Milos is a historic volcanic Cycladic island, geologically extremely rich, where for 7.000 years mining has been one of the main activities. Traditionally when a mine shuts down it is “restored” thorough the re-formation of its terrain and the re-establishment of vegetation. Recently, however, Milos is coming to realize that its mines – some of which are astounding – are more than just sores in the landscape. They are important historical and geological artifacts, and can become part of a network for mining tourism.
In Kastriani, a kaolin mine next to the medieval monastery of the same name, we are proposing the first mine to be transformed into an open-air museum, focused on the natural and man-made processes which change the landscape. The mine is restored in such a way that from most views it blends back into the landscape, so that its dramatic features are visible only when one enters the crater itself.
Strategically, the design foregrounds the mine’s interesting elements by turning them into land art, such as the strong terraces, the contrast between the red rock and the bright white kaolin, and the historic hand-made tunnel dug into the white substance. As the mine must continue to operate as a kaolin ore storage area, the stores are formed into strongly geometrical cones. Few and distinctive additions are made to the space to strengthen its character and foreground specific aspects. Areas above a certain elevation are planted in a “camouflage” pattern, to integrate them into the surrounding landscape. Within these, certain red rock cuts are left as distant “markers” of the mine.
Finally, the mine’s hydrology is used to effect. The pipe at the bowl’s floor is replaced by a straight trench, pointing directly at the monastery of Kastriani, in such a way that the mine fills and empties of water seasonally, telling a rich story of geology, history, mining, hydrology, climate, and artificial and natural processes.