I would like today to dedicate my short talk on Boundary-Peras-Transition to Dimitris Fatouros my teacher, friend and colleague.
It is a friendship which has been going on for forty years and which unfolded, like architecture does, among the multiple boundaries of life-boundaries of space and time that exist among people so that the relationship can gain, in understanding, friendship, and familiarity. The succession in the relationships teacher-student, colleague and friend, went through those magical transitional places defining, as in architecture, the qualities of human relations.
I would like to thank him today, for we owe him-from very early on-our continuous alertness for the quest for the meaning that must be hidden behind the architectural events. Jean-Paul Sartre writes, “You must invent the heart of matters if you want to discover it one day.” This deep relationship with architecture Dimitris and I owe to a great extent, to Mimis Fatouros, and we thank him for that.
I will begin with some sketches by Mimis Fatouros, from his Eikastiki Odos and his poetry collection Ereuna sto Metaihmio. The sketches suggest journeys, itineraries, explorations to the depth of dreamlike or real places. Perhaps more than any other utterance they illustrate the “dreaming time” of the poem of every artefact, and therefore the architectural one “time which doesn’t flow but which is knotted, woven in knots.”1
These knots, to which Descartes dedicated hours of mathematical dreaming, are for architecture the transitional spaces “symbols de fixation” according to Bachelard.
I shall attempt to approach a section of Architectural Theory which refers to the boundary, the peras of architectural space.
I am going to present you the outline of some thoughts, in full awareness that words express with some difficulty our intentions for our close-range relationship with the poetics of the spaces we propose.
I hope that some illustrated examples will complement my words to some extent.
One of the most vital words for architectural theory and praxis is the word boundary. Boundary is a keyword for Architecture, not an abstract notion. Every architectural expression is a built interpretation of boundaries. Every intervention in space is judged from the way of treating surfaces, volumes or building groups within bounds; from this treatment it becomes clear whether an architectural event has as its principal aims the housing of human activities, liveability and a potential poetic presence with whatever most essential and archetypal characterises poetry and links it with construction.
The Greek word related to boundary is the word peras (i.e. end). I would like to remind you of Martin Heidegger’s comment that peras is not where something ends, but where something begins to exist. This clarification paves the way for the treatment of the limits of buildings. This becomes clearer by the realisation of the common root of the Greek words horismos (i.e. definition) and horio (i.e. boundary). The definition condenses the meaning of a word just as the meaning of a built area is condensed in its boundary.
From the boundary to the end, and from the end (i.e. peras) to the verb perao, which, suggests the act of linking two ends: the transition, the crossing, the traversing and the penetration of limits. Thus the end encompasses the crossing and the transition, as well as the traversing and the penetration.
The boundary is either the envelopment, the bark, of the building-units, or the buildings themselves which function as a wrapping-boundary for complexes of building-units.
With the pair peras-transition, I shall pause to the concept of depth of boundary. I believe it is from this boundary depth and its treatment that relationships of the pairs inside-outside, open-closed, private-public acquire meaning. And it is these intermediate areas that enrich the relationship with the magic of the ambiguous
A simple example of a Pendeli residence which consists of two building units. Each unit is defined by its envelopment-peras, and the space in-between is defined by the buildings. The indoor and outdoor space alternate, while the transition space constitutes the thresholds of the indoor units with a differing treatment and varying degree of ambiguity.
pergolas-outdoor sitting rooms
a roofed verandah which can be opened in the summer
A wall house in Kifisia.
A very elongated site on the north border of which a linearly developed house was designed between two limit walls which extend from east to west. The oblong vaulted roofing of the ground floor emphasises the long axis. The thickness of the perimeter wall on the road border with the double colonnade was designed to add depth through the overlapping of boundaries.
The Darmaros residence in Crete is developed on the same principle of the wall-house with a clear long axis which is accentuated by the staircase-ramp which connects the several levels of the house. The wall-house is positioned on a ridge, follows the contours of the land and flexes, adjusted to the ground, on an east-west axis. The outdoor spaces for living complement the indoor ones so that during the whole day outdoor life is possible, with a view of the White Mountains, the sea and the city.
In relation to the previous wall-buildings the bounding double wall of this building is closed. Instead of a linear open development the wall is coiled up around the double height of the studio space. The painter considers her space “the deep well of safety and freedom”.
In the example following we had from the brief the request for a simple orthogonal box-studio that would incite self-concentration, and of which the flat closed surfaces should receive and elevate the paintings. The light should be mainly northern and diffused and the presence of nature discrete.
Through these facts the principal characteristic of the proposed building is the depth of the boundary. Towards every direction we treated the boundary with the intention to expand the delimiting surface of the main indoor space of the studio, not only to the horizontal as well as the vertical sections.
We had already designed and built the family house on the same estate. It is a holiday residence divided into units (houses within a house) which define outdoor living areas. These living areas reflect indoor units outdoors.
In relation to the previous wall-building in Kifisia the bounding double wall of this building is closed. Instead of a linear open development the wall is coiled up around the double height of the studio space. The painter considers her space “the deep well of safety and freedom”.
In V. Mavrakakis studio as A. Antonas comments in his text: “Its neat, orthogonal plan, its quiet details, and the manner it rises above the Aeginian land, without negotiating with the ground, are signs of another kind of conceiving the building”.
The studio does indeed touch the ground and a drive connects it with the above mentioned neighbouring residence.
We worked out the boundaries of this rectangular building so that the contour may acquire depth. Within the double bounding wall we placed the storage space, the bathroom, the western and southern porches, and the northern bounded courtyard.
By working out the movement and the section we traced a spiral route in space.
1 Gaston Bachelard, Le doit de rêver, Presses Universitaires de France, page 116-117