NBG Insurance: In Conversation with the City ― 

The National Bank of Greece Insurance Company HQ, complete in 2006, has been first major architectural intervention on Syngrou Ave., soon to become the spine of Athens’ connection to its neglected waterfront. In a problematic area with bleak office buildings, still exclusively dominated by car traffic, with practically impossible pedestrian crossings, the new building set a different example, introducing scale, urbanity, and sustainability. Soon, many notable works followed, in the same spirit: in one of the most awkward and fragmented parts of the city, architecture came to mend the severed urban fabric, aiming to reconnect the center with the sea.

The NBG Insurance complex comprises the administration building, with six floors, opening towards Syngrou Ave. and to the view of the Acropolis; the former is complemented with a linear office building, with three floors, creating a visual barrier to the side of the property. Underground, taking up the entire site, the complex extends to seven levels. The notion of public space becomes central to the design, expressed as an urban plaza connecting the two buildings, as well as an atrium and a double-height foyer.

Communicating a corporate identity by design was a preoccupation from the outset, informing the main design decisions: The architects opted for a sturdy building complex, in conversation with the urban fabric, elaborating on the idea of movement, and light. The materiality of the facades, with interchanging zones of smooth and rough stone cladding, gives prominence to mass. Though dominated by the solids, the linear openings inside deep horizontal and vertical incisions feature a different rhythm of metal frames, in a matt finish with highly reflective specks that alludes to a natural material, capturing the light insides the deeply shaded recesses of the building. In the interior, the same color makes a completely different impression upon the metal components of the atrium, doused in natural light all through its depth, as the structural void is crossed by movements.

The sharp angle on Syngrou Ave. intensifies the perspective views of the plaza and shapes the front of the administration building; horizontal incisions in recess highlight the geometry; the atrium establishes visibility among all interior levels. Two circular skylights cast natural light on the interior volumes and surfaces; this tall void is crossed by metal bridges with sandblasted glass flooring.

The conference center is a distinctive unit in the complex, provided with the potential of independent operation. Its main entrance, on Syngrou Ave., is materialized as an incision between the level of the plaza, and the administration building. The entrance space is amplified through a broad, linear staircase to the main foyer one level down, which mostly maintains a double height. This level accommodates the conference hall, with a capacity of 500 people, the exhibition space, library, and service rooms. The curved wall gives form to the space, and scattered skylights allow the presence of natural light.

Architecture: SPARCH (Morfo Papanikolaou – Rena Sakellaridou)

Collaborating architect: Mario Botta Architetti

Color: RAL 9006 D1036 Matt | Code: SW206G

Interior and plaza photos © Pino Musi, courtesy of SPARCH