Our brief was to design a small boutique hotel on a dramatic site on the edge of the volcano of Santorini. The client, a native of the island, had a vision and determination that drove the project from beginning to end, and gave us the opportunity to push the concept and its realisation to the very edge, in all senses. The result is a truly unique and dramatic design that celebrates the inherent energy of our client, the architectural traditions of the island, and the intensity of the hotel’s crater-edge location.
The steep inclination of the relatively small site called for innovative solutions to the challenges of circulation and layout, but also allowed for the spectacular views and vistas at every turn. A sharp-edged channel of grey volcanic rock paves the way down from the entrance and reception point at the top of the site, twisting you and ricocheting you from angled wall to angled wall, slicing a soft white mass into 3 separate and unique villas. The villas are neat, compact and dynamic, taking on a sculpted form when juxtaposed against the straight edge of the volcanic rock path and retaining walls.
Traditionally the houses in such villages are small, cramped and overlooked. To provide a high-end experience our ambition was to make space for the guests and give them as much privacy as we could. The renovation of the original cave-villa retains its characteristic layout, of three rooms that move in succession deeper into the rock. Literally carved out of the mountain the curves of the vaulted ceilings soften the shadows, removing sharp lines and blending it into the darker space towards the back of the plan.Views and light are exploited in the façade but the cooler, darker space further back invites guests to retreat from the oppressive heat outside. This villa sits above the 2 newly constructed villas which slice its linear plan in half, stacking one on top of the other so that each villa features an upper level of living space and a lower level of bedroom space. This arrangement allows for light and view to dominate in all areas and with each villa carefully angled to take in the sunset from a unique viewpoint, guests’ privacy is also maintained.
The 2 driving forces behind our concept were the volcanic rock and the traditional local vernacular. We wanted to reveal and control the drama and thrill of the site whilst securing guests with comfort, privacy and a relaxed lifestyle. We worked with the natural volcanic rock to cut routes through the site and to retain its boundaries and with charred wood and blackened gun-metal to highlight the power of nature within the villas. We then juxtaposed these with the soft curves of the traditional ‘Aspa’ render and white lime wash finish and introduced lighter stone finishes and naturally pale linens to bring a balancing sense of cool and calm the interiors.
Guests experience a series of carefully choreographed contrasts – the wide open exposure to the sun and view against the cool darkness of the cave rock; black volcanic rock and burned finishes against cool white curves and calming pale textures - dark with light, sharp with soft, drama with total relaxation. The hotel is intense and complex, yet laid out with clarity and designed with authenticity.