“Everything we seek to see expressed in a building is ultimately aimed, one way or another, at telling a story a myth; with fullness and void; with silences and words. We attempt to create space filled with love, where one can find as Aristotle says when speaking of the theater adventure, recognition, passion”.
If we wanted to give a title to this exposition it could be
Outdoor “houses” and indoor streets
“Our land is closed plenty of mountains, having as roof the lowered sky day and night. ”
— George Seferis, Novel I
This is what to poet G. Seferis writes about Greece.
In this place, “life is an outdoor activity”. This is maybe, the reason for the ambiguous meaning that space possesses in Greek architecture.
Palaces with one court yard after the other
– the galleries the markets, the theaters and the temples
– the monasteries and the chapels . . .
existing even today in spite of the excessive speculation of land:
– the squares, the outdoor restaurants and coffee shops are lived in, are “inhabited”, for the biggest part of the year.
If we agree that every inhabited outdoor space, small or large may contain in a nutshell and in a broad sense, all the meanings which are the characteristics transforming an open space into a “home”, making it familiar, recognizable, a space you long for, you are nostalgic of, and to which you want to go back? On the other hand, an indoor space can have the characteristics of an open space, how can that be?
Which are the characteristics making the closed or open areas of a certain architecture create a unity, a whole keeping its integrity?
In which way movement and absence of movement are distributed and the pair of meanings public-private has gradations and ambiguous areas?
Which are the areas playing the role of geometrical spaces “topos” having the character of an open and simultaneously, closed space, areas recurring again and again in the history of Greek architecture from the small, humble house to the huge dwelling complex?
I’ll try to present you certain thoughts of mine concerning space and its dual appearance: closed-open space and its reciprocal ambiguity as well. Along this itinerary in “spaces” of Greek Architecture we ‘will recure to projects designed and realized by Dimitris and me.
I would like you to pardon me for this choice but the main reason for that is the desire of making the route together you and see “the Passions and the Metamorphosis” (according to D. Pikionis) of certain spaces we knew before their birth.
The house and the limit
A minimum space, in order to be considered as a “room-house” must have limits. This is the very first and necessary movement for its own existence.
The limit, the end, “peras” in Greek, as Heidegger writes, is not the point where something is ending, but the point where something is starting. The word has the same root as the word “definition” which is containing in brief and clear way the content of a meaning.
“The place is what rallies in
it the being of a thing.
The bridge is a place”.
— Martin Heidegger
Limits summarize the style and meaning of “a” space. Limits state also the intentions and possibilities, the character.
The formal-informal or the ephemeral, the austere or the colorful, the silent or the talkative, the finished or the unfinished, the simple or the sophisticated. On the quality of the limits, depends to a large extent, the quality of the space inside and outside them. Because the limit, the boundary is not a simple line. It has an inside and an outside, thus it can function in two directions. It is the inside of the outside (of the outdoor, as defined by the buildings).
“The Room-House” has its internal limits: the external walls of the building, whilst, simultaneously, these constitute the external limit of the indoor space.
As Heideger writes:
“Raum”: something that can be “managed” to be free, something to get the knowledge of, at the interior of a limit.
“The movement and the limit”
Even if the most elementary closed space, on the basis of its openings, obstacles, light, analogies or shape one, at least, “way-direction” can be discerned and is indeed potentially inside it.
Towards the light
Towards the door
Towards the staircases
There are spaces that are more of a “street”- they are containing, to a greater degree, movement and others that are more of a resting place.
It is worth spending some time on a peculiar example. In Egypt, in the Sahara desert, there is a “room box” a stone cubic space that has no opening. There are only two small holes on one of the walls. As you approach, you can see inside the statue of
Faraoh, in a sitting position, the eyes looking towards the light, towards these small holes on the wall. Is this space a “room-house”?
This “room-house”, that I spoke of before, is aimed for living, it has as a second characteristic necessary for its purpose at least one entrance, it presumes at least one movement: a street.
The opening is the necessary presumption for the conjunction between indoor and outdoor space.
A little minoan idol, the circular pot-temple has a door that can open and close. At each door opening, goddess is ready to go out to welcome the mortals. On the other hand, the ceiling has an opening looking to the sky.
