Dunes House



The villas in the sea dunes enjoy a uniquely privileged location and a most rich nature of olive groves, cypress trees and local herbs rising from the sand dunes, a step away from their threshold. In order to fit harmonically in the messenian landscape, we wanted to create an identity and a system out of which a series of villas would be born, each of them unique in adaptation to its surroundings, but all sharing an architectural language.

For this, we were inspired by 2 poles: the clearly distinguished exoskeleton of classical greek architecture, as seen in shrines nearby, where  the enclosed core is surrounded by an exterior structure-”stoa” that allows the building to enjoy a smooth transition from the indoors-outdoors, through a perimetral deep facade that blurs the line of the building’s outline. The classical temple is also known for its purity of geometry, the rhythmic repetition of elements of elegant proportions and an absolute symmetry.

On the other hand, the complex growth of folk architecture in Messinia is characterized by organically complex arrays of irregularly-shaped stone volumes, among which emerge piazzas, courtyards and kalderimis. When this growth reaches the scale of a village, life streams spontaneously through these in-between spaces.

The composition of those two worlds gives birth to a system of well defined orthogonal modules that when placed against each other they create intricate relationships in the form of negative spaces, courtyards and passages. The uniqueness and importance of the structure are replaced by a certain humility thanks to the freedom to swift, slide and turn around the multiple versions of the module, in an endless meable  potential to adapt.

The seemingly frugal land is generously rich in resources, so it would only be logical to use local materials to further root the buildings in their locations. The modules are framed with stonewalls, whose mosaic of stone, sourced from quarries nearby, lends its colors to the buildings, allowing them to blend effortlessly into their surroundings. On top of those walls rest the slabs in white concrete, a nod to modernist architecture, and extensive aluminum framed glazing intervals among rendered walls define the inner skin-facade.

Wooden partitions provide flexibility, privacy and protection from the quite low setting sun in front of the properties, accentuating the sense of depth with shadowplay. Weathered stone floors continuously spread all the way outdoors, and silvered teak on the ceilings dissolves into pergola beams.

The approach to the villa is ceremonial, with a choreographed axial entry between two main volumes that leads to clear views to the sea. When crossing the entrance threshold, the circulation between the modules is softer, as it should be inside the scale of everyday living, inviting you to take off your shoes and enjoy the more flexible and continuous layout of in and out.

The modular  system allows us to extend the modules on the vertical axis, adding a second level to the growth of the villa. Private – communal life are organized in distinction:  In the 1 level villa, the entry axis separates private from social spaces, while in the 2 level villa the separation in the levels of privacy comes from the change in floor levels.

When stitching modules, courtyards emerge as moments of visual connections and relief, bringing in light, wind and the outdoors in the deeper parts of the house as you move away from the iconic front views. The building meanders around natural elements, woven around feature trees that interact with the house and bring further purpose to these moments of punctuation.

The same materials and elements are used either to open up the structure or close it back in, just by a shift in the rhythm of their alignment. Within each module there is linearity, an axial sequence of column and views, but zooming out to evaluate the composition from the outside, you get misalignment, fragmentation and complex outlines in a somehow fine-tuned imperfection.