State as­sumes con­trol of SNF Cul­tural Cen­ter

PM hails ‘gen­er­ous do­na­tion’ amid con­cerns

Kathimerini English - - Front Page -

Ad­dress­ing the of­fi­cial cer­e­mony for the han­dover of the Stavros Niar­chos Foun­da­tion Cul­tural Cen­ter to the Greek state yes­ter­day, 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, vir- tu­ally 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.

Visi­tors mill around out­side the Stavros Niar­chos Foun­da­tion Cul­tural Cen­ter yes­ter­day be­fore the of­fi­cial cer­e­mony hand­ing over its man­age­ment to the Greek state. The cen­ter is to house Greece’s Na­tional Li­brary and the Na­tional Opera.

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