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In The Greek Island Of Milos, DECA Architecture Uses Geometry To Design A Home That Responds To Nature

Hourglass Corral is the latest addition to an evolving series of residences that reveal a sensitive and sustained attention to the landscape and the local tradition


DECA Architecture recently completed Hourglass Corral, a house in the Southern part of the Greek island of Milos that is intrinsically moulded by the natural conditions of its site. Sunk low and stoic in the sun-drenched Cycladic landscape cooled by breezes from the nearby sea, it accommodates 4 bedrooms that all face South, the roof planted with a variety of aromatic plants. Forming part of the Voronoi’s Corrals, a larger territory the architects have been designing for the last ten years, the house is intended to generate a reciprocity between architecture and nature, geometrical rules and wilderness.


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The exteriors


The rough and weathered stone walls of the house, with their strong and comforting weight, fully encircle it on all sides. Facing South, however, any sense of enclosure disappears, exposing the residence to the full trajectory of the sun. Horizontality prevails, the exposed concrete beams with their shading canopies cantilevering beyond the stone facades and dissolving in front of the uninterrupted panorama of the Aegean Sea.


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DECA Architecture - Voronoi’s Corrals | Yiorgis Yerolymbos


Each cell of the Corral is planted with a different type of aromatic plant, used for the extraction of essential oils, insulating the roofs and resulting in a pattern that gives a vivid representation of the underlying design strategy while at the same time making the residential volumes blend into its landscape. From above, the main indicator of inhabitation comes from the circular skylights that mark the point which generate each Voronoi cell.


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DECA Architecture - Voronoi’s Corrals | Yiorgis Yerolymbos
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When night falls, the absence of light pollution makes the sky look spectacular, the Milky Way stretching from horizon to horizon. The sound of the nearby sea and fresh smell of its water reaches the house, making its presence felt. Dwellers can appreciate the natural haven they are living in, with its minimal disruption to the native landscape.


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DECA Architecture - Voronoi’s Corrals | Yiorgis Yerolymbos


The interiors 


Just as the Hourglass Corral’s footprint appears constructed according to a geometrical precision, its plan articulation feels as though it has been hollowed out rather than simply constructed, the building embedded into the landscape. This carved-out quality is emphasized by the thickness of the stone walls and the interior partitions that suggest the atmosphere of an archaeological phenomenon.

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DECA Architecture - Voronoi’s Corrals | Yiorgis Yerolymbos


Moving inside the carapace of the house, the smooth candid white vertical surfaces, washed by the zenithal light, contrast with the ponderous expression of the exterior enclosure. The rooms witness the passing of time, the moving of shadows and the changing colors of light bouncing off walls and floors.


The progression to the house evokes a sense of ritual: a generous outdoor space, reached through a narrow stone passageway that funnels into a staircase, informs an enticing geometry of level changes and oblique views into the common areas of the kitchen, living and dining areas. It’s a courtyard in the traditional sense, referencing the early Roman impluvium and Greek patio: a communal space at the center of the home, sheltered by enclosing walls.


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DECA Architecture - Voronoi’s Corrals | Yiorgis Yerolymbos


The three bedrooms in the main house, each with its own private bathroom, are more intimate. A fourth bedroom is located to the north-eastern part of the site.


The ceiling flows and, with its light undulations and punctures, gently accompanies the inhabitants through the rooms. The skylights at the apex of each cell open up creating an effective passive ventilation system, warm air traveling up towards the cones and the circular skylights and bursting out in the summer months. In the bedrooms, a black out device, controlled by a switch near the bed, is placed under each skylight. It is a mechanism that works like the shutter of a camera lens. For ambient illumination, a circular metal disc suspended under the apex conceals a linear light.

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DECA Architecture - Voronoi’s Corrals | Yiorgis Yerolymbos
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About the architect


DECA Architecture engages in designing, building, researching and teaching. Its designs have a broad scope of subjects and scales ranging from joysticks to urban proposals and from leisure environments to digital environments. A small minority of the projects that DECA designs are also built by DECA. The design+build approach allows the team to engage with design at a 1:1 scale, to experiment with tectonics in a controlled manner and to exchange knowledge in areas with restricted building cultures.


The projects by DECA Architecture are dispersed throughout Greece and Europe. However, most of the research the team undertakes focuses on its hometown, Athens, Greece. In 2012 DECA peeped into the most private spaces of the Athenian urban fabric, bedrooms. The Athens Bedrooms research was exhibited in the Greek pavilion at the 2012 Venice Architecture Biennale.


The work of DECA Architecture has been honored with various awards including the Piranesi International Award (2009), the Architectural Review Emerging Architecture Awards (2004, 2009), the Greek Architecture Awards (2004, 2009, 2013), the Architectural Review Best House Awards (2010), the Architizer A+ Award (2014, 2018, 2019), the Dezeen Award (2019), the Domes Awards (2018,2019).


Photographs by Yiorgis Yerolymbos