In the same spirit as that little minoan idol, all the road side votive shrines Ciconostatia) that we see today in the countryside or in the Greek villages are buiIt.
House-court yard and street
What we have certainly learned from our surrounding in Greece is that:
– the yard is a house and the house is a yard, these two substances characteristic of the Greek space, where the outdoor borrows elements from the indoor and the indoor space from the outdoor, correspond to the way of life that suits better the Greek space.
– a second very important element, that influences our architectural “praxis” and street, as we walked it in the various settlements of Greece.
The street as we have lived it and as it is still functioning in different regions in Greece, is not merely a space for movement.
It can be used as space for
The street consequently, especially in those settlements at the slopes or the feet or mountains could be set as that geometrical space “topos”, which accepts all the necessary changes, result of the different sort of restrictions, so as to adapt to the given situations (Hydra Island).
Restrictions coming from:
– the slope of the ground
– the entrances of the houses or of other spaces
– the excavation possibilities etc
– trees or other obstacles or elements promoting movement
Following the way movement is organized, one can see, how streets separate and meet again, how the street becomes an opening and how public separates from private movement leading to house entrances, the way the slope of the ground is transformed into levels, how a tree or a stone takes glory from the whole synthesis.
All these are for us, the architects, a man-made landscape, full of meanings as nature itself: there are our built nature.
In a forest I often felt that it was
not me that was looking at the forest
Some days I felt that the trees were
looking at me, they were talking to me.
I was there. I could hear them.
— G. Charbonier
The intermediate (in-between) spaces and the pair of meanings
There are certain kinds of space in Greek traditional architecture, that by their very position in relation to the other spaces of the house, their proportions and their particularities, function as intermediate spaces, taking the movement or absence of movement (stasis) and possessing characteristics of open and closed space simultaneously.
As an example, I’ll show you one of the typical Kastoria houses. On the first floor, the staircase is leading to a space of two axes and is spreading between the closed spaces of the rooms. This space we are talking about, is more of a “street” in one of the directions and more of a sitting place in the other. It has outdoor characteristics – it is very often an open space – and these characteristics are emphasized by the proportions, the relation to the closed spaces, the views and the dual orientation (cross-ventilation as weIl). This in-between space transforms the closed space of the house into a cluster of fourhouses.
The plan of this type of house, brings in mind a very ancient symbol in Egyptian hieroglyphics which symbolizes the City. Also a similar diagram is the beginning of the labyrinth, keeping in mind all the possible changes of the myth. The space unfolds from man as the thread, unfolds from Ariadne’s body.
The in-between spaces – inserts – are offering the possibility of distance, the couple of meanings “see-be seen” (voir-etre vu) operate there. Man has the capability of moving inside the closed spaces and through his mot ion he is capable of seeing and observing the stable obstacle-buildings all around, which are in their turn viewing him also.
This relation presumes certain bounds and certain limits in the distance involved. These limits are related to the biological ability of seeing, these bounds loosen up to the point of almost ceasing to exist as the distances tend to become very large.
I must note also here, that all the points of this itinerary do not have the same “weight” the same importance for the moving person.
The elliptic alternates with the whole, a fact that makes this itinerary interesting.
On the observations of D. Pikionis for the study-theory of K. Doxiades referring to the tracing on the Acropolis area, D. Pikionis writes:
“Right, this theory, places the spectator in the center of
the harmonic tracing of the whole space of differently: as a
center or centers of the design are chosen those key-points
of the itinerary that the visitor or pilgrim will necessarily
follow in order to approach closely the monuments”.
“Where the projection of a monument ends,
there the next one starts… In Doric complexes, the only
gap in the whole synthesis. . . dictates the way that
the pilgrim must follow”.
— D. Pikionis
It is precisely these “critical points of the itinerary” that Pikionis used himself for the very first tracings on the streets of Acropolis, in his tracings during the fifties.
Of course, these were not but the starting point for further corrections and for the in-place “transcription of the initial design in the space”.
” … in relation to the given restrictions of reality and the external supervision of the construction of the project, by the architect. ”
The spectator as well in the center of the harmonic tracing…
Let’s remind ourselves, here, of the words of Martin Heidegger in what concerns the relation between man and space.
