by Jerry ElengicalOct 05, 2021
Gracing the gently sloping terrain of an olive grove in the Peloponnese region of southern Greece, KHI House and Art Space by LASSA Architects stands out as a rounded cruciate form in white concrete. The residence’s chalky edifice offers a stark contrast to the rolling plains and tree-covered hills that define the nearby village of Methoni, while its smooth curves simultaneously entertain an air of lightness and organic integration into the agrarian surroundings. Reinterpreting the characteristics of traditional Greek residential architecture and tempering them with minimalist sensibilities, the residence is composed of a single continuous wall that winds along the site into an X-shaped form.
LASSA Architects mentions, "KHI House and Art Space is part of an ongoing research together with another one of our projects - Villa Ypsilon, exploring the democratisation of non-standard architecture, through the development of bespoke but affordable constructive strategies and partial self-construction." Co-founded in London in 2009 by Theo Sarantoglou Lalis and Dora Sweijd, LASSA Architects operates at the confluence of art, technology and social science. Elaborating on the underlying concepts that moulded KHI House’s final form, in an official release, LASSA Architects co-founder, Theo Sarantoglou Lalis, relays: “The home was commissioned by an art collector couple and combines elements of a gallery typology with a monastery typology of enclosed gardens." The salient features of these archetypes are recreated by the structure’s four wings, which naturally carve out the site into an equal number of distinct zones which serve as courtyards.
This arrangement confers shade upon the eastern gardens and forges an air of visual intimacy, resulting in silent, contemplative spaces that possess a Zen-like ambience. “KHI merges two extreme conditions which complement one another - the courtyards that provide meditative enclosure, and the west wing and roof which in contrast offer unobstructed panoramic views towards the sea," says Lalis. In order to prevent the structure from visually dominating its setting, KHI House’s height is restrained to match those of the olive trees in its vicinity. The residence’s massing also inclines downwards near the terminal ends of the wings, which are sunken into the terrain, as the height of the façade design gradually diminishes to 1.2m. Exterior surfaces are replete with cast concrete ripples that animate a play of light and texture across the home’s surfaces throughout the day.
From the entryway, which features a front door punctured with warping perforations, an open hallway enclosure greets guests, acting as a common space that links all four wings. Inside, the natural curves and continuous white surfaces craft a sequence of spaces with little distinction between walls and ceilings. The west wing hosts most of the shared spaces, including the living and dining areas, that overlook a pill-shaped swimming pool with a view of the sea. A sea-facing terrace is also accessible by way of a floating staircase that runs along the external wall of this space.
Besides this, KHI House accommodates three bedrooms, corresponding with the remaining wings, that all extend into a terrace and courtyard. The winding exterior wall curves to enclose a lemon tree within each of these spaces, with the lack of corners and hard edges serving to visually expand the courtyard’s domain. Absorbing the changing colours of the sky, the enclosing walls guide the eye upwards, placing the heavens and nature as the focal point of the residential design. Bespoke lighting design elements and concealed ceiling fixtures interject the pure white surfaces of the interior design. A combination of locally-sourced terrazzo and concrete has been used in the flooring throughout the house, alongside a selection of marble products.
Adhering to the architects’ desire to rely on local materials and labour, the residence was built by local contractors with LASSA Architects’ experience in digital design and fabrication supplementing their efforts. Much of the structure was produced off site - a decision enabled by the architecture firm’s collaboration with a company specialising in polystyrene products with utilities that ranged from the fishing industry to infrastructure design. As a consequence, elements such as the bespoke lighting fixtures and furnishings, as well as the concrete formwork for the rippling wall, were fabricated by means of a digital hot wire. The resulting lightness of the formwork modules permitted the contractors to transport and install them on-site in just a few days. Furthermore, the construction process also limited the use of industrially produced modules - reusing the formwork after casting as insulation for the wall and ceiling cavities. The earth excavated from the site was also reutilised to enable a softer integration of the structure into its context.
Oozing calmness and understatement, KHI House’s organic architecture, coupled with its restrained use of texture and colour, infuses the residence with silence and clarity, while both honouring and redefining the architectural standards of its context.
Name: KHI House
Location: Methoni, Greece
Area: 200 sqm
Design Architect: LASSA - Theo Sarantoglou Lalis and Dora Sweijd, with Jonathan Cheng (Project Architect), Nikolas Klimentidis, Jocelyn Arnold, Raz Keltsh
Local Architect: V. Kosmopoulos
Structural Engineer: Metep - L. Babilis
Formwork Production Design: LASSA
Mechanical Engineer: D. Mantas
General Contractor: V. Spyropoulos