Our brief was to design a small boutique hotel on a dramatic site on the edge of the volcano of Santorini. The client, a native of the island, had a vision and determination that drove the project from beginning to end, and gave us the opportunity to push the concept and its realisation to the very edge, in all senses. The result is a truly unique and dramatic design that celebrates the inherent energy of our client, the architectural traditions of the island, and the intensity of the hotel’s crater-edge location.
The steep inclination of the relatively small site called for innovative solutions to the challenges of circulation and layout, but also allowed for the spectacular views and vistas at every turn. A sharp-edged channel of grey volcanic rock paves the way down from the entrance and reception point at the top of the site, twisting you and ricocheting you from angled wall to angled wall, slicing a soft white mass into 3 separate and unique villas.
Traditionally the houses in such villages are small, cramped and overlooked. To provide a high-end experience our ambition was to make space for the guests and give them as much privacy as we could. The renovation of the original cave-villa retains its characteristic layout, of three rooms that move in succession deeper into the rock. Views and light are exploited in the façade but the cooler, darker space further back invites guests to retreat from the oppressive heat outside. This villa sits above the 2 newly constructed villas which slice its linear plan in half, stacking one on top of the other so that each villa features an upper level of living space and a lower level of bedroom space. This arrangement allows for light and view to dominate in all areas and with each villa carefully angled to take in the sunset from a unique viewpoint, guests’ privacy is also maintained.
The 2 driving forces behind our concept were the volcanic rock and the traditional local vernacular. We wanted to reveal and control the drama and thrill of the site whilst securing guests with comfort, privacy and a relaxed lifestyle. We worked with the natural volcanic rock to cut routes through the site and to retain its boundaries and with charred wood and blackened gun-metal to highlight the power of nature within the villas. We then juxtaposed these with the soft curves of the traditional ‘Aspa’ render and white lime wash finish and introduced lighter stone finishes and naturally pale linens to bring a balancing sense of cool and calm the interiors.
The guestrooms of this resort are 3 unique and entirely separated villas that bring together newly built villas with an older traditional dwelling. The first, at the top of the site, is a renovated authentic cave house, typical of the local vernacular. Entering the house from the cave opening the first space is light-filled with spectacular views of what remains of the original crater of Santorini’s volcano. The second space, further into the cave, is cooler and darker offering respite from the heat of the summer outside. The third space, pushed far back into the rock of the mountain is serenely cool and tranquil, a total retreat.
The second and third villas are new buildings formed by the sharp cuts of the path slicing its way down through the site. Sitting adjacent to each other and below the cave, they each split the traditionally linear layout of the first villa, stacking one half above the other. This allows the rare luxury of natural and light and breath-taking views from both the lounge and bedroom spaces and also increases the usable space of each villa. Angled away from each other and towards unique and specific views, the villas are totally separated and enjoy full privacy.
Guests experience a series of carefully choreographed contrasts – the wide open exposure to the sun and view against the cool darkness of the cave rock; black volcanic rock and burned finishes against cool white curves and calming pale textures – dark with light, sharp with soft, drama with total relaxation. The hotel is intense and complex, yet laid out with clarity and designed with authenticity.
Guests enjoy a truly authentic experience inside the cave villa, which has been sensitively renovated to provide 3 cool, serene rooms for rest and relaxation. Literally carved out of the mountain the curves of the vaulted ceilings soften the shadows, removing sharp lines and blending it into the darker space towards the back of the plan. In the new villas set below a more contemporary layout maximises light and takes full advantage of the view by splitting the bedrooms and shifting them below the living spaces. Angled away from each other and separated by the main path, guests enjoy their unique viewpoint in total privacy.