Chaos&CultureStavros Niarchos Cultural CenterAthens,Greece Under the theme of Architectural Truths/ Architectural lies, mymaster dissertation project takes place. The location of the project is inAthens as it is considered to be the origin of truth. Starvos Niarchos culturalcenter is the most recent cultural project that was finalized in Athens in2016. The project was chosen for many reasons, among them is that it took placeduring a very critical period of contemporary Greece that could help inunderstanding the current complex context. “What isthen interesting is the nature of the relationships between research domainsthat intersect in a common subject/topic.” 1-RichardBlythe The aim of the project analysis is to reveal and explore differentdimensions and factors that affect and shape the project as we perceive it.Moreover, the research goal is to discover what are the indirect events andthoughts that had the most significant effect on the project.
The approach thathas been applied was to analyze the connections and relationships betweendifferent research domains and their intersection in the Stavros Niarchoscultural center as the case study. 1. Blythe Richard Topological Errors in Creative Practice Research:Understanding the Reflective Hinge and the Reflective Gap, good practices bestpractices Contextanalysis The Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center is situated by the end ofLeof. Andrea Siggrou avenue which is the main avenue that connects Athens toits coast and is closer to Piraeus than Athens itself. The site was formerly aparking site from Athens Olympic Games in 2004 and was abandoned afterwards.The location of the project is strategically important as it is extension tothe unpopular neighborhood that lacks any kind of attractions which are mostlyconcentrated in the center of Athens.
The concept of the project is inspired by the ancient Greektemples that lies over a hill. The long path that leads to the roof is similarto the ramp that leads to Hatshepsut temple and force the user to respect thetemple and the spiritual condition. Though the concept is driven from ancientGreek architecture, the question is what are the reasons behind making thebuilding such a holy destination instead of an urban cultural hub that iswelcoming and inviting for everybody? Moreover, why is the architect prioritizingthe building as a symbol over its ease of accessibility? According to Victoria Newhouse, the author of Chaos and Culture,the building was initially inspired by Library of Alexandria as well as Osloopera house. In the case of Library of Alexandria the roof’s shape isrepresenting the sunrise and it is functional.
While in Oslo opera house theslope is used by the users as a public space. Greece is well known to be the main origin of five differentdisciplines which are democracy, tragedy, philosophy, architecture andsports. Greek tragedy resulted into manyfamous playwrights such as Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides and theirperformances are still being performed nowadays. Stavros Niarchos CulturalCenter is meant to be a worldwide source of cultural inspiration.
Theatre is an art forminto which man pours his hopes, his dreams, his fears and his passions.1 Tragedyis a pessimistic genre filled with sadness and sorrow over the main character.The Greeks believed it is necessary that the public watch tragedy on a regularbasis in order to appreciate the values that the theatre and playwrights areexposing. As it is an art form that express poetry and poetry is considered aform of the truth for many philosophers, theatre is one of the main typologiesthat are related to the main thesis topic; ‘Architectural lies/ Architecturaltruths’. Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center is located along Andrea Siggrou Avenuewhich is crowded with cultural institutions. The avenue looks more Americanthan Greek, with its wide lanes and high buildings. The project is a successfulone to attract inhabitants more towards the southern part of the city which isless active than the Northern part which is crowded with tourists most of theyear according to local Athenian architects. Stavros Niarchos foundation supported the Greek government duringits economic crisis with over than $380 million as well as ongoing grants.
Whileit seems a big amount of money, the project total cost exceeded more thandouble that amount which was $860 million. Though the foundation delivered theproject to the Greek society in 2017, there is a question that comes tosurface, is it an urgent need for the government to have such a huge projectwith a huge budget during its economic crisis? With respect to culturalinstitutions and their role in developing any local community, were not thereany other ways that the foundation could have helped the Greek society? (source:www.snf.org) In 2004 Athens hosted the Olympic Games, resulting in relativeboast to the local economy and the local market. But, in 2006 Greece witnesseda public workers strike over pay and against privatization. Though, thesituation did not get better, in 2008 the Acropolis museum was opened in a lavishceremony. The economic situation started to get worse afterwards, especially in2012 with violent protests all over Athens which was the beginning ofconstruction works at Stavros Niarchos cultural center. In 2016, the projectwas completed and that is the same year when Eurozone unlocked 10.
3bn euros.architecturaltruths/architectural lies How could architecture -asa social language- affects our unlearning process?* The thesis attempts to investigate the dimension of knowingthrough architecture.* (Kieran and Lopes 2006) by exploring the relationshipbetween the truth and knowledge. Based on Francis Bacon’s classification ofknowledge, there are three main classes of knowledge to be considered;History/Memory, Reason/Philosophy and Poetry/Imagination. The thesis focusesmainly on the nature of the act of knowing*.
It is an attempt to developfurther insight into the educational institutions and the educational system,our contemporary understanding of them and their applications. Educationalsystems are meant in a broader sense which could include different typologiesof architectural and non-architectural applications. Moreover, the thesis aimsto analyze the interchangeable effects of educational institutions as a segmentand the society as a whole. The fake hillAs mentioned previously, the fake hill was inspired by thelibrary of Alexandria and Oslo opera house. Though the function of the hill asa public park was done by applying LEED standards, it is not used widely evenby the neighboring districts that was observed by our site visit to thebuilding. Moreover, the fake hill will never be a real park because the treesthat are planted there have limits and will never grow like a natural park.Also, the paths through the park are lies as only one of them which ishighlighted is the one that leads to the building while the others leadingnowhere have dead ends. The plants that are chosen are site oriented which isone of the strengths of the landscaping.
The fake waterbodyThe fake waterbody is a primary element in the building of StavrosNiarchos as it is parallel to the building boundary and shapes the landscapearound it. One of the critical points here is its width relative to the paththat is leading to the building if the user is coming from level zero that hehas to walk in the narrow path for a long distance and is not oriented towardsthe building but parallel to it. Though it looks active in the image aboveduring the opening of the project, the fake waterbody is not used most of the yearas these boats were there just for the opening. Moreover, the waterbody makesanother problem which relates again to accessibility which is that if the useris walking on the other side he cannot access the building unless from the verybeginning of the waterbody or by the end of it, even the crossing which facesthe ‘Agora’ is sometimes closed and not accessible by the users for maintenancereasons. The minimal roofThe roof of the building which can be accessed through the gardenor through the elevator from the Agora is one of the successful elements thatthe users can enjoy during the day for the view or during the evenings forvarious events and concerts. The view over the city is over whelming as you cansee Acropolis and most of Athens.
The design and the architectural componentsare minimal structural elements that do not interfere with one’s interactionwith the view of the city or the Mediterranean Sea. There is only onecontradiction which is that the last floor is occupied by the reading room ofthe library which needs certain amount of quietness and less movement around,while the roof itself is meant to host different concerts and events along theyear. That means that both functions have conflicts though their juxtapositionand that might lead to problems in the schedule of both activities. The red operaThe red opera is one of the primary architectural elements of theproject. The opera is designed in a cozy way that keeps the distance minimaland the audience is stacked around the main hall on four balconies thatoverlook the stage. Though lighting, sound and equipment were designed by thestate-of-the-art, the experience that that we got when we have been to theopera and tried different locations. The problem mainly was the visualconnection as well as the physical space that one is occupying.
The spacingbetween the seats is not optimum as one does not feel very comfortable. Ingeneral, one cannot criticize the opera hall very scientifically as most of thepoints that have been described here are about our feelings and experiencewhich are more poetic and applying the most advanced technological solutionregarding light, sound and environmental air quality are not enough to enhanceone’s experience in such an opera.Beyondthe project(re)branding Athens Athens will gain aworld-class Cultural Center, as well as a gathering place and an urbandestination – with all of the recognition and international attention thatcomes with it.
1 -SNF News 2012Rebranding Athens using an architectural masterpiece seems to bethe main motive beyond the project of Stavros Niarchos cultural center. Whatelse could be the reason behind implementing such a project while the countryis suffering from dep economic crisis, even if the financial aid is provided bythe foundation of Stavros Niarchos itself? Does Athens is in urgent need tohave a world-class cultural center, while it has the origins of the westerncivilization itself? It is obvious that there many political and economicreasons beyond just having a cultural center as the city lacks many otherdevelopment projects to improve its current situation among them based on theresearch and the analysis is unemployment for example. The project should beanalyzed and looked at from a wider perspective considering all the contextualevents and problems that took place before and during the implementation ofsuch a mega project. There is no doubt that having such a cultural centerdesigned by one of the renowned architects is such a card that could be used bypoliticians and those who are in charge to gain political gains. But the mainpoint here is whether it is an urgent need and whether it is a good time to doso or not.1.www.snfcc.
org/news-room/news/2012/09/construction-of-the-stavros-niarchos-foundation-cultural-center-to-begin-in-athens/ Philosophy”Everythingwe do at the agency is for people”; no matter what the project is, it isfor people. It is so that people can get the most out of a building, be it amuseum, a theater, or a residential space. Behind everything is a wish tocommunicate that this space is for people. In Italian we say ‘Uno Spazio per laGente’.
“GIORGIO BIANCHI, PARTNER IN CHARGE OF THE STAVROS NIARCHOSFOUNDATION CULTURAL CENTER1It is said by Giorgio Bianchi who was responsible for the StavrosNiarchos foundation cultural center that everything they do is meant forpeople. Though it is a very romantic meaningful aim, it does not seem like thatwas the case in Stavros Niarchos cultural center. The image above is taken fromthe official website of Renzo Piano Workshop, but in reality you hardly seeanybody in most of the buildings boundary. That is because most of theactivities that take place there are not meant for the local community or the neighborswho live next to the cultural center, but more for intellects one could say.That is obvious when the schedule is being looked at. The performances and theart galleries are not addressing those issues which the local community mightbe interested in, but more as a top-bottom approach of intellect artiststheorizing about problems from their own high towers.
It is as simple as that;if it was meant for people, people would use it, which is not the case at leastso far. Further investigations might be needed to understand the reasons andfactors behind that phenomenon.1. www.rpbw.comA Contemporary TempleFrom this point of view that building is viewed as a superstructure that has the upper hand over the user. The project is prioritizedover the view, the user and the context itself. It is obvious that the ego ofthe building is very present.
The ultimate goal of the user whether he likes itor not is the building itself, and not anything else. That cannot be avoidedespecially because the fake hill is oriented towards the building. Moreover,the slope of the hill is facing the city and not the sea. The building wasformed like that because the view of the few first floors is interrupted by thebridge in front of the building but why did not the architect orient the slopetowards the sea and the building itself in the side of the buildings? It wasone of the proposals in the very beginning but it is not obvious why it wascanceled.
The project itself is an individualistic building that stands alonefar from the surrounding buildings and separated by the fake hill which givesthe building more value and emphasize on the hypothesis that is the building isa contemporary temple. And that architects put the building first before theusers or their experience which is totally the opposite of their philosophy whichwas mentioned previously. Moreover, the view is interrupted by the buildingitself for locals and users of the urban space, you have to use the building inorder to get the view of the city and the sea otherwise you will not get that.
In short, the project is self-centered and does not give priority to the urbanspace that it is part of. It is a contemporarytemple and the architect is its own god. StavrosNiarchos foundation cultural center accessibility is one of the issues thatrequires in depth investigation. Pedestrians have two options to access thebuilding, either walking up the hill and end up at the roof level or walk nextto the long ‘fountain’ until the ‘Agora’. Though both options are enjoyablewalks, the two options remain not the easiest ways to enter a building. Thebuilding is not oriented towards its own visitors but more for the architectgood angels for beautiful shots, but as a normal user you would not see thebuilding from the same angels the architect showed it to his clients. Theparking entrance is not given priority as well, as the cars enter from theeastern side which faces the parking building. Moreover, the building has noconnection or relationship to its reason of existence and previous father, TaeKwon Do stadium.
The very positive point that the architect considered was therelationship to the coast as there is the bridge that connect the buildingplatform and the seaside, which is a smooth transition and the user does nothave to be in contact with the busy complicated cars routes.Theinteresting case study to the left is Harlech Castle is located in Wales, andis a medieval castle that was constructed on top of a hill. It is considered byUNESCO as one of the good examples of late 13th century military architecturalbuildings in Europe. The interesting point here is the similarities between amedieval castle and a contemporary 21st century cultural center. Castles werebuilt over hills for defensive reasons, while in Stavros Niarchos culturalcenter it is not obvious the need of a giant fake hill. Both of the cases havetwo entrances one is the main gate which is temporarily accessible and thesecondary gate is from the hill itself.
Even for the bridge that crosses the’fountain’ it is also temporarily accessible. That lead us to the conclusionthat the project is a contemporary fortress though it should be accessible andeasily reached by everyone so that they can learn, know and seek knowledgewhich the foundation and the architect pretend its their priority and aim. Prioritizingthe building over the user is not the only problem in itself, but the problemis that the building became an obstacle to all the local inhabitants who areliving next the site. The project made the view as well as the breeze of thesea disappears. One can think that they got the park and the fountain instead,but that is not true because manmade green roof and a fountain are not the sameas the sea and a natural park.
In the sea you have the natural flaura and faunawhile in the fountain you get temporary boats which will sail to do a yearlyshow for the opening. Enjoying nature is not replaceable by any manmadearchitectural elements especially if they already exist just across the otherside of the site. Why would an architect plan such a big waterbody if he hadthe sea in front of the building? Also,the view that the user can see from the top of the building or from thecoastline is the amazing mountains in the background, which were totally bannedonce the building is there.
The building made a segregation between theinhabitants and nature itself by its relatively big structure that occupied thespace for the benefits of itself and the politics beyond it. StavrosNirachos foundation cultural center is a contemporary temple in a sense that ithas its own religion which is architecture for architecture and not for thepeople. One can identify easily that the building is seeking glory andimmortality. Though the project might be considered as a landmark and italready achieved success in attracting Athenians to go to the far borders ofthe city, it has from another point of view many disadvantages to the localsand the urban context which are not respected.
The valueof the project would have been higher if the project respected nature and thelocal community, instead of creating its own fake nature that has less valuethan the existing qualities.