Do you want to build your dream house in Greece? What should you think about then? How important is it to know the terrain, climate, culture and history? Way is it important to know before you build or buy if you want to use your house just in the spring and autumn? And is it important to build like in the architect magazines?
Build your dream house in Greece
EK: Hi Jamie. You and your team work with different projects in different countries. How important is it to know the terrain and climate, when someone wants to build their own dream house in Greece?
JA: Each project differs in many ways but we still have to tackle some common issues such as the ones outlined in your question. For me they are all equally important especially when working in Greece, where the culture and history play such an important role. If we were to address them one by one, it is probably best.
The terrain often guides the first few steps of the design process and helps us to arrive at the initial concept, dealing with the access, volumes and orientation of the building, to make the most of what is naturally provided by the land. The climate is also a major factor and the building has to adapt to work with it and make the most of the orientation as well as the natural shade and prevailing winds at different times of the year. Decisions such as wall construction, sizes of openings and shading structures all play a major role in working with the local climate.
EK: What about knowledge of culture and history?
JA: The culture and history of an area play a major role in defining the local architecture. More often than not, the past ways of life influenced the layout of homes as well as the materials used, sizes of openings and construction details. Our way of living has changed dramatically but I believe that there is still much to be learned from the past. In my eyes, the goal is to achieve a balance between the past and present, providing for today’s needs while celebrating and borrowing from the architecture of the previous generations, whether that be through subtle or indeed more obvious references.
EK: How much do you need to know about your clients’ needs before you can deliver to them construction drawings?
JA: It is of key importance to agree on a project brief as early as possible in the design process. Ideally this brief would cover three main areas. Firstly, a list of spaces should be made that the house should contain i.e. 2 bedrooms, bathroom, a study etc. Secondly, it is a good idea to describe the intended use of the house and the importance of the spaces for the way you live.
For example, the most important spaces may be the kitchen and main veranda for one client and the living room and master bedroom for another.We all live in different ways; this has to do with personal preference and will lead to a different design solution in each case.
Finally, it can be useful to share a series of inspirational images for the house, although in some cases clients may decide to leave this entirely to the architect.
EK: When Elias and I lived in Sweden, most of our “home-time” was indoors actually, because of the weather of course. Do you often need to explain to your customers that outdoors is perhaps more important than indoors?
JA: This is indeed something that you can really appreciate in Greece, especially if you are used to the Northern European climate. For the majority of the year, you can live outside quite comfortably. This is a great benefit as in essence this allows you to extend the size of your house for around 8-9 months per year. It is definitely something that we discuss at the beginning of the design process as well as the need for shady outdoor spaces. The initial enthusiasm for sun-drenched outdoor spaces quickly wears off in the height of summer. Ideally you would have a mixture of full shade, light shade and entirely open spaces to be utilised at different times of the day and months of the year.
EK: “Home” is not similar with the beautiful pictures in architectural magazines or am I wrong?
JA: Each person has a very different definition of home. For some it is a place full of their favourite items, memories and people, while for others it is a very simple and minimal space. Some may want an open fireplace to remind them of their childhood memories, while others may prefer an under floor heating system, hidden from sight.
I personally see beauty in both of these approaches and I believe that a successful project is one that is able to reflect the client’s own, personal idea of home. Our aim is to make a space that our client feels entirely comfortable in, both spatially and spiritually and allows ‘home’ to happen. A beautiful home is the result of a good, well thought out design, specific to the needs of the client, combined with the final specifications and the quality construction of the building.
To have a successful end result, you need to combine both of these elements; however in my opinion first and foremost should be the design.
EK: Must a beautiful home cost a lot of money?
JA: A well designed house with cheaper finishes will still be a very enjoyable home to live in; however you can throw as much money as you like at a poorly designed home and never improve the space. The first step is to achieve the best design possible, following which good choices of materials and fittings can be made to suit every budget. Where budget is a limiting factor, it can be a good idea to give emphasis to some specific elements that will make a big difference to the final result, such as a beautiful floor at the entrance and main living space.