s case, the MP who sat on the parliamentary committee that examined the details of the law, Anna Filini, was withdrawn from yesterday’s debate as she declared herself in favor of the scheme.