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Voronoi’s Corrals

Info

Voronoi’s Corrals is a landscape in Southern Milos with a total area of 100.000 m² where we have inserted 5 corrals. The outlines of the corrals define clear borders between the wild landscape that surrounds them and the new residential and agricultural uses that they contain. The project, that was completed in two stages in the span of eight years, lies somewhere between the practice of architecture and landscape architecture.

Credits

Location Milos, Greece
Area 100.000 m²
Year 2011-2018
2011
2012
2014
2016
2018
Design
Construction
DECA Team
Design team
Minna Colakis, Stefanos Nassopoulos, Jo Burtenshaw, Alison Katri, Eva Tsouni, Roza Giannopoulou
Collaborators
Structural Engineers:
ERISMA G.P.
Mechanical Engineers:
TEKEM SA | Consulting Engineers
Construction Management:
DECAarchitecture, Dimitra Palaiologou
Planting Consultant:
Kalliopi Grammatikopoulou

Awards

Orchard Corral

The Orchard Corral is the largest of Voronoi’s Corrals, with an area of 20,000m². It contains 550 olive trees, grape vines, a vegetable garden, a parking area and a small guest house with two bedrooms. It preserves the agricultural nature of the property hosting the largest olive grove on the island of Milos, expected to produce two tons of olive oil annually when the olive trees reach maturity.

The limits of the corral are defined by a stone wall that meanders around the landscape for about 700m forming a closed loop. As the topography slopes downwards towards the sea, the corral wall increases in height to and becomes the façade of the guest house. The small building is hidden from view, covered by one meter of earth that provides natural thermal insulation for all the living spaces bellow while allowing the root systems of the olives to develop freely above them. The olive field is only interrupted by an incision in the ground, that slopes down towards the guest house. Sliding panels disappear into the walls transforming the public space in between the bedrooms into an exterior area while providing through and through natural ventilation for the guest house.

An horizontal geothermal system runs for a total length of 600 meters parallel to the corral walls. The geothermal system consists of water pipes located two meters underground that maintain the water that is used for heating and the cooling at a steady temperature of 14 degrees Celsius, thus significantly reducing the carbon footprint domestic spaces. A borehole reaches 120 meters into the ground to collect sea water that is treated in a desalination unit and then used for the irrigation and domestic needs of the corrals.

The Orchard Corral proposes a living typology where agricultural uses coexist harmoniously with domestic uses using environmentally conscious strategies for natural thermal insulation, natural ventilation, heating, cooling and water management.

Hourglass Corral

The Hourglass Corral is the largest domestic environment of the property and the latest corral to be designed and constructed. It is nestled within a plateau just above the Orchard Corral. Its organization is derived from a parametric manipulation of Voronoi cells to relate specific views to its domestic program. Each cell corresponds to a clearly defined use, be it an exterior courtyard, a shading canopy, a common space, a bedroom, or an auxiliary space.
From the interior the ceilings of each cell folds upwards towards its center point where the ceiling is pierced by a circular skylight. This creates an organic, flowing interior roof-scape.

This spatial definition is emphasised through functional details such as operable skylights that allow for passive ventilation, custom fabricated pendant lights, the expansion joints of the concrete floors and mechanical diaphragms that controls the amount of daylight in the bedrooms. More importantly, the organization of the Voronoi cells works to make an environment which creates encounters, making it the social nexus of the entire project.

The Hourglass Corral is also dedicated to the cultivation of Mediterranean plant species used for the extraction of essential oils. The cultivated cells encompass the entire corral, covering the roofs of the building and making the house 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.

Immersion Corral

The Immersion Corral is a small, two bedroom house and a pool located at the most dramatic location of the site. A small plateau sits at the lip of a cliff, protected by a small hill in the back. From there, the view opens to an undisturbed 270 degree horizon where the sea meets the sky. In the foreground, the ragged coastline is characterized by chalk-like rock formations that become steep cliffs as they approach the sea. They reveal the geological strata of the volcanic Island of Milos.

The house looks like a sea animal with four limbs nestled into the hill. Five distinct spaces are divided by four courtyards. Three public areas (for living, dinning and cooking) are oriented individually towards different views of the coastline. They merge together in the center forming a living area that combines the sensation of an open plan organization while preserving distinct areas for different uses.

The roof is tallest at the center and slopes downwards towards its extremities. The form is informed by the gradients of the surrounding topography. The exterior shell of the volume is made by the stacking, coursing and stepping of white long limestone blocks that age naturally over long periods of time. They blend into the surrounding chalk-like cliffs, while providing natural thermal insulation.
The building makes no allusion to a vernacular past but to the ‘future primitive’ which exists in the site.