“We are talking about man and space as if it was man on the one side and space on the other. But space is not for man a vis-à-vis relation. We do not have the people and space over and above. ”
It is an indivisible whole: the man moving standing, viewing and the space containing him -anthropometric- looking at him, whilst man as another space-in-movement projects space on to himself, being simultaneously projected on it.
How can this interpenetration function?
I remember here a definition used by D. Maronitis, when he was analyzing Herodotus’s Novel “Arion, the Guitar-Player”. He talked about “the scenic-narrative space”. Is it perhaps the space accepting the chance-events of life and promoting them as if being theatrical events, predefined?
The persons taking part in this action are moving inside the space, are incorporated in it and are offering together with the space a “spectacle”, which makes them complements of it, a spectacle which enriches it and promotes space. At the same time, persons are also gaining from this space, so that each person’s or group’s movement, though accidental, emerges from and is enriched by the space.
This observation leads me further. I am asking myself whether that is the quality of certain “places”, the qualitative but also poetic characteristic of architecture, where architecture is every place containing or awaiting action, where even the absence of action is in the extremity of interpretation, a case in itself.
The elaboration of the limits and the coherence.
The outdoor space in order to be inhabitable must also have limits, areas of movement or of stasis as well as areas of greater ambiguity the so-called intermediate spaces all together distributed in a way, that can put in functioning the pair of meanings “see-be seen”. There is, also, another characteristic necessary for the coherence of the open or closed space and this is the elaboration of the limits. How can we make the limits and specifically the walls, the floor and the ceiling belong in the same whole, in the same organization?
When transferring the demand for cohesion to the “outdoor House”, that is to the squares and the streets, where their limits are the surrounding buildings, the problems are more complicated than those for the inside of the houses that usually presupposes a construction homogeneity. This cohesion depends to a certain extent, on the construction material: As long as the stone or the marble were the dominant materials, their transformation into wall, floor, bearing element or decoration, or even ceiling, presuppose an internal unity and a uniformal approach to the marginal surfaces.
But, naturally, from the details of the elaboration, the special intention and the personal style are being manifestly displayed.
The grid, the module and the elaboration of the limits.
The theme “module” can be classified in the chapter of the elaboration of the limits.
Architecture has immediate relation with module. This relation is either a spontaneous one, coming from the very same action of building, which depends on the construction unit each time or on a predefined one coming from the design or the construction module. The module is a measure, is a tool; it is like the metronome. It doesn’t imply good music, but helps in practicing or creating music. The module must be helpful, as every other measure, to our “knowledge of the architecture” standing between the architect and the space, as the grid was for the Byzantine hagiographers a medium for touching and recognizing the persons or the objects they were designing. A module must be selected after thought, by comparing and laying down all parameters. Starting from the assumption that a building is a solid body and that each of its surfaces is “inhabited”, we build up the module. All the surfaces of the plan, the sections or the elevations are dealt with it. Each breaking of module can be understood. when projected on an order.
The module that we choose:
– sets the different horizons inside and outside the building limits.
– helps for correlations bet ween plan and internal or external wall or openings elaboration.
– The micro-module (or simple module) interest us more than the “mega-module”. The grid – The module is always a guide but we are never sacrificing our dominant view for the overall and our special requirements to the altar of a strict module implementations.
But, on the other hand, the module is necessary for a flexible dialogue with the rest of the architectural parameters, it is a measure for the necessary changes when main aim is the movement inside and outside the inhabited spaces. We do not abandon the principle of the module in the immediately adjacent space to the building. Thus, for example, to the paving of the piazzas or openings, our starting is made from elements of the building itself and we transcend these elements as soon as we discover that the new element, by its own complexity, is creating a myth of its own. A simple example: on the island of Crete in the Lyttos Hotel and Bungalows complex, the main square is paved and continues the columns module. At the same time, a second direction traverses it, declaring a movement towards the entrance and totally outside the given order. At the central square of a one-family residential building complex, in Aegina, a small Greek island of the Saronic Gulf, the paving is designed so that the paving joints are the continuation of the residential units angles (see the plan). There is a paved square and another one, spreading between the volumes of the house itself, which we could name a “water square”. The swimming pool has been elaborated as a small natural stream line. On what concerns the setting of the horizons, we can present another example in the Rethymni University, where the topographic constraints were numerous (slopes-trees-cliffs etc.) the final proposal is developed openly in relation to a semi-circular square and on what concerns the general setting of the heights, but the buildings themselves refer to a zero, to a “repere” placed in the center of the piazza and all the basic horizons of the buildings are under a certain module relation that gives numerical differences of O.45cm or multiples of it. This central square is the main synthetical idea the whole project has been generated from. The composition as a unity is homocentric, having as focal points the octagonal volumes of the Professor and students Assembly department of the University, i.e.
