A family's proliferating spatial needs required the creation of a small addition to an existing home on the island of Kea in the Cyclades. The design of this small project was fundamentally driven by the desire to incorporate the new living quarters into the existing context as smoothly as possible, without disrupting the character of the surrounding landscape. The sloping land plot is organized in stepped terraces of earth held back by retaining walls of local stone, recalling the spatial logic and building technique of the island's small-scale agricultural past. Curvilinear gardens with amphitheatrical views of the bay highlight the natural geometries of the site's contours. The traditional building element known as the koutoundo, or narrow passage separating a house from the hillside behind it, thereby protecting it from humidity, constitutes the conceptual basis for the project: here the koutoundo of the original house "expands" to incorporate the residential addition within a series of parallel stone walls. This new spatial typology fosters a direct relationship with vegetation and the land, rather than panoramic views, and reiterates the spatial logic of traditional stone retaining walls. Full-height, pivoting window openings intensify this relationship, with the bedroom and the bathroom opening directly onto the richly planted garden. Overall, this built intervention is virtually invisible from the sea, since the parallel stone walls of the addition blend seamlessly with the larger retaining walls that structure the landscape.
At the same time, new "outdoor rooms" are defined by the architectural intervention, as in the case of a long, linear wood pergola, with seating area, that offers direct views of the adjacent bay. Another shaded courtyard at the back of the house provides a more protected environment where children can play. Together these outdoor spaces, protected from the sun, highlight the traditional but underestimated value of outdoor, Mediterranean living environments that reduce the need for large, air-conditioned interiors.
Local stone was used during the construction of both the residential addition and the stone retaining walls and was hewn on site by local craftsmen, while reinforced concrete was used only in the foundations, lintel reinforcements and roof plate. The bioclimatic functioning of the koutoundo, with natural cooling during the hot summer months, is supplemented by the planted roof, whose dry vegetal growth further enhances the thermal mass of the house but also contributes to its seamless incorporation into the landscape. Between stone retaining walls there also exists a rainwater cistern that ensures sufficient irrigation for the garden year-round.
The new koutoundo furthermore functions as a shaft for mechanical and electrical installations, offering a kind of flexibility both for construction and habitation needs. By way of the simplicity of the concept and economy of the means and materials used for this small residential addition, one can envision an ecologically sensitive approach to design where program, landscape and infrastructure network as a single, unbreakable whole.