Preservation & Isolation Corrals

The Preservation corral contains a grove of fruit trees that are unique to the island and are nearly extinct. It is located in a small pocket of agricultural land with an area of 580m² surrounded by a stone wall. The land has been cultivated since the distant past because it is well protected from the winds.

A narrow foot path links the Preservation Corral with the Isolation Corral another plateau in a small clearing. It is the most isolated location on the site, surrounded by wilderness and in close proximity to a small brook. It is also the smallest corral, built by hand to preserve the surrounding nature. A stone wall defines the corral protecting the fruits trees from the goats. In one corner, a small roof saddles the stone walls. This is common in stone vernacular agricultural structures. Under the roof one can sleep, read, write and relax.

Each corral is completely unique, taking cues from the location where it is integrated.

The landscape of Southern Milos can be classified into three broad environments: Near the sea, the chalk cliffs descend into the sea, revealing consecutive layers of volcanic geological strata. Further inland, the wild Cycladic forest is prevalent, short herbs and shrubs with incredible biodiversity, varying blooming periods and enticing smells. Nestled within the Cycladic forest are small voids, pockets of land that were formerly agricultural and are currently mostly unused.

What all the corrals share in common, is an evolving experimentation with the geometrical grids that were defined by a Russian mathematician called Georgy Voronoi.

Georgy Voronoi devised a mathematical formula. The inputs of this formula are points that are distributed within a plane. The result of the formula is a grid that defines cells around the points. The boarders of each cell lie half-way between the points.
Voronoi grids are very different to Cartesian ones. In Voronoi grids, points need to be defined before the grid is calculated while Cartesian grids are defined first and the location of points are identified in relation to the grid. Cartesian grids are orthogonal, they are imposed on a plane, a landscape or a city. Voronoi grids are organic, they adapt to the points that one chooses to define.

Planting Thesaurus

At the beginning of the project a botanist was commissioned to study the diversity of the flora of this specific site. She found a rich ecosystem of over 86 different species. This information became the guideline for the selection of plants for the corrals. Throughout the seasons, during the design of the project, seeds were collected from the site. At the end of construction, the seeds were mixed into the top soil in order to recover the areas of the landscape affected by the construction process.

Below is a list of the species planted in the different corrals:

Management of Construction

Voronoi’s corrals was the first large project for which we assumed the responsibility for the planning and management of the construction process. This gave us the opportunity to focus on craft in a way that was beyond our, already high, standards and expectations. During the planning process we interviewed over 50 craftsmen seeking for people that combined an uncompromising ability to make nice things, a sensitivity towards the environment and the ability to collaborate within a team. The interviewing process gave us the opportunity to see good craftsmen at work and, with their help, to refine the aspects of the project that related to their craft. It also allowed us to connect with the society of Milos since we spent time with a large spectrum of people from the island, with different social, educational and national backgrounds.

External References

PUBLICATION

Natura Magazine

“Voronoi’s Corrals was built at the edge of the cliffs of the shoreline of Milos Island in 2012. The total construction area of 60 hectares with the 376 m2 residential  building was determined by Natura 2000 planning legislation for the administration of construction in natural preservation sites in the European Union.”

PUBLICATION

Living on Water, PHAIDON

“Located on a large, protected nature estate on the Greek island Milos, Voronoil’s Corrals is a house with a primitive quality. Positioned carefully to take advantage of breezes, the movement of the sun, the sounds of water, and the existing vegetation, the house grew from a concept of a simple grid based on the ideas of Russian mathematician Georgy Voronoy”

PUBLICATION

AREA Architecture and Landscape

“Only local Mediterranean varieties were selected to minimize the irrigation needs. The scale of the corral provided the opportunity to absorb the excavation material of the entire site, reshape the topography, and install a horizontal geothermal network which provides energy efficient cooling and heating for the entire project.”

PUBLICATION

a+a Magazine

“The Immersion Corral is on a plateau at the edge of the white tuff and limestone cliffs which characterises the southerns coast of the island. Here the senses are bombarded by the presence of the raw natural elements: the sounds of the sea, the intensity of the sun and the wind, and the board views of a horizon framed by geological formations.”

PUBLICATION

DOMES, International Review of Architecture

“The overall design strategy was to segregate the rural areas of the landscape from the wild ones with clearly defined borders that form four distinct corrals. The boundaries of the corrals were marked out on the landscape with stone-built walls. Each corral takes clues from its micro-environment and adopts sustainable strategies .”

PUBLICATION

ENTRE MUROS

In November 2015, the “Immersion Corral” was included in “Entre Muros” magazine, a Mexican architectural magazine.