The Maina tower-house, the remnants of an abandoned traditional settlement, sits atop the hill overlooking Greece’s Mani Peninsula, olive groves and the sea.
The abandoned two-storey building dates from the 18th century and was cut off from the road with access only over a stone path through a garden of olive and carob trees, and prickly pear cacti … with a cave.
To the east, the yard abuts 16th century tower — an historical monument — and at the other side was a Byzantine chapel with 12th century wall paintings. So, the main challenge was how to create a relationship between the building and its historic neighbors and how to add on to it without disrupting the original.
The complete lack of infrastructure — access, water, waste disposal, continuous electrical power supply — made self-sufficiency, ecological management and bioclimatic design mandatory, which, interestingly enough, went hand in hand with the traditional ways of dealing with the land three hundred years ago.
In addition, Maina had to be designed in accordance with the conservation listed settlements of Mani so that it fit in with existing buildings in the village.
The original building remained a long narrow volume that unfolded perpendicularly to the contour of the hillside, looking out to the sea and the east.
The new addition, a second long narrow volume, was placed adjacent to the old building, maintaining the same vertical relationships with the landscape.
All three levels of the residence constitute single spaces, and suitable placement of openings ensured natural light and ventilation during the hot Mani summers. This makes the home either a substantial holiday villa or two independent units with each level having independent access to the outdoor areas, and each designed individually according to ambient sunlight and the natural landscape.
It’s a bit rough, and a bit of a cave, but the way you move from inside to outside, opening up the vistas to the sea and beyond, make it a perfect holiday retreat.