The Stavros Niarchos Foundation committed $150 million to a joint effort with Johns Hopkins University to create the SNF Agora Institute, in order to forge new ways to address the deterioration of civic engagement worldwide and facilitate the restoration of open and inclusive discourse, that is the bulwark of healthy democracies. Drawing inspiration from the Agora of ancient Athens, which was a hub of conversation and debate, and the center of the city-state’s democratic governance, the gift establishes the SNF Agora Institute at Johns Hopkins University, as an academic and public forum bringing together experts from fields such as political science, psychology, neuroscience, philosophy, ethics, sociology, and history.
The Institute will examine the dynamics of societal, cultural and political polarization and develop ways to improve decision-making and civic discourse. It also will design and test mechanisms for strengthening democracy through dialogue and social engagement, and convene subject matter experts from a range of perspectives to explore new approaches to divisive issues.
“All of us at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation are very happy to collaborate once again with the renowned architect and amazing human being, Renzo Piano, to provide the SNF Agora Institute with a home befitting of our common vision to contribute to a better society for all,” said Mr. Andreas Dracopoulos, the Co-President of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
“I was attracted to the Johns Hopkins project for its humanistic nature and also because I have always been interested in making places for learning,” Piano said. “I am very happy and honored to start this new adventure.”
“A visionary who understands the power of public space to foster conversation and create community, Renzo Piano is the ideal architect and artist to give physical form to the SNF Agora Institute,” said Ronald J. Daniels, president of the university. “The SNF Agora Institute seeks to reinvent the ancient Athenian agora for the 21st Century,” Daniels said. “The institute will serve as a forum for scholarly research, the robust exchange of ideas, and sharing strategies to repair civic discourse and strengthen democracy in America and around the globe.”
Piano and his firm will form a team for the project with a local firm, still to be determined. While a site at the university’s Homewood campus has not been finalized, it is known that the institute building will house a director, 10 faculty members, 10 visiting scholars and both graduate and undergraduate students. It will also accommodate a variety of public events, including an annual conference bringing together representatives of different viewpoints to examine contested public policy issues. There will also be lectures, symposiums, dinners and performances.
Renzo Piano’s best-known buildings include the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center in Athens, the SNF’s largest single grant, the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, the Shard in London and the new Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
In addition to the above, Renzo Piano has undertaken the design of the infrastructure projects to be carried out within the framework of the SNF’s grant Initiative to strengthen Greece’s Health sector.
To read the full press release, click here.