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Onassis Foundation to Hold a Major Conference on the Greek Cultural Legacy
The Centre is housed in a striking, minimalist building of glass and white marble designed by the French firm Architecture-Studio. Photo: Onassis Cultural Centre-Athens.

ATHENS.- On the occasion of opening its first public facility in Athens, the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation will join with eight of the world’s leading academic institutions to present The Athens Dialogues, a major international conference that will bring together 60 eminent scholars in the physical sciences, social sciences, arts and humanities for four days of discussions ranging across the borders of academic disciplines and historical periods.

Held November 24-27, 2010, as the first major program in the new 194,000-square-foot Onassis Cultural Centre–Athens, The Athens Dialogues will explore the role of the Hellenic cultural legacy, broadly defined, in understanding and addressing contemporary global challenges. Six thematic sessions will offer discussion, debate and insight on the subjects of Identity and Difference, Stories and Histories, Word and Art, Democracy and Governance, Science and Ethics, and Quality of Life.

Collaborating with the Foundation in organizing The Athens Dialogues are the Academy of Athens, the Accademia dei Lincei, the Austrian Academy of Sciences, the German Archaeological Institute, Harvard University’s Center for Hellenic Studies, the Institut de France, Oxford University and Stanford University. The scientists and scholars entering into the discussions at The Athens Dialogues will be drawn from these and other prominent academic institutions.

According to Anthony S. Papadimitriou, President of the Foundation, “The questions addressed over the centuries by great thinkers in Athens, Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, and elsewhere in the Mediterranean where the Greek language and civilization were adopted are still integral to the fabric of contemporary thought. They weave through political, philosophical, artistic, scientific and cultural discourse throughout the world. The Athens Dialogues aims to explore the relevance of this ongoing legacy to the changes the world is experiencing today.”

Unique features of the conference will include an innovative, interactive e-journal, published by the Center for Hellenic Studies at Harvard; a social media initiative, “The Athens Dialogues Network,” facilitating contact among scholars and intellectuals across disciplines; and a multifunctional web portal that will serve as a permanent site for The Athens Dialogues, transcending the dates of the actual conference.

To ensure that The Athens Dialogues will be an active and free-spirited discussion, the scheduled speakers for each session are exchanging their papers in advance through the conference e-journal. Presentations will be a give-and-take based on ideas that have already been shared, rather than consisting of a series of readings. Approximately 800 scholars and scientists from around the world who will attend as registered conference members will also enjoy facilitated participation in the sessions. A third level of participants—young scholars, artists and scientists recruited through a competition organized in collaboration with the Greek chapter of EUNIC (European Union National Institutes for Culture)—will attend The Athens Dialogues and have their own papers published in the e-journal.

The President of The Athens Dialogues is Dr. George Babiniotis, Professor of Linguistics and Rector at the University of Athens and Chairman of the Department of Philology. Serving as the academic co-ordinator of The Athens Dialogues on behalf of the Onassis Cultural Centre-Athens is Dr. Niki Tsironis.

The sessions and their chief organizers are:

Identity and Difference
Chair: Dame Averil Cameron, Professor of Late Antique and Byzantine History, Keble College, Oxford

Stories and Histories
Co-Chairs: Hans-Joachim Gehrke, President of the German Archaeological Institute, and Johannes Koder, Director of the Institute for Byzantine and Neohellenic Studies, University of Vienna, President of the Austrian Society for Byzantine Studies, and Full Member of the Austrian Academy of Sciences

Word and Art
Co-Chairs: Gregory Nagy, Francis Jones Professor of Classical Greek Literature and Professor of Comparative Literature, Harvard University, and Richard Martin, Antony and Isabelle Raubitschek Professor of Classics, Stanford University

Democracy and Governance
Co-Chairs: Konstantinos Svolopoulos, President of the Academy of Athens, and Anastasios-Ioannis Metaxas, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Director of the Political Communication Workshop, University of Athens

Science and Ethics
Co-Chairs: Athanassios Fokas, Chair in Nonlinear Mathematical Science at the University of Cambridge and Member of the Academy of Athens, and Jacques Jouanna, Member of the Institut de France, Académie internationale d'histoire des sciences

Quality of Life
Co-Chairs: Robert Harriss, President of the Houston Advanced Research Center, and Dimitri Nanopoulos, Distinguished Professor of Physics, Texas A&M University, and Full Member of the Academy of Athens.

The Athens Dialogues will take place in the main auditorium of the Onassis Cultural Centre–Athens, a new cultural space created by the Foundation as its first public facility. Opening immediately before the conference with two days of special events, the Centre will offer the people of Athens and their visitors a wealth of multidisciplinary programs and presentations in the contemporary performing arts, fine arts and letters. The programs for the Centre’s inaugural season will be announced in early autumn 2010.

Housed in a striking, minimalist building of glass and white marble designed by the French firm Architecture-Studio, the Centre provides

· a 900-seat theater suitable for concerts, opera, dance, theater, film and conferences

· a 200-seat hall for more intimate performance events and lectures

· a 7,500-square-foot exhibition gallery

· an outdoor theater space

· a compact installation of works from the Foundation’s art collection, including sculptures by Rodin and Bourdelle

· other exhibition, meeting and performance spaces

· amenities including a restaurant and an entrance-level bar

· and a dedicated underground parking facility

The theater spaces have been designed by Mark Foley of Burrell Foley Fischer LLP, London. The theater lighting has been designed by James Morse of Light + Design Associates, Ltd., London. The dramatic, building-wide architectural lighting that animates the Centre is designed by Eleftheria Deko & Associates, Athens.

Onassis Foundation | Anthony S. Papadimitriou | The Athens Dialogues |

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