Mykonos: The discomposure of tradition and modernity.
“Whatever architecture had to say, it is said here”, claimed Le Corbusier. Small cubic volumes harmonized with the environment, the microclimate, the human’s needs in combination with the perfect landscape. This is the absolute harmony of natural and built environment created by craftsmen, people uneducated with their only guidance being their instinct and respect for their land. On the other hand, tourism development, world’s progress, people’s greed and megalomania led architects, engineers and landlords to the misrepresentation of Mykonos aesthetics. This leads us to the question: should we faithfully follow tradition or modernity?
Mykonian traditional architecture is the result of a multicellular plastic synthesis. Small volumes in strict geometry located on steep hillsides were added to the main residence according to the family’s needs. Their size was determined by the local materials (max 2.5 m height and length timber) and their construction was specific: floorings built from sand and timber, walls from rocks and roofs from seaweeds and timber – all of them found on the island.
More specifically, the flat roof was necessary in order to collect rainwater and have the minimum resistance to fierce wind. The frames were small at the north side of the structure and bigger at the south; where also, all the forecourts were built, in order to protect themselves from ‘meltemi’ (periodic summer wind) in the summer and the cold northern wind in the winter. Corners were curved so people and donkeys that carried supplies could pass easier from the narrow streets.
The public and private space were not only adjacent but were also, integrated inventively to one another. All buildings in the main town – Chora were abutting and the public space was minimum in order to be protected from invading pirates and conquerors. As a result, streets in Cyclades had the same importance that the square has in the rest of Greece and Europe – space for socialization and recreation. Shelters, passages, irregularly shaped widening of space, recesses and steps were the most common features of Cycladic public space.
On the other hand, the new face of Mykonos is the discomposure and confusion between traditional and contemporary architecture. New means, new landlords and new needs demanded greater exploitation of the space. All of us have to follow a really strict building regulation, which was written back in 1976 and since then it has not been updated. In order to exceed the space limit and overcome the time consuming process of the building permit most of the buildings today are arbitrary. They are camouflaged with white coloring, the rectangular shape and meaningless recesses that aim to remind us the so admired volume synthesis of traditional architecture.
Consequently, the scale of the buildings has changed as well. The cubic humble volumes have been replaced by the enormous luxurious villas. Small frames have been replaced by bigger ones in order to capture the magnificent view. The outer space has been flattened as much as possible in order to settle the swimming pool and the sitting areas. Although these buildings are luxurious and impressive, in order to attract tourists and new buyers they have nothing in common with Cycladic traditional architecture. Just a few architects in Mykonos try to converse with the landscape, the tradition, the clients’ needs and also, put their own signature.
Therefore, the separation of the traditional and the contemporary architecture is not clear anymore and this is a significant problem that we have to face and can hardly be changed at this point. In my opinion, the answer is not to blindly follow an obsolete regulation and imitate tradition nor to scout and counterpose to it. Architects should have enough space to connect us with the past and on the other hand, to be able to express the future vibes.