Located approximately 4.5 km from Athens city centre, the project has been designed by the Renzo Piano Building Workshop (RPBW) and involves the construction of an ecologically sustainable multifunctional centre covering a total area of 232,000 m², largely devoted to a public park.

The project includes the building of the Greek National Opera, the National Library, and the Stavros Niarchos Park, one of the largest green spaces of the city, designed to take into account the latest ecological concepts. The park extends on a 32 m high artificial hill and covers 85 per cent of the SNFCC site, hosting more than 1,400 trees, 300,000 shrubs and native species, as well as a green roof of 21,150 m².

From an environmental point of view, the project aims to achieve the highest rating in LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design), a green building certification system developed by the United States Green Building Council (USGBC). LEED certification provides independent verification that a building’s design and construction conforms to environmental friendly strategies for energy conservation, water efficiency, CO2 emission reductions, indoor environmental quality, and resource stewardship.

The project vaunts complex design and construction solutions, and the Greek National Opera building will be a jewel from an innovative and architectural point of view. Indeed, the Opera building’s roof, named Canopy, represents an unprecedented innovation in its field. It consists of two bi-planar, curved ferro-cement shells 10,000 m2 wide and connected by circular hollow tube steel trusses.

The shells will be composed of 720 unique panels handmade and fitted by a sizeable team of over 1,000 labourers, technicians, and engineers. These panels are raised and assembled at a height of 40 metres above-ground by means of a structure specially designed to support the entire canopy until work is completed. The whole process will be monitored through state-of-the-art surveying instruments. This type of work requires extraordinary precision due to the technical specifications of the roof: the panel joints are just 60 cm wide, and covered with an extremely fine mortar (3 mm thick) which is worked to obtain a smooth finished surface.

Thirty steel columns will support the structure, which is braced to the ferro-cement canopy through springs and dampers that dissipate the energy caused by the wind or any seismic activity. The roof will furthermore be plated with photovoltaic panels to produce the energy required for the two buildings, significantly lowering their GHG emissions.

In Greece Salini Impregilo and its partners has once again pushed the engineering industry forward, developing new construction solutions. The best of Made in Italy has created another iconic project that will represent a new landmark for people living in Athens.