Losing Oneself in the Park


Awalk that is at once tactile, visual and olfactory. An incredible fusion between blooming nature and inspired landscaping that invites you to abandon yourself to your senses. A refuge of green in one of the most populated areas of the city near the port of Piraeus. In all, 170,000 square meters of vegetation: Platanus from the Netherlands, Olive trees from Greece, Pines from Italy and many other plants from the Mediterranean that show how, once again, art marries itself with technical skill.
The park gradually rises along an artificial hill, leading the visitor along a series of paths that run from the city with its mass of buildings and crowded streets to the futuristic buildings of the Center that host the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera.

On the grounds of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC), the park itself is a work of art, conceived by Renzo Piano who wanted to create a natural path linking the city to the sea. In fact, the paths lead up a hill as if they were extensions of the city streets.
The creation of the park is as exceptional as the other elements of the SNFCC. It has 1,500 trees and more than 200,000 bushes and shrubs, respecting the rules of nature by having the biggest trees at ground level and then progressively smaller plants at its higher levels. At the top where the Center is located, vegetation is sparser. The park was developed by Salini Impregilo according to the project by Deborah Nevins, a New York landscape designer chosen by Piano.

Losing Oneself in the Park

The plants were selected one by one by a team whose experts numbered up to 70 at times, making about 80 trips around the world, especially in Europe. They took 300 Platanus from the Netherlands, for example. Their’s was a complex process, divided in several phases: from the transportation of the plants to an observation period to the careful positioning of the plants in the park. A laboratory was set up to analyze the state of health of the plants after they were brought to the site. A team of 15 botanists and garden experts works to keep the park alive.

«The park is the ambassador of the Center (SNFCC) because it allows visitors to immerse themselves in the Mediterranean with all of its incredible flora»,says Eli Pangalu, the local Nevin’s partner. «To realize this, we had to do meticulous work: from the selection of the species to caring for every particular detail. Each plant is earmarked, has a particular tag that makes it unique and recognizable. And the response of all this vegetation has been fantastic».
Walking through the park today is a bit like losing oneself in a Mediterranean forest, plunging one’s nose in its odors, letting oneself be surprised by the colors of its flowers. Then there is the slope whose paths lead to the highest point on the hill where sits the Center and the base of the canopy. «This park is a gift to the city that, during the various openings to the public that we have had, has shown the absolute respect, like a museum».
It is a work of art inside a work of art where technology has given nature a new occasion to express all of its essential charms.

All photos of the “The New Cultural Center in Athens” Special Issue are copyrighted: Copyright © Moreno Maggi by Salini-Impregilo