Johns Hopkins University engaged Ayers Saint Gross and Renzo Piano Building Workshop to design the future home of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation (SNF) Agora Institute, an interdisciplinary academic and public forum committed to strengthening global democracy.
The new structure draws its name and inspiration from the ancient Athenian agora, a central hub of conversation, debate, and public engagement. Located on the university’s Homewood campus, the building will support the institute’s scholarly work by housing faculty offices, labs, graduate student spaces, classrooms, seminar rooms, and co-working areas. It will also host conferences and events that encourage civic engagement and informed dialogue.
Dedicated to democracy, the institute’s commitment to transparency and openness is reflected in the design, materials, and accessibility of the building. Two “floating” glass cubes foster connection between Johns Hopkins University and the surrounding neighborhood. The community cube, designed as a gathering space for citizens, is rotated at a 45-degree angle to respond to the geometry of campus. This slight twist creates a diagonal pathway to provide clear access to both cubes and elevates one section of the building as a beacon for the broader community.