Designed by Zoumboulakis Architects with interiors by MHZ London, this vacation house in Mykonos is actually six separate buildings arranged around existing landscape elements and a wonderful sea view. It is a fusion of traditional Cycladic building styles and a contemporary minimalism, containing an enviable art collection within. Architect Theodore Zoumboulakis explained more about the project.
Can you talk through the unusual layout – six buildings, one residence?
The residence comprises six independent buildings aligned on site to make the most of the site’s physiology and relief.The largest of the buildings, the main residence, is situated at the site’s highest level. The ground floor comprises communal spaces with the independent guest rooms below and the master bedroom on the first floor. At a lower level, three smaller separate buildings are the children’s residences. There is a poolhouse by the pool with two more guestrooms, and also a smaller building for the staff and the garage.
The design’s main goals were to maintain the existing landscape elements, such as rock formations and dry stone walls surrounding the old site, deal with the site’s difficult morphology and strong northern wind, and the building program application.
Why design a complex of smaller buildings rather than one unified volume?
That choice was made by the owners and architect alike, not only for morphological reasons, but also to ensure the harmonious coexistence of the old and new generations. An important aim was for the final outcome to give the sensation that memories – and the family’s relation to the past – were not forgotten, since there was an old house by them at this same location.
How do the interior spaces work with the exterior ones? Is there a smooth flow between the two? What happens in the ‘spaces in between’ the buildings – are they important?
In this project, particular emphasis was placed on the open areas and passages created in between, orientation, light, views and the western axis. (In Greek island because of the climate, exterior spaces are very important since most time is spent there.)
Is there a vernacular style to Cycladic houses, or to Mykonos in particular? If so, what are its key features?
There is a very well-known vernacular style to Cycladic houses, which is their white sculptural shape and which adapts nicely to the ground, or integrates rocks; it is a humble and simplistic, clean style. Especially in Mykonos, the shapes are even more fluid, as typical plastered walls are slightly inclined, a feature that further alleviates the sharpness of the cubic spaces and makes them even more adaptable to the environment.
Does this residence keep to that vernacular style? How is it the same – and how is it different?
This house has many characteristics of the Cycladic architecture, but at the same time this style is further reinterpreted towards a contemporary frame of mind. The most visible example is the fact that the existing dry-stone walls were outlined, elevated and used as retaining walls. Sections of these traverse the building volumes and create interesting morphological elements at contact points with the walls, while simultaneously forming one side of the swimming pool. The meeting point of the retaining walls with the plastered volumes, create slim and very tall glass windows, which are not traditional but on the other hand do not annoy the vernacular architecture.
The materials used and the individual architectural elements are few and sparse, adapted to the compound’s minimal aesthetics. Doors and windows, while maintaining the traditional proportions, are redesigned in an abstract manner. Floors and bathrooms are laid with cement paste, which is again another characteristic of the vernacular architecture.
Also, the residence’s technological infrastructure is extremely advanced and discreetly integrated.
How would you describe the interiors?
The architecture of the interiors continues the same logic. Tino Zervudachi, the famous interior decorator, had the coordinating role for the interior, and also coordinated general aspects so that the concept flows inside out.
How does the owners’ art collection fit in with the architecture and interiors? Did you add to that collection?
Most of the paintings and furniture were allocated early into the drawings, and providing them with space and lighting. My family owns the Zoumboulakis Gallery, which deals with contemporary painting and sculpture, and many of the works of art were selected there. At the end a few more pieces were added, under the guidance of Tino, in order to complete the puzzle.
Do you have any advice on integrating art within domestic architecture?
This is a subject that I find fascinating. I think that if the personalities of the owners and the architect are interesting, this will reflect into the final result. There is no recipe, but intuition and passion.