The foundations of the Onassis Cultural Center were laid in Athens in 2004. The construction of the Centre was exclusively funded and overseen by the Onassis Foundation.
The Centre was built on a privately-owned 3,000 sq. m. plot on Syngrou Avenue which is bounded by four roads and covers an entire city block. The Centre boasts 18,000 sq.m. of interior space. Having decided that it needed a building of high architectural value, the Onassis Foundation staged an international architecture competition. The design chosen from the 66 proposals entered from around the world was by the French architectural practice “Architecture Studio”, whose core architectural concept is encapsulated in the building’s facade: an airy white rectangular shell which makes innovative use of white marble bands.
The unique configuration of the facade serves as a stage set which imbues the building with a sense of mystery both during the day, when the marble bands reflect the intense Attic light and create the impression from afar of a gentle wave, and at night when, artificially lit, they turn the image inside out, allowing the inside of the building to shine through and revealing the warm shell surrounding the rooms and auditoria. A new architectural study was drawn up for the interior of the two amphitheatres, while the ground-floor bar was redesigned by artist Aemilia Papafilippou around an original artwork.
The theatre lighting in both auditoria was designed by James Morse from the London-based Light & Design Associates company, while the architectural lighting for the entire building was redesigned by Eleftheria Deko & Associates. The building includes two main auditoria, seating 880 and 220 respectively, which are suited to a wide range of events including theatre and dance performances, concerts, film screenings (multimedia, virtual reality), lectures and conferences. The top storey is home to the Onassis Cultural Centre restaurant, which extends out onto the rooftop terrace during the summer months and offers breathtaking views of the Acropolis, the Philopappos monument, Lycabettus and the Saronic gulf.