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Greece – Ios Island Architecture

Architecture plays a special role in forming the cultural identity of a place. In the case of los or the Cyclades in general, this role is particularly important. Architecture is one of the fundamental elements of the distinctive character of these islands. The dazzling white houses with their vaults and arches cling to the bare rock, creating a stunning contrast to the deep blue of the sea, unmatched anywhere else in Greece, if not the whole world. The architectural style of the houses is stripped down, refined, even severe. There is no ornament, just simple lines and curves. Above all, there are no construction rules. The houses are built next to each other, one above the other, in a clear example of free and unplanned development. The required design is executed without any hesitation.

The design effortlessly connects the house to the landscape and reconciles it with the surroundings. At the same time, it serves another purpose: that of protecting the inhabitants against extreme climatic conditions and against any other unwanted “visitors”, such as aspirants or invaders. The houses are cramped in the narrow, labyrinthine streets to withstand the strong winds. The gates offer protection against the rain in winter and the sun in summer. Great care is taken in the whitewashing of the structures, in order to protect the houses from the summer heat by reflecting the sun’s rays. Finally, the thick walls offer excellent insulation against both high and low temperatures. As for protection against invaders, the inhabitants retreated to the castle in case of danger, but the tiny windows and doors of the houses were also designed for defense.

Most of the houses in Chora were built over 200 years ago. The only exceptions are a number of old houses and some neoclassical buildings. These neoclassical houses, the “mansions” (archontika) of the island, which were built at the beginning of the 20th century, have two floors, with a pediment and plaster columns on the facade. On the ground floor is a large room with a hearth in one corner, used for heating and cooking, and a table in the middle for the daily family meal. The formal dining room, in which dinners were held for weddings and all family celebrations, is on the upper floor. It is a large room called a sala, furnished with a central table on which a Venetian lamp was placed, a sofa decorated with embroidery or traditional textiles and a cabinet with a mirror, usually adorned with a few photographs. To enter this room, you had to go through a so-called boudi veranda, which was accessed by an outside staircase. There was often a secondary interior spiral staircase called the klavani. The bedrooms are to the right and left of the sala, with which they communicate directly.

In the countryside there are still a number of old houses whose purpose was to support the agricultural activities of the inhabitants, mainly during the summer. They are constructed very simply and are normally one-story buildings with one or two rooms. These small houses are normally found grouped together in groups of five or six, forming small colonies called katikies.

In the context of architecture, it is worth mentioning the many very interesting churches found in Chora or scattered throughout the island, which add their own characteristic tone to the landscape.

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