Buildings with lofty goals

The signing yesterday of a memorandum of cooperation between the Greek state and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for the construction of a new National Library and a new National Opera at the Faliron delta could mark the dawn of a new era, not only for Athens as a metropolis. It also signals a new era concerning the manner in which we Greeks perceive deeply misunderstood notions, such as subsidies, benefactions, culture projects, public spaces and national identity. The significance of the donation as an act by far exceeds that of the 300 million euros. The buildings and the adjacent park should be welcomed as necessary additions to the Parthenon-centric image of Athens. The new building complex will hopefully convey a fresh face to the world, featuring characteristics of creativity, confidence and historical self-knowledge. At the same time, the new library and opera buildings and the ambitious goals that come with them will set an example of how private wealth that is produced in the highly competitive international market can be returned to the public domain for the good of the country. National governments have an obligation to create the requisite conditions and environment for works of similar historical magnitude.

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