Safety and wind comfort for the Cultural Center of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation

Photo : Michel Denancé

In the center of a large city park facing the sea, south of Athens, the National Library of Greece and the Greek National Opera have relocated to exceptional new buildings designed by architect Renzo Piano. The design of these buildings, inaugurated in early 2017, relied on the expertise of the CSTB in two areas: aerodynamics in engineering works and wind comfort in urban spaces.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation is home to an opera house for traditional and avant-garde performances, and a library. This new cultural center is located in an eponymous park covering 21 hectares, at the top of an artificial hill, developed on a former Olympic site. In structural terms, the canopy roof is composed of 10,000 square meters of photovoltaic panels, designed to produce 1.5 MW of power, making the building energy autonomous.

Faithful & Gould, tasked by Renzo Piano to manage the project, called on the expertise of the CSTB, to study the effects of wind on the structure.

The CSTB provided support in three phases:

  1. An on-site climatology study, to qualify the wind and snow conditions and help size the structure.
  2. The wind loading of the main roof made of photovoltaic panels.
  3. The wind comfort of a pedestrian area, with a plant-covered roof and a park forming an artificial dune.

A 1:200 scale model of the project was tested in the wind tunnel of the CSTB to assess the effects of the wind on the structure and the areas of discomfort outdoors. Special attention was paid to the photovoltaic panels, with the creation of a 1:100 scale model. The goal was to guarantee the performance and resistance of these modules under extreme conditions, such as snow and high winds.

The aerodynamic study proved essential to the project. It introduced several different measurement technologies, adapted to different scales, to assess the overall and local stresses on the building, which could potentially be exposed to exceptional weather events.

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