Located in the thick of the Cyclades, Syros ticks all the boxes of a Greek island – the gorgeous flat waters of the Aegean, postcard perfect tableaus of little towns that cling to slopes, bijou bays and a wild sparse interior that’s changed little since the days of Homer. And in a picturesque spot in Delphini, in Syros’s northwest, the Thessaloniki-based Katerina Tsigarida Architects have built a complex of low-slung residential villas for a London-based Greek family that has familial and business (textiles and shipping) ties with the island.
The complex – comprising five buildings that house living, dining and bedrooms, and a studio – is sited on the edge of a bay that overlooks a small deserted island. The orientation is subtly ingenious: the axis of each building catches an edge of the bay, while the axes of the intervening courtyards point directly to the island. Getting the orientation right, say the architects, was probably the most challenging part of the project. The results, though, were worth the effort – the spaces offer both natural ventilation and light, and protection from the strong coastal winds.
The architects say the complex is inspired by ‘the vision of the primitive hut, of man's longing to go back to the essential, and by the ideal of continuity through landscape and memory’. In particular, the silhouettes echo the monolithic stone shapes that can still be found on Syros.
Certainly, this imprimatur of a distant past is reflected in the choice of materials – local stone drives the impression that the buildings emerge from the very earth, whilst a palette of timber ceiling beams, floors of polished cement embedded with grey and black sandstones feels exactly right for the site. For the interiors, a mix of untreated plaster, wooden doors and windows, alongside bespoke wood, concrete and raw aluminium furniture, all add to a pleasing mod-rustic mood.