White marble, glass and gold leaf Cultural Centre supports local talent in Athens
Opened to the public in December, the Onassis Cultural Centre by AS Architecture Studio is a 194,000 sq ft facility which looks to nurture Greek architects living around the world by providing a central base to exhibit their work, ‘with a view to spotlighting contemporary Greek creativity across the cultural spectrum’.
A metal grill envelops the building, creating a dramatic identity for the Centre that is sensitive to the surrounding urban fabric. The interior boasts an 872-seat Main Stage Theatre, a smaller 217-seat Upper Stage Theatre and a 7,500 sq ft Exhibition Gallery. Smaller, more intimate exhibition spaces are dotted around the facility, creating a range of flexible regions where contemporary artists can display their works on a temporary basis.
Greek artist Aemilia Papafilippou has integrated a permanent LED sculpture into the bar area ‘in the form of a ‘vessel’’, with an abstract pattern that glows warmly above the heads of barmen and women. Papafilippou has also designed the tables, stools and titled walls that act as benches, with the website for the Onassis Cultural Centre relating that: “as we commune with art naturally in an atmospheric space before and after the performance, concert, exhibition or discussion, we realise that, yes, we can live in art.”
President of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation which owns the powerful new complex explains: “Despite all the challenges that face us today, and to which we are certainly not blind, we live in a Greece that is abuzz with cultural life. Especially in a time of crisis, we are convinced that culture and education are not a luxury but a basic need.
“With the help of its audience, the Onassis Cultural Centre-Athens will seek to bring contemporary Hellenic cultural expressions more fully into the light—and by ‘Hellenic,’ we mean a shared heritage that extends from ancient Athens through Alexandria, Rome, Byzantium, Renaissance and Enlightenment Europe and into the present day.”