The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center:
A case study of a Public-Private Partnership for the Benefit of Society
Elly Andriopoulou, SNFCC Grant Manager, 13 April 2018
With over 3 million visitors in its first year of operation, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC) is Athens’ new landmark. Inaugurated in 2016, it is the new home of the Greek National Opera and the National Library of Greece and includes a 210,000 m2 park with playgrounds, recreational sports facilities, spaces for outdoor concerts and Mediterranean gardens. It was designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and has already won numerous awards for its architecture and environmental sustainability.
The SNFCC is one of the largest Public Private Partnerships in the Arts & Culture sector in Europe. On the Private side, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) is an international philanthropic foundation which has provided more than $2.5 billion in grants in 124 countries to non-profit organizations in Social Welfare, Health & Sports, Arts & Culture and Education. On the Public side of the partnership, the Greek State is represented by the Prime Minister with the involvement of a number of ministries, the Opera, the Library, and the municipality of Kallithea where the SNFCC is located. The SNF fully funded and undertook the studies, the construction and the outfitting of the SNFCC. Once it was completed, in February 2017, the SNF donated it to the Greek State, who now fully owns and operates the SNFCC.
There were four elements in the way the PPP for the SNFCC was implemented that made it effective:
Transparency: The Foundation ensured all aspects of the project were completely transparent to the public. The terms of the PPP were outlined in a contract between the Greek State and the SNF which was ratified by the Greek Parliament and is available on the SNFCC website. Furthermore, the Advisory Committee meetings where all aspects of the project were discussed between the SNF and the Greek State representatives were live-streamed. Even the work site was “transparent” during construction with the operation of a Visitors Center and site tours for the public.
Pre-opening audience engagement: The public’s engagement with the SNFCC began years before its operation. From Renzo Piano’s presentation of the project to the public in 2011 and large-scale public events such as the “Dance of the Cranes” on site, to the operation of a Visitors Center during construction, to the program “Journey to the SNFCC” which traveled to 23 cities in Greece, people had the opportunity to experience the cultural center well before it opened its doors.
Sustainability: Sustainability is core to SNFCC’s DNA and the way it was designed and constructed has been recognized with the LEED Platinum Accreditation. But sustainability extends beyond the buildings and park to how the SNFCC operates and contributes to the achievement of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, not only for Climate Action, but also for Good Health and Well Being, Quality Education, and Reduced Inequalities, to name a few.
Continued partnership: Even after the SNF donated the SNFCC to the Greek State, it continues to support it with grants for operating expenses, for an internship program which provides the opportunity to young people to obtain work experience and, most importantly, for free cultural, educational and sports programming throughout the year which make it relevant and accessible to all.
While the SNFCC is still in its infancy, its positive impact on the quality of life of local communities, culture, the environment, economy, and tourism is already evident. It has become the second most visited site in Greece after the Acropolis hill and, according to tourism experts, it exemplifies the ‘new Athens’ and is becoming an anchor for a new metropolitan pole on the city’s coast. Much of this success can be attributed not only to what has been created but also to why and how it was developed, by a philanthropic foundation in collaboration with the State for the society they both serve.