“My citadel, I built you as if you were a sailboat. I nailed you together and fortified you and, then, let you sail in time which, to you, is now no more than fair wind.“
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
thoughts and Memories - Kostas Gouzelis
Working with pencil and paper is a process on its own right. I consider designing by hand a necessity. This hand-to-mind relationship brings forth designs in which there is also an aspect of soulfulness. It takes the right moment in which to recall what you envisioned alongside all the rules and functions that prescribe construction work.For me, places conducive to the conception of a house and to the initial sketching in the drawing pad, or any piece of paper, really, are the open, joyous spaces of a boat ride or any homely, out of the way café: times and places where the mind slips out of its mould and can move past readymade copies and easy solutions.
Knowledge of every kind, whether inspired or instinctive, is drawn into making a contribution to the design, in anticipation of the pleasure and satisfaction of the future residents. Architecture involves a degree of opportunism, of risk taking and rule breaking.
Standing on the empty property, without thoughts. Of its own accord, nature provides me here with special moments like this, which feel spiritual. Having left all thought behind, slowly, through the labyrinth of my mind, the building comes into being.
Its volumes emerge and I know where the full spaces are and the empty ones. Had I been composing music, the latter would be the pauses. But an architect is what I am, and in my mind’s eye, the house’s initial form emerges in 3D. This will be my blueprint. I feel I’ve done the right thing for myself and for my client. Those moments of (ar- chitectural) conception are of the essence; this is where true architectural form originates.
Normally, I avoid looking at pictures of buildings I have created. I prefer to give myself over to the moment’s maturation, putting aside imitation of the kind that requires no prior study.
I have difficulty writing about my architectural practices. A conglomerate of joys and inspired moments, of life- experiences actually, that resemble the innumerable clips and bits of clay and knickknacks spread all over the board with the scale model, all of which, at some point, coalesce into a finished work.
Texts gleaned from notebooks going back many years, unconsummated concepts and desires, moments of hap- piness and distress, medicines for the soul with smidges of art, that is to say smidges of purity in the contem- plation of life’s affairs and sensations. They come in as brushstrokes, sometimes effective, others not. They take on form both inside and outside of the houses, mainly to indicate how much the one holds up the other. They point to the affective substratum that is at work in the design and execution of a work of architecture.
The time of tracing the layout boundaries and the orientation, is a trying one. You are setting down the imprint of the future house and there is no going back in terms of the placement of the house volumes. You are on site, not in the drafting room, standing inside the various rooms with the imagined volumes rising around you, and taking in the view, the air, the light, as you are driving the stakes in the ground. At this point, you are not only envisioning the finished house but, also, how it feels to be inside and outside it. An array of images come crowd- ing in your head.
When the need arose to build large houses, of 400-600m2, it was a challenge, given the average area of island houses, which is usually small, from 50-150 m2. The one calming consideration came from the study of traditional farmhouses in the countryside. There, you observed,
and it is still possible to observe, compounds of a family’s houses with a central core, which gradually spread outward, according to the living needs.
With no pencil and paper, no knowledge of architectural trends, they built in a natural manner, as the needs, the available space and the terrain dictated. A house: stables, storehouses, then, a daughter would get married and one more house would be created, and so on. Thus, we have compounds of similar dimensions whose characteristic features are freely connecting spaces and courtyards, gazebos and the wisdom of popular architecture. It is the most harmonious assemblage I have seen, this arrange- ment of volumes that emerges as an integral part of the Aegean landscape, superior to any composition by an architect.
That is much closer to my aspiration, in contrast to the large modern villas erected according to international standards. Unfortunately, building regulations foolishly hinder this kind of building activity in favour of large, concentrated volumes, to everyone’s detriment!
I can’t not refer to the similarities in the construction of a house, especially one with a vault, and a timber boat.
It happened that those two were being built at the same period. The same harmony necessary for a boat that is propelled by the power of its sails, is required in build- ing a house. The forces it needs to withstand are the same, which is made easier to understand if we think of a boat overturning. Finally, the excitement of a boat being launched on its virginal voayage is not much different to the moment a man enters a home made for him, there to start a new journey.