The Department of Peadagogy 1 and 2
The Department of Philosophy
The Department of Archaeology
The Department of History
Three or four faculties belong to each department of the ones mentioned above: This method offers a very good tool for the study of such an extended complex and a guarantee that, if individual sections of the building are designed separately, after the general decision have already been made, there will always be a relation between them that will easily be transferred to the stairs, the ramps or the different elevations that will come out with analogies under control.
The grid and the passage (direction).
There is a dominant aspect that the grid is a neutral and directionless network within which flexibly or not, the permanent or not-permanent partitions of the building are moving. There is also another view that the grid may be capable of defining the directions, in which the bearing elements have a dual function. This is the view that we have chosen and tried to support throughout our work. Trying to have different degrees of privacy in the different places of the building we searched within the interior of the building for memories of the street. In our early work we have used the grid as a neutral (weft-warp) network with columns usually square and equidistant. Later we aimed at solutions, where the grid was defining a direct ion and an internal passage at the same time. This idea has been implemented on an existing building, in Rhodes island. It was the case of a typical office building that has been finally used as a Branch Office of the Ionian Bank of Greece. We created there a public space by proposing an internal street which unfolds from the ground floor up to the terrace. In other cases, the cross-ventilated open space was located in-between the buildings. The existing restrictions of the Plan and Section led us to invent solutions we found really interesting, as they were originating from the very obstacles and were endowed with immediacy. In the same spirit, we found solutions in other examples of movement, resulting from topographical restrictions, trees, existing buildings etc. This same idea of the free passage branching out in different levels, on the notes-joints of the elements was implemented on the Hotel complexes also. This fact offered us an opportunity of improvisation when we were obliged to make arrangements on the spot, during the construct ion phase. Starting from the need that the grid has direction-orientation, we were led to the elaboration of the limits and we concluded in creating construct ion zones, organically bound to the building and capable of using the space between the columns and the opportunity for a dual function of the bearing elements.
Wanting to estimate the limit with its exterior and its interior, I come closer to some of the most significant elements on both sides of the limits, which define the quality of the pair of meanings “closed-open”. I believe that the act of returning to the roots of the words is helpful for architecture also.
The staircase is one of the most significant elements in architecture. It potentially obtains the ability of movement and orbit. The internal or external space is often transformed into a “scenic narrative” locus, only with the presence of well-conceived stair. Long steps as elements of the ground’s elaboration offer the possibility of making the existing relationship among the buildings visible.
Considering the open-air space as a “home” an abode, the windows of the buildings that surround it play an important role for the unity of the whole. Maybe this is the reason why the windows of the old buildings – as a result of their proportions, their style, their decoration became one of the elements that contributed to the continuity of the built area.
“When a window will open, it would
be a consolation”
“Perhaps, the light would be a
new tyranny. ”
— K. Kavafis
The windows are full of meanings and consequently very vulnerable, it comes to misunderstandings.
When we passed from the architecture of the wall (the “closed”) to the architecture of the “open”, the window lost its personal history, its myth, its ambiguity. It became only a unit in a zone of light. The more the exterior was becoming hostile, foreign and indifferent, the more the interior was surrendering itself to it, looking for the lost light. The windows dialogue with the world (cosmos ) “cosmos ” has the dual meaning in the Greek language of ornament and universe.
The window-sitting place
The window and the sky
The window and the mystery light-darkness.
The window, a grid for nature to be projected on it.
The windows and orientation.
Windows giving orientation tracing axes. Windows that by their plane in the space transform all the building into an end a limit that the light crosses from one side to the other transparency.
Windows outside the building.
Bay windows like balconies offering potential for different uses-light, shadows, sitting place shelf etc. The shutters are for the Greek space an additional element offering solutions for controlled lighting. The space can be transformed in relation to the hours of the day and to the seasons.
The door is a bridge
A road ending and another road beginning.
The point where the interior and the exterior meet
The door charged with mystery and adventures
The door of desires and fears
The door of siege or of liberation
The door of violence or of the welcome
The Labyrinth’s Door: The enigma- the solution – the betrayal
…Life and death.
For the colour, I would like to say only that: the colour is a piece of light. You must be conscious of it, so as to come closer. In architecture, colour makes relations, measures, counts the pulse of time and space, “The colour doesn’t celebrate any enigma other than this one of visibility”.
“See” for Architecture is “have at a certain distance”
First image – The palace and the shed. Two prototypes:
Savoir faire la dialectique
du cabane et du palais.
— G. Bachelard
Before closing and as we talked about the elaboration of the limits I would like to project a slide from the Greek Shadow Theater, Karagiozis . There, on the screen on which all shadows are moving the permanent stage setting for the act ion taking place is always: on one side, a cottage – the Karagiozis shed and on the other the seraglio, the Pasha’s house. The one built with diverse building materials, old, used, cans, boards, stones and the other one sophisticated and brilliant with coloured masonry glasses, solaria, balconies and all the magic oriental ornaments. Often, I feel that especially in Greece “with the diverse actions of reflective applications, these two are, in the words of the poet: “the ambiguous attractions of our architectural praxis. The spontaneity of the shack with all the charms of innocence and humility that it contains, with all the freedom it presumes and the possibilities for charming arbitrariness on the one hand and the richness of the palace with the brightness of details, the wealth of waters in the multicolored gardens, the gold and the silver … the ivory and the valuable carpets. The conflict does not exist only in the pair of meanings “rich-poor”, but in all the further meanings these two prototypes are carrying with.
Architecture and the Goddess “Need”
In the last chapter of the book “Politeia” Plato is describing in every detail, a myth from the very ancient religious traditions of Greece. In that myth, the great weaver, the Goddess Need, who according to J.P. Vernon is the Goddess Estia, the Goddess of the Home, motionless but conscious of the movement around her, she is sitting in the centre of a huge “machine”. Around the central, vertical, luminous axis of it, starting from the earth and ending in the sky, eight stereoscopically placed cylinders are moving. Together with them, time is turning around, personified in the Fates, the Goddess’ Need daughters: Lahessis for the past, Klotho for the present and Atropos for the fut ure backed by the imposing music of 8 Sirens, turning around the Goddess Need together with the Fates. The spindIe as “a mast or a column traverses the universe” joining together earth and the sky with firm bonds.
In “Kratylo”, the philosopher Plato analyses etymologically the word “Estia” – home – referring us to two different roots of the word. The one is the word “substance” or essia, that means the permanent and unchangeable nature of something (lat – essentia – esse).
The other one is the word “ossia” referring to that which is pushing in movement, as the reason of existence of all the beings. Estia, wi th her “bi -substantial” existence ….
Permanence on the one hand and impulsion movement on the other. I am not as weIl informed on Ancient Greek Literature. If I referred to the myth of Goddess Need – Estia this was because I find in it scenes and meanings that could have profound connections with the field of architecture. Thus, a simple building can be transformed into a small Uni verse, which puts together with all the necessary and the essential for its existence the walls and the roof all these things transforming into a “bunch of spaces” (v . Eyck) autonomous and dependent simultaneously, functioning inside a whoIe, but maintaining also their peculiarities, suitable for movement, but also for lack of it – stasis – breathing in light and sleeping quietly in darkness. This is the house in its broader sense.
Third Image: “The compass and the star”
Apart from whatever personal views one may hold, architecture weaving space and time, possibly needs, more than any other art to support the necessary idealism on strong “axes”, on tools tangible and as the poet Baudelaire puts it for painting: “a compass and a star”. Otherwise, the space won’t leave “memories”, is alike a ship on travel, blown by all “four winds” and going nowhere. I referred to the Compass that had guided Dimitris and me for many years. I dedicate to him, my life’s companion, this brief exposition. Everything comes out from our common route in Architecture.
Hoping that together with the compass, a very small star will guide you in your ways in architecture I wish to you all, the young architects, what G. Seferis, the poet, considered of great importance:
“To cover, that simply, as the trees make it, a very small piece of sky, well defined … “