The houses that are built with respect for nature, interview with OOAK

OOAK is a Greek-Swedish architecture studio run by Maria Papafigou and Johan Annerhed. The architect couple works on large and small projects in a variety of environments around the world. HouseFinders Peloponnese is proud to have one of their house projects for sale (read more here). The house is part of the project “Oliv” with three houses that were designed and built with respect for nature. I was allowed to ask Maria and Johan a few questions about their design concept.

The houses that are built with respect for nature

houses-built-respect-nature-interview-ooakEK: The Scandinavian architecture is different from the Greek. Is there some kind of connection between the ones you use in your design in this project and in your other projects?

M&J: Broadly speaking, you can say that we are constantly inspired by the Swedish respect for nature and the environment and consideration for the place and surroundings. What we take with us from Greece is that here you are better at working with alternative solutions and finding tailored solutions that differ from the usual standard without it having to lead to costs skyrocketing. In Sweden, the slightest deviation from standard practice costs a lot of money and it can create a more rigid attitude towards a project.

EK: The “Oliv” project combines less common building materials in Greece: forged zinc and stone. Are Greekes ready to leave the traditional home design and embrace something new?

M&J: The Greeks are absolutely ready for new materials and solutions. Although traditional approaches have a strong anchoring in people’s way of looking at houses, awareness of new sustainable and aesthetically exciting solutions is increasing. Zinc, for example, is a material that has great durability.

EK: How was your design in the “Oliv” project influenced by the landscape?

M&J: The houses are built at an altitude of 450 meters, on a slope with old olive groves surrounded by stone walls. The slopes here had been leveled with horizontal stone walls, the traditional approach to terraced gardens, and the three houses are set along these in the landscape. Seen from a distance, the houses blend into the landscape and are not easy to spot. From the inside, however, the houses open up to vast expanses with their panoramic windows and large rooms. The mild green color of the facades and the silver gray shade of the zinc roofs share a color with the olive trees. The houses are oblong and open in both directions onto terraces. When you walk through the houses, you feel as if you are moving in the landscape, and depending on whether you want sun or shade, there is always at least one suitable terrace.

EK: How would you describe your design style? Can you name one or more architects that you admire?

M&J: We don’t have a direct design style but can be recognized by our approach, where our houses always communicate with the surroundings. I, Maria, am inspired by the Dutch Movement during the 1990s, with architects such as Rem Koolhaas. We are also inspired by Brazilian 1950s architecture and contemporary Japanese architecture.

EK: What do you do when a client disagrees with you about the direction of a project?

M&J: Oh, it probably never actually happened. We are inspired by resistance and fight until everyone is satisfied.

EK: Knowledge, experience and aesthetic values ​​are part of your creative work. What projects would you never say yes to?

M&J: We would not say yes to projects that we find unethical or that we feel have a politically objectionable attitude.

EK: Luis Barragán, a Mexican engineer and architect has said: “Any architectural work that does not express serenity is an error.” In your opinion, when can an architectural work be a mistake?

M&J: Something that could be called a “mistake” is if you commit to a project where the lack of understanding of how it could touch and give positive impact to the environment makes it an overly isolated phenomenon. When we designed a house on the Greek island of Karpathos, we saw the island and the plot from a holistic perspective and this has led to the whole island being positively affected by the house we designed. Our house has become like a landmark, an attraction that strengthened the island’s self-esteem and identity.

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