How does one build on the stark beauty of a Cycladic landscape without destroying it? This project seeks an answer to that very question.
Placing such a rich development programme on this highly sensitive site necessitates a careful examination of the natural and historic elements which characterise the landscape: the amphitheatrical circle of hills, the seasonal streams, the juniper trees and frigana vegetation, the pezoules (agricultural terraces) and the xerolithies (dry stone walls).
The Aegean landscape is the synthesis of natural and cultural forms in a dynamic process of emergent self-organisation. Yet this historic equilibrium is extremely fragile, sustainable only as long as the economic and cultural practices that formed it continue to operate. After thousands of years of existence, the beautiful Cycladic landscape now faces the threat of change imposed by a growing tourist economy.
Seeking a new equilibrium, this project attempts to reverse the trend of transformation as destruction: by recasting transformation as synthesis, as cohabitation.
New strategies have been developed to bring about this synthesis:
The construction strategy for this site consisted of using the existing pezoules and xerolithies as a skeletal structure, re-establishing and extending the system. For example, where a contemporary road would zig-zag down the hillside, causing more destruction than the houses themselves, here they follow either the perpendicular lines of the xerolithies or the parallel lines of the pezoules.
The vegetation strategy consisted of allowing indigenous plant varieties to progressively disperse across the landscape. Given that these varieties are not readily available on the market, and that end users often prefer a more controlled garden, natural dynamics cannot be easily reproduced. To address these concerns, two approaches have been adopted:
The first approach: pattern
The fractal-like interweaving patterns of existing vegetation are imitated by planting in percentage mixes. Rather than working with groups of plants, each area is a different percentage mix of those in adjacent areas.
The second approach: density
The plants located closer to the houses are placed at a high density, providing a tended garden. At a further distance from the house, more space is allowed for natural re-vegetation between the plants. Beyond a certain distance no plants are introduced, allowing for completely natural re-vegetation. Thereby a gradient is formed from the tended garden to the natural landscape, synthesising the two into a new cohabitation.
From the local topography, to the system of traditional stone walls and terraces, from vegetation to new roads and buildings, the overall structure aspires to reflect existing characteristics of the landscape. Ranging from density at the centre of the vortex to scarcity on the windy hilltops, each element is integrated into the whole.