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The Cultural Centre of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation

The important cultural complex, home to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and which includes the Greek National Library and the Greek National Opera, all surrounded by a large urban park of about 170,000 m2, was inaugurated on 23 June. Piano has once again focused his attention on a suburban area.

The natural connection with the rest of the city and with the sea was restored for the large semi-derelict area. Before the implementation of the architect’s project, despite the closeness of the site, the visual and environmental relation with the sea was blocked. To reinstate it the project by RPBW created an artificial hill in the southern part of the area, a park whose sloping surface ends with the Cultural Centre, that opens with a spectacular view to the open sea. iGuzzini supplied indoor luminaires and outdoor items for the park. Some were standard production items and some were produced especially for the project. A great deal of work was required to adapt the original items selected in 2008, the year the project started, to be able to use LED luminaires. In total iGuzzini provided 256 items; 13 types of indoor products and 5 types of outdoor products. 

Extensive work was required to render many of the products used compatible with emergency lighting system. Other technical solutions were developed to facilitate the operation of the complex system such as the special tracks that manage 6 conductors, amongst which 3 DALI electrical lines and one ground line. These tracks subsequently became part of iGuzzini’s standard production. The large construction consists of the Library and the Opera Theatre. A public space, the Agorà, provides access to both buildings and links them together. The Opera Theatre has two halls: one 450-capacity hall for ballet and more traditional opera productions; the other 1400-capacity hall used for more experimental performances. The same technical solutions were developed for both spaces. The lighting project required light with a high level of visual comfort for the seating area. This was achieved with the Pinhole recessed luminaires and with special Reflex recessed luminaires with high levels of visual comfort and efficiency, to illuminate the stalls from a height of about 5 metres. Led Plus recessed luminaires in the sides of the seats were used to light the walkways. In this case the look of the luminaire remained the same, but the rear part was entirely redesigned and its height reduced. A particularly in-depth study was carried out to provide uniform lighting for the red walls and for the effect required for the wooden banisters. Underscore luminaires, with a rather high chromatic yield CRI of 90, were used to light the red end walls. In order to emphasize the red colour and avoid producing areas of excessive luminance, where the red would not have resulted homogenous, we used a special red filter. A special filter was also used to obtain the gradual and curved lighting along the banisters. The banisters consist of panels of rounded wood that are partly overlapped, forming a small groove used to insert the Underscore, fitted with a special filter that produces a stronger lighting effect in the middle and a softer one at the sides. The result is a pleasant movement of light on the banisters. The library has been designed as a space for an open and shared enjoyment of knowledge. The reading room, completely enclosed in glass, is at the top of the building. It is a square-shaped transparent case with 360° views of Athens and the sea. Linear systems, such as IN60 and IN90, have been used in the library, to guarantee the most homogenous and diffused lighting possible and to facilitate reading books and consulting texts. A reverse effect was achieved on the shelves by using Underscore luminaires.

The library is under the Energy Canopy, the structure that protects the entire complex from the sun and on which a 10,000 m2 system of photovoltaic panels has been installed. The system can generate 1.5 megawatt of energy, enough for the Cultural Centre during normal opening hours. Natural ventilation systems have been used to cool and heat the building. All these solutions have earned the building the Platinum LEED rating. As well as the main buildings of the Opera and the Library, iGuzzini products have also been used for the common areas. All the halls, especially the full-height spaces, use Le Perroquet pendant projectors. They complement the space similarly to the way they were created for the Beaubourg: an aerial and light luminaire for very tall spaces. The iPlan Easy was used for the general lighting of the offices and technical areas. In the Performance Halls of the Opera building, used for rehearsals, Reflex recessed luminaires were used, whilst the Rehearsal Rooms use the Palco Wall Washer with a 30° optic, medium beam, to achieve excellent lighting of the vertical walls. A very large park that extends outside the buildings was initially a private space and has now been opened to the public. The lighting concept defined by Arup required a specific lighting concentrated on the walkways and on the sections with stairs. This required us to develop a special product to meet these requirements: a bollard with two different heights.

The project restricted the positioning of the bollards only on one side of the walkways and the green area did not have to be lit in any way, neither behind the luminaire nor beyond the walkway. For the walkway lighting the 950 mm bollards use the ST1 road optic that allows an opening of about 5h (five times the height of the pole), typical of road lighting. A flat optic was also positioned parallel to the walkway to ensure maximum visual comfort, without revealing the LED. The asymmetrical optic was selected for the 650 mm bollards, used for lighting the stairs. All the outdoor luminaires received special mechanical specifications, normally found in standard iWay products, to guarantee the highest resistance to vandalism. This allowed for a carry-over of reliable technical solutions that had already been tested on large scale productions. When access to the park was opened to the public, pole top luminaires were added to the lighting.

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  • Year
  • Client
    Stavros Niarchos Foundation
  • Architectural project:
    Renzo Piano Building Workshop
  • Lighting project:
    Arup London
  • Photographer
    Michel Denancé