The main questioning set in this project has mainly focused on the educational values of traditional architecture and the way these can be interpreted and exploited by a modern young architect.
Despite the difficulties of such an attempt, a painstaking effort has been made in order to deliver a proposal for a contemporary architectural intervention in a traditional village, which in this case is Foiniki in Thesprotia, Greece.
The wider aim of this proposed architectural intervention in Foiniki has been to further motivate the protection and conservation of the natural and traditional environment of Thesprotia.
During a process of exploration, a serious effort has been made in order for the deeper essence of tradition, as a valuable memory for contemporary life, to be revealed. In this quest, Foiniki proved to be a valuable model for studying the everlasting qualities that exist in Greek traditional architecture, thus offering the guidance towards a solid and rational contemporary architecture.
What seems fascinating about Foiniki at first sight is the way the facades of its buildings look. However, treating the project in a less conservative and formalistic way has been a key factor in the design process, paying special attention to deliberately avoid showing an excessive respect or an exaggerated emotional commitment to traditional architecture.
The external form of things has been considered not as something that has to be imitated. On the contrary, the superficial morphological characteristics of the existing constructions have been considered less important compared to the deeper structures, the less obvious relationship and interaction between humans and their natural surroundings that have defined the morphology of this traditional cluster of buildings over the time.
As a consequence, the main focus of consideration has not been the form of things itself, but rather the rules underlying the articulation of spatial elements that produces this morphology of traditional buildings.
Today, Foiniki stands in silence, almost completely abandoned, with just a few people living in it. However, it is a very well preserved traditional cluster of buildings, typical of Greek traditional folk architecture.
The major inspiration for the particular architectural intervention has been the existence of some abandoned old traditional buildings like the church, the oil press and a mansion, standing detached from the main core of the village and scattered in the landscape, as well as the existence of a free, communal space adjacent to these.
The proposal suggests that the free communal spaces, situated in a very privileged position, as well as the abandoned buildings, all situated on a sloped area called Rahi, in combination with the construction of new structures, could create a new complex of buildings and open spaces, a wider infrastructure which could function as an educational and cultural zone that would reactivate the whole area by attracting visitors throughout the year.
The main aim of these proposed new cultural and educational facilities would be the mental preparation of the visitors in order to better experience the unique natural and historical environment of Thesprotia. This could significantly assist in the development of a new model of alternative tourism in the local area, compatible with the aesthetical and historical context of its traditional built environment.
Special care has been taken in order for the proposed new structures and spatial configurations to respect the spirit of this particular place and not to function in contradiction to the “genius loci”. The rationalization of the pre-existent structures has been of great concern, together with the smooth integration of the new buildings into their surroundings, both functionally and morphologically.
Priority has been given to unifying the whole through the design of an open air circulation network, a sequence of new pedestrian pathways and small squares, following pre-existent traces of circulation when possible and offering access to all buildings, while at the same time connecting them together. This proposed architectural promenade takes advantage of the spectacular panoramic view that the sloping terrain offers, highlighting the marvelous visual connection between the site and the traditional village of Foiniki.
The respect of the scale and the use of local materials have been key factors that had to be seriously taken into consideration in order for a successful intervention to be achieved. For this reason, the new proposed building has been deliberately divided into two smaller buildings, instead of a large one, in an attempt to achieve a harmonious relationship between the new masses and the old, preserved ones. By taking advantage of the steep slopes of the ground and making extensive use of pitched roofs and stone as the main structural material, the new constructions do not set themselves apart, but rather blend into their surroundings.
The new forms are dealt with not as theatrical scenery, as a mere imitation of the already established morphology of the traditional village. Form has been dictated by deeper, timeless structures such as established architectural archetypes, human scale, the climate, orientation, perspective, the shape of the land, as well as local materials.
In conclusion, the proposal for this architectural intervention has tried to avoid a one-sided, merely functional approach on the task. On the contrary it could be said that it has persistently aimed at enriching the area with structures that will offer a variety of potential interpretations and uses, securing in this way that this new building complex will constitute a zone of culture and research full of life in the heart of Thesprotia.
Architect: Panagiotis Zakkas
Location: Foiniki, Thesprotia, Greece
Project Year: 2010
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