The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre (SNFCC) is a “jewel” in the urban landscape and an important legacy for the arts, education and the environment, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday at a meeting to prepare for the center’s handover to the state.
The project’s construction was funded by the SNF and will be donated to the Greek state once completed at the end of the year.
While chairing a meeting of a Special Advisory Committee on the SNFCC, with the participation of the SNF Director Andreas Dracopoulos, Tsipras thanked the foundation and Dracopoulos in person for their efforts to turn “this great vision into a reality.”
“For us this is a wager, to prove that the Greek state can seriously and responsibly manage such an important multi-purpose space,” Tsipras said. “It is a wager that we have already started to win since we have acted promptly so that everything is ready, both on the day when these spaces are made available to the public and in the immediate future, so that we can have the services that meet the high requirements of such spaces,” he added.
“I think we are making a transition to a different level and that the country deserves this, in spite of the difficulties we are going through,” Tsipras said.
Tsipras noted that the SNFCC, with a construction cost of 600 million euros, would be especially important for cultural affairs in Greece, providing new and improved facilities for the National Opera and National Library. He noted that the 23.5 million euros needed to run the center and the organizations housed there in the first year had already been found, in addition to three million euros in emergency funding for when the facility first opens. He also stressed the contribution of the surrounding garden and grounds, which have already been turned over for public use, in upgrading the entire sea front.
The meeting was attended by Education Minister Nikos Filis, Culture Minister Aristidis Baltas, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos, Environment and Energy Minister Panos Skourletis, Transport, Infrastructure and Networks Minister Christos Spirtzis and government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili, in addition to representatives of the SNF. Stressing that the benefits from the project will be more than just economic and financial, the prime minister said that the relocation of the National Library in the SNFCC would mark a “new era” for its operation. “We have taken care to align ourselves with the needs for human resources,” Tsipras said, noting that the National Library had reached the point where it only had a staff of 40-44 in total.
“The aim is that on the day it opens its doors to the public it will have a staff of 187 people,” the prime minister added, noting that the goal was to combine all the functions of a classic national library with those of a modern digital library. He also spoke about plans to enlarge the library’s collection to reach up to 70,000 books and to provide special care for manuscripts, historic archives, preservation workshops and digitization.
One idea proposed by Tsipras was to utilize the archives at the national broadcaster ERT, handing it over to the National Library in a dedicated space accessible to all citizens.
Regarding the opera, the prime minister noted that the new theater would have twice the amount of space and the latest facilities, as well as extremely high-quality acoustics. He also had high praise for the gardens surrounding the building, saying it was an excellent example of a building that harmonzses with the natural environment and water next to the sea front. He said there must be focused work to link the SNFCC with the planned improvements through the Faliro Bay, noting that the government’s goal was to promptly secure the necessary funds for this to take place.
Dracopoulos, on his part, said the SNFCC “was a wager that we have all won” in that there was an “amazing” joint effort, describing cooperation with both the present and previous governments in the 10 years taken to complete the project had been excellent.
“The project, however good it might be, would not be a success for us unless people had embraced it. But people have already embraced it,” he said.
“We are here to continue to help as much as we can…Before the end of the year the final transfer will have begun and we will continue to be nearby and help with the project,” he said. Dracopoulos stressed that he remained optimistic that the project would work and be a new beginning, both for the state and the country, showing that very good things can be achieved.
The warmth with which people had embraced the center had been a “pleasant shock,” he said, noting that 41,000 members registered during the events held in June and about one quarter was 17 or younger. He noted that any revenues that the center currently has from its cafe, parking garage and membership fees would be deposited in a special account that will be handed over to the Greek state.