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Press Release 99/64


ROME 8 November 1999 - A 2000-square-meter marble-floored Atrium which will serve as a window on the work of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) was inaugurated in a ceremony this morning at the FAO Headquarters here. The Atrium, which connects two of the buildings in the FAO complex, is being constructed in large part with the financial support and expertise of Progetto Marmo, a consortium of marble producers from Italy's Veneto region.

FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf and Giancarlo Galan, president of the Veneto region, cut the ribbon to symbolically open the door to the new space. The Atrium is part of FAO's on-going effort to improve its communication technology and conference facilities, in order to meet the challenges of globalization and the needs of its member countries in the next millennium.

The light-filled Atrium has been designed as a meeting place for technical experts, country representatives and policy-makers who gather at FAO from around the world. It will also provide a place for public exhibitions and ceremonies and serve as an introductory point for the more than 100,000 visitors who come to FAO each year.

FAO officials said they were extremely pleased that the new Atrium will be in service during its upcoming biennial conference (12-23 November) which will be attended by representatives of all member nations and NGOs and media from more than 170 nations.

The creatively designed space encloses a former driveway and parking area between two buildings. The Atrium features a 7-meter high transparent roof to admit natural light and an extensive marble floor, 80 by 23 meters, with an elaborate multi-coloured design of geometric shapes made from a variety of Veneto marbles. The side walls of the two buildings that the Atrium connects are covered with panels of recomposed marble and quartz. There are also plans for the installation of glass walls at the two ends of the Atrium, as well as telephone and internet connections which will make it ideal for exhibitions and temporary installations. Lighting is being designed by a team of architects specializing in public space lighting.

Progetto Marmo, a consortium of marble producers, was established in 1996 to promote the stone production and trade industry of Italy's Veneto region. Its decision to become a sponsor of the FAO Atrium project as part of its public outreach blended perfectly with FAO's policy of establishing close working relationships with national and regional institutions in Italy.

A special exhibit which tells the story of the marble working tradition of Progetto Marmo and the Veneto region and explains their partnership with FAO will be in place during FAOs bi-annual Conference and throughout the month of November.


Background materials and posters prepared for the inauguration will be included in press kits for journalists wishing to attend the inauguration. Dignitaries participating in the ceremony will be available for interviews.

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