Reinhabitation of Drimonas settlement in Greece
Konstantinos (Kostas) Fetsis
The project aims to reconstruct the depopulated settlement of Drimonas, one of the many vernacular communities that have been let to decay after constant migration to the Greek urban centers. Through a network of transformations, prospect occupants that seek an alternative from the asphyxiating economy and living standards in the big cities, in times of the Greek recession, can re-establish the lost community.
This project was an opportunity to explore and experiment working through overlapping scales. Trying to contribute as an architect to one of the major problems that Greece is dealing with, during the recession, it was an exciting exercise to work in a holistic approach, where every action relates and compliments the rest of the scales. Main method of working was the constant awareness and recordings of the contextual information applied to every single design decision.
”Through the last decades, the population of the village has been degreased dramatically from 160 in the 80s, to 10 permanent occupants today. As no registration or similar research has been taken for this area, I started my site visit by producing a series of cartographies and registrations, identifying all the typologies and condition of every single building.
The village presented very interesting network of pathways, that used to operate as zone of daily interaction and intergenerational exchange. You would walk on the path and end up in different yards or small kitchenettes that welcome you inside the house, teaching you great deal of vicinity.Additionally, I had the chance to enter houses that haven’t been opened for almost 30 years, presenting various spatial qualities such as ceilings, doors, the fireplaces and their construction background but also evidence of craftsmanship from another era that I have recorded through a façade and plan registrations.
Recordings of every quality found on the site has been included on my Atlas document, as my main tool of engaging with the site. ‘’
Who influences you graphically?
As it varies, depending on the project that I am working on, in most cases, I am keen on focusing on the architectural drawing. I have a great interest on an axo, a sectional detail, or a plan that come to imprint the qualities of the building, from the textures, the challenging joints to the contextual information. The last 3 years I had the chance to work on projects that required the participation of other crafting professions, such as textile, fashion and furniture designers, where the drawing itself had to be the main communicator through this beautiful cross-collaborative work.
There are countless of names and projects that fascinate me. Some of them are Sigurd Lewerentz, Alvar Aalto, Dimitris Pikionis, Peter Zumthor.
Could you expand on your process of documenting these forgotten spaces?
As I travelled and lived in the settlement for 2 weeks (I wish I was able to prolong my stay) I tried to engage with the remaining occupants as much as possible. Their incredible stories, interviews and activities were complimented through the architectural registration, giving me a rich material of how they used to inhabit and use their spaces.
Along with the occupants, we managed to register every single building and their condition, achieving also the mapping of the rocky landscape, as any kind of archival material didn’t existing till now. The buildings, despite their architectural uniqueness, weren’t registered in any heritage archival. With the permission of the occupants I managed to enter abandoned houses for decades, photographing, sketching and taking vital measurements in order to draw later on sections, facades and plans.
What were the main elements you were interested in documenting and why?
At the beginning of the project I was mostly open for any possible quality would come across, without expecting or planning of what to archive until I get to the site. As I wandered around the first days through the pathways of the settlement I was very enthusiastic on registering qualities of vicinity, such as the pathways network but also the interiors of the houses. I was mostly inspired by the crafting elements that used to consist a whole local economy, such as the stone carver, the roof maker, the ceiling pattern maker etc.
Cartography, photograph registrations- how do these mediums collaborate?
As Dimitris Pikionis once discussed the notion of a ‘sentimental topography’, where nothing operates on its own, everything is interconnected affecting but also being affected by everything else. I tried to capture all the qualities of the settlement, its occupants, their history and their idiosyncrasy that got ‘carved’, grown, raised and developed across this rocky landscape over the decades. Photographic investigations, interviews, contour lines, sectional cuts and architectural registrations presented a multilayered result of incredible natural qualities and senses that organically grew between a landscape and the human being. For example it is incredible to see in these kind of landscape examples how the building is fundamentally part of the earth, where the rocks play a foundational part of the structure.
How important is the Atlas in relation to the project?
For me the Atlas was a great tool to be able to have an overall picture of the project and its context, as I tried to refer to it at every design decision, at any scale, I made. I decided to spend a generous time at the beginning of the project to ‘read’ and understand fully the site and its incredible architecture, in order to come across with the actual problematics and decide what actually needs to be proposed. Furthermore it was important for me at the end of the project to produce an archival material that I could submit to the local heritage council and contribute something to the community as an architect.
What defined the use of the model as primary medium through which to explore and reveal your project?
For me the model was a tool of evaluating some of the design decisions such as the roof details and the inhabiting walls. It was also an enjoyable molding exercise for me.
When photographing this, what were your biggest concerns- what did you want to achieve /convey?
When I was making the model I tried to represent the actual building’s materials and textures as realistic as possible with relatively heavy materials such as concrete. During the making process, I realized I ran out of concrete which had as a result to pour a second layer on the mold which eventually came out as a unique detail on the relief’s texture.
I decided to use a corner of my studio space yard where I was working, as I felt it was complimenting beautifully the roughness of the model. For the interiors I mostly wanted to explore, though photos, how you encounter the space, the light and the surfaces, through different angles, while using the space. In a way, like when sketching a designed space idea you imagine and have the need to put it on a piece of paper.
What is the relationship between these images and the perspective montages?
When I produce my visual montages I usually present the spaces in movement and while in use. I love space choreographies and when I work I always imagine how spaces are being used and inhabited through the day. Episodes, spontaneous movements and niches that consist and actually define those spaces. It is the same way I photograph existing ones, where I have detected specific qualities. I often use existing photos to complete my montages as I always respect the existing qualities and context, trying through my design to highlight and frame them.
What was your work process in terms of testing and exploring materiality?
I usually love to experiment with what the project site has to offer and fascinated when the site itself informs the building’s structure and surfaces. In my last 2 projects I was lucky to work on interesting site elements through molding and terrazzo making. I am always keen on testing to see how those colors and textures can be part of the building’s spaces. Then in parallel I always sketch and produce visual montage tests on how transitional surfaces inform the different space sequence.
What are you currently working on?
I am currently working on a registration project, along with a friend of mine, on C F Hansen’s buildings in Copenhagen, hoping we will exhibit our work later. Furthermore, I have been working along with ‘Emergency Architecture and Human Rights’ team on various projects across Jordan, Chile and Copenhagen.
Born in Athens in 1992, Konstantinos (Kostas) Fetsis, is an Architect and spatial designer graduated from The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts (KADK), currently practicing in Copenhagen.
Fascinated with projects that involve cross-collaborative fields of professions across design, arts and architecture, he has participated in exhibitions, and winning entry competitions across Europe and Japan, during his studies in the UK and Denmark.
Always excited to work from inception to production, he has a keen eye for detail, with a high notion of craftsmanship. He has previously worked in London at Jamie Fobert architects, in retail projects such as 16C Fondaco Dei Tedeschi in Venice, and Kengo Kuma architects for the completion of KADK’s pavilion in Japan.