Construction and engineering wonders

Stavros Niarchos was a multi-billionaire Greek shipping tycoon and art collector.  Starting out in 1952, he had the world's biggest supertankers built for his fleet.  Propelled by both the Suez Crisis and an increasing demand for oil, he became a  giant in global petroleum shipping. He died in Zurich in 1996, and a large part of his  fortune is administered by his foundation. The Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) is  one of the world’s leading private, international  philanthropic organizations,  supporting arts and culture, education, health and sports as well as social welfare.

National Library of Greece, the Greek National Opera and the Stavros Niarchos Park

The Foundation’s largest single gift is the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) in Athens. The project’s total cost was €630 million. The SNFCC was designed by the renowned architectural firm Renzo Piano Building  Workshop, and includes new facilities for the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, as well as the Stavros Niarchos Park, covering a total area of 210,000 m2. On February 2017, following the handover, the SNF announced its commitment to continue supporting the Center for the next five years,  through grants totaling up to $53 million (€50 million). The grants supportthe implementation of public  programming and help cover part of the Center’s operating costs.

Renzo Piano Building Workshop was to plan the new projects

In 2006, the SNF announced its plans to fund the development of the SNFCC, a  project that includes the construction and complete outfitting of new facilities for  the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera, as well as the creation of the 210,000 m² Stavros Niarchos Park. In February 2008, after a closed  international architectural competition, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation’s Board of Directors unanimously announced its decision to choose the renowned Renzo Piano Building Workshop as the architectural design office.  

One of the most important cultural and educational projects ever undertaken in Greece

The project site is located 4.5 km south of the center of Athens on the edge of  Faliro Bay, and the Center is designed as a multifunctional arts, education and  entertainment complex. The Cultural Center is the first private-public partnership of its type in Greece, and one of the most important cultural and educational projects ever undertaken in the country.  

The new National Library of Greece covers almost 24,000 m2

The new building for the National Library of Greece will modernize an institution  founded in 1832, allowing it to strengthen its research role while at the same  time expanding its focus from that of an exclusive research facility to an  all-inclusive public resource. In its new and enlarged role, the Library will support patrons of all ages and educational levels, from academic researchers to children and young adults destined to become the next generation of users. Covering  almost 24,000 m2, the state-of-the-art building combines tradition with technological innovation, and conservation with information and communication. The flexibility of its design  ensures that the National Library can respond effectively to ever-changing needs  and the challenges of the digital age.  


Linked to the Library and the Opera by an ecological concept, physical topography  and functionality, the Stavros Niarchos Park is a vital green space, a breath of life for Athens and an important addition to the city with the least amount of green  space per capita in Europe. A respite from urban concrete, the Park provides  opportunities for learning, recreation, rest, and new experiences.  

The 1,400-seat main auditorium of the Greek National Opera is an architectural jewel

In its new home, the Greek National Opera will become an exciting destination for  music lovers and architectural cognoscenti alike. The building will be a multi-use venue  capable of hosting a variety of performances and events. The new 28,000 m2,  1,400-seat main auditorium is an architectural jewel, designed to enhance the opera  experience for patrons and artists alike. Its world-class acoustics, mechanical  capabilities, flexible staging, and innate beauty will position it for immediate entry onto the world opera circuit, ready to play host to the most technically demanding operas, international multimedia art productions, and formidable solo vocalists.   

Maximum possible coordination between the designer, main contractor, subcontractors and suppliers of materials and systems

The project set high requirements from the beginning of its construction and  called for the maximum possible coordination between the designer, main  contractor, subcontractors and suppliers of materials and systems. Sika Greece helped in every phase of the project, by carefully studying and proposing the appropriate materials and systems based on the specifications, as well as via its practical presence and the technical support it provided on site.


Sika Greece provided materials and systems for this grand project literally from foundation to roof, which not only met the project's requirements in terms of  technical specifications but also in terms of sustainability and environmental  impact.

The most important element of the project is 100 m x 100 m photovoltaic canopy covering the Opera

The most spectacular features of the Stavros Niarchos Park are not all earthbound. Soaring 14 m above the summit there is a 100 m x 100 m photovoltaic canopy  which covers the Opera. An engineering and construction wonder, supported by 40 sinewy metal pillars, the canopy makes a fascinating addition to the city skyline. It is the most important element of the project, both architecturally and statically. The architect has envisioned it as a cloud hovering over the building, remaining at the same time independent of it and separate.  

The basic material selected for the canopy was ferrocement

Therefore, the canopy had to be light but compact, providing a perfectly  smooth and continuous surface. The basic material selected for the canopy was ferrocement. Ferrocement is a thin, composite material that can be easily  molded for lightweight constructions. It consists of a high-flow cement mortar  and laminate layers of fine metallic meshes. Having previously been used in shipbuilding, this is the first time worldwide that it has been used for a building  project of this scale, and in particular for a supporting structure. The canopy’s maximum thickness in the center is 4.5m, tapering to 30cm on the perimeter  including the rain water drainage channel. The whole construction is based on a system of metal poles that rest on the Opera building’s concrete supporting structure. The composition of the mortar itself played a huge role throughout the entire construction phase.


The Visitor Center was a temporary light construction and the public had the  opportunity to visit the site and be informed about the technical details of the  construction of the project, as well as its mission and vision. The floor of the  Visitor Center was covered with Sikafloor®-MultiFlex PB-21 UV, the high  performance, polyurethane, uniformly colored, broadcasted, UV resistant coating. The Center’s roof was waterproofed using the synthetic, reinforced,  PVC membrane Sikaplan® G-15.  

149,000 m3 of ten concretes of different classes and technical characteristics were required

For the construction of the project, 149,000 m3 of ten concretes of different  classes and technical characteristics were required. The requirements of all mixes  had to be met, but of course the architectural (fair-faced) concrete had to meet  the additionally high aesthetics of the final surface. The surface of the fair-faced  concrete had to be smooth, without any pores and voids and of a uniform color. Fair-faced concrete was also used for the Library and Opera buildings. In order to evaluate the various concrete mixes, as well as the influencing factors such as  concreting, curing and demolding, full scale mock-ups were constructed.  

Waterproofing of underground and water-retaining structures were of utmost importance

In a project of this magnitude, the waterproofing of underground and water-retaining structures is of utmost importance. The underground waterproofing  system had to be impermeable, without any visible expansion joints. The Sika Watertight Concrete System was used for the underground elements. Sarnafil® TG was used for  waterproofing the roofs of the car park, National Library, Opera, Light  House and  Buffer Zone. This multi-layer, anti-root, synthetic roof waterproofing  sheet is based on premium-quality flexible polyolefins (FPO), containing stabilizers,  with an inlay of  non-woven fiberglass conforming to EN 13956.

The largest green roof in Greece

The Cultural Center has the largest planted roof in Greece in terms of area and also  in terms of volume of substrates. The green roof is the roof of the 10,000 m2 car park. The flooring systems for the 40,000 m2 parking area made use of  polyurethane Sikafloor® MultiFlex PB-21 UV (22,000m2) and epoxy (18,000m2)  flooring, which is a highly aesthetic, anti-slip, crack-bridging flooring system.  

LEED Platinum Certification as a Green Building

Environmental sustainability was one of the core values of the Stavros Niarchos  Foundation for Culture. The creation of an environmentally friendly and  sustainable infrastructure for buildings and the Park was an important goal of the design and construction. The project has won LEED Platinum Certification as a Green Building, the highest existing distinction for environmental and sustainable buildings. Reasons for the highest rating include annual energy savings of 7.4GWh, smart water  management initiatives covering the irrigation needs of the Park with non-drinking  water, the creation of 1,450 trees and 280,000 bushes in the Park as well as the “Green” roofs, which occupy 17,000 m2 of the Park’s surface area.  

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation supports welfare projects throughout Greece

The Foundation also supports a series of infrastructure and education projects to enhance the health sector in Greece, including the procurement of 143 state- of-the-art ambulances and education programs for young doctors. In addition there are several initiatives to counter the Greek crisis, which cover social housing and  mobile medical units as well as food aid and support for visually impaired people. This represents substantial support for the country and its people, who still are trying to recover from the devastating crisis they faced in the aftermath of the 2007–2008 financial crisis.