Xerolithi House seamlessly blends into the hillscape of Serifos island in Greece

This summer house is an inconspicuous structure designed by Sinas Architects and experiments with alternative forms, instead of the archetypical island architecture.

by Devanshi ShahPublished on : May 20, 2021

The imagery that is invoked when one thinks about the architecture of the Greek Islands are the visions of scattered and stacked white boxes with terraces that overlook generous vista of the natural shorelines and sea. This is particularly true for the Cyclades Islands group that constitutes a part of the Aegean Sea archipelago. The style has become synonymous with the region and is often referred to as Cycladic architecture. This typology of structures stands in contrast to its natural landscape. While the streets and the placement of its structure follows a natural sinuous curve of the hill they are placed on, each cube stands out as a distinct form within its surroundings. Tucked away in the hills of the Serifos Island, an inconspicuous structure called Xerolithi House, designed by Sinas Architects, experiments with alternative forms, instead of the archetypical island architecture.

  • View of the house from the shore | Xerolithi House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    View of the house from the shore Image: Yiorgos Kordakis, Courtesy of Sinas Architects
  • George Sinas | Xerolithi House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    George Sinas of Sinas Architects Image: Courtesy of Sinas Architects

Deeply embedded within its geographical context, the structure is nearly invisible. It blends into its natural environment and takes its cue from the existing elements, slopes, and contours. The external walls of the house flow in conjunction with the contours of the hill it is placed on. In addition to the natural elements, the house also incorporates existing stone retaining walls, locally called xerolithies, into its form. George Sinas, the architect behind this project, comments on the importance of this existing wall saying, “Created a long time ago for land cultivation purposes. These walls, usually not more than a meter in height, formed flat strips of land parallel to the slope and extended along the entire surface of the hillside. The site with its xerolithies was the spark of inspiration”.

  • VConceptual sketch | Xerolithi House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    Conceptual sketch Image: Courtesy of Sinas Architects
  • Plan of the Xerolithi House | Xerolithi House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    Plan of the Xerolithi House Image: Courtesy of Sinas Architects
  • Sections of the Xerolithi House | Xerolithi House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    Sections of the Xerolithi House Image: Courtesy of Sinas Architects

Sinas wanted to challenge the morphological preconception of the Cycladic home, by re-envisioning the main facades of the house as “xerolithies”. Referencing the traditional style and technique of the region, this main exterior wall has been constructed using stone with no joint mortar. As the house nuzzles against the slope, the structure is only visible when seen from the shore looking up towards the hill. The summer home blends into the landscape when seen from afar or from on top of the hill. While the house is linear, the plan does not consist of any straight wall along the contours. The wall moves gently closer and away from the slope, but are not parallel. This allows for the interior spaces to open up at certain sections to consistently create variations in the volume of the structure. 

  • The main