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A Mediterranean Garden Takes Shape in Athens: The Stavros Niarchos Park

by Yvette Varvaressou
photographs by Yvette Varvaressou

Photographs to illustrate the article published in The Mediterranean Garden No 81, July 2015

The new National Library of Greece and Greek National Opera House are being constructed in the Stavros Niarchos Park in Athens by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. The architect, Renzo Piano, has combined the two into one complex leaving the rest of the 17-hectare plot to become a green space for the enjoyment of all Athenians.

Yvette Varvaressou writes: “On a warm spring day in April, the park’s landscape architect, Deborah Nevins, and her associates took a group from the Greek branch of the MGS on a tour of the site. During an introductory presentation, Nevins explained her approach to designing the park in collaboration with Renzo Piano… ‘We made the decision at the beginning that this park has to ‘speak Greek’, or at least Mediterranean, so we tried as much as possible to use indigenous Mediterranean plants.’ explained Nevins. ‘The idea is to give the sense of being in a Greek landscape.’  From the northern boundary, where park entrances are positioned across from neighbouring streets, paths of stabilised earth lead through the planted area up an initially gentle gradient to culminate in a green roof over the library, the opera house (topped by a photovoltaic canopy that will produce much of the energy used in the complex) and car park, with views south over the Saronic Gulf and north to the Acropolis. To aid wheelchair access, diagonal pathways intersect the upward paths, providing a gentler slope.”

All paths lead up to the National Opera House and Library buildings,
due for completion next year

The architects wanted the park to “speak Greek”

Seating is to be placed near trees as shady spots to enjoy the views

Looking north towards the city. Park entrances are placed opposite
local streets to provide residents with vistas through the park

Looking south across the coast road to the Saronic Gulf,
from the highest point in the park
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