Wednesday 13 March 2019

The Niarchos Cultural Centre, Athens

The wind had died down, the rain had stopped, so we decided to go to the Niarchos Cultural Centre to explore its park and visit the new National Library.

This was our second visit to the Centre. You can read about our first visit here

The Centre was built on the site of the old race course and was designed by Renzo Piano. A glass-fronted multi-angular building, built on the edge of the Faliro Delta and perched above a hill, it sits in the middle of a 20-hectare site, most of which has been turned into a park, but it also houses the National Library, the State Opera, and includes exhibition centres and various cafes and restaurants.
Piano's design integrates lookout points from several high platforms, including the 'Lighthouse', but also through floor to ceiling glass panels that engulf the building and allow you to continuously connect with Athens

On one end of the building is the park that rises on an artificial hill reaching the roof of the building, and at the other end is the sea, separated from the building by a busy dual carriageway. The 30-metre high glass buildings face each other across a huge stone square, an agora, (a reference to the central gathering spaces in ancient Greek cities), and beyond it is a 400-metre long reflecting pool, a canal. Two monumental staircases rise up to the rooftop on either side of the glass buildings. A spectacular terrace on the summit provides views of the Mediterranean to the south while the rooftops of the city and views of the Acropolis and the Lycabettus hill can be seen on the north side.

There was also an exhibition of works by Giorgos Zoggopoulos, which we wanted to see so it promised to be a good day out.

Not much activity on the reflecting pool

nor on  the temporary ice skating rink.

Another sculpture by Zoggopoulos.

We walked along the reflecting pool, a 400-metre sea-water canal, where people can learn to sail or kayak. Our destination was the park as we were not sure that the dry weather would hold out.

Like the building, the park was designed by Renzo Piano. New York based landscape designer Deborah Nevins and Associates collaborated with Athens-based landscape artists, Helli Panagalou and Associates to conceive a park with indigenous Mediterranean plants.

The park covers 43 acres which is 85% of the site

Through the gates

and we came across one of many of these mirrored cubes

We could see the building in the distance

zooming in

It's an interesting park, with a lot of open spaces and wide avenues

the planting consists of cypress trees, lots of bushes

numerous olive trees

and hundreds and hundreds of lavender bushes - their fragrance throughout the park is ever present

We arrived at a part of the park where there are a lot of things to do, most involving making sounds and music

standing on this raised round stone would make music

dance chimes


Two ferryphones with quite a distance between them

we did not know what these were, but looking closer,  the pictures explained

So I spoke in one, and Ken at the other end could hear me, so we had quite a conversation

Large chess sets

A rotating stone

It's the openness of this park that makes it is so unusual and enticing - there are also lots of chairs all around, and you can imagine what it must be like on a sunny day

We moved on and arrived at this pavilion which again, must be full of people having drinks and ice-creams on a sunny day

whilst enjoying the water jets that would emerge from this fountain

We arrived at the children's play area

which is extensive

but was deserted on this dull, winter's day

this must be the largest slide I have ever seen: it must be fun, four children sliding down at the same time

And we moved on, walking along yet another vast avenue

we were getting close to the building by then,

but had to have a look at the labyrinth first.

We then started the ascent towards the top of the building which is perched above this 32 metre artificial hill.

and as we got closer,

we became aware of planting on either side of the steps, and when we saw the air vents we realised that we were in fact, walking on the roof of parts of the building

they call this the Green Roof - not so green at this time of year, but there were lots of gardeners planting when we were there

looking back

the views were good from here - Lycabettus Hill in the distance

views of the sea in Faliron

We reached the terrace on top of the building

which affords panoramic views of the whole of Athens - Faliron in this photograph

We walked all around - Piraeus in the distance

the park, where we had just come from: on the left  you can see the gardeners working away

Kalithea in the distance

another view of Lycabettus Hill, the Acropolis, and the Ymittos range of mountains

zooming in for a better view of the Acropolis

looking  back at Piraeus before

going inside, into a lounge area, called the Lighthouse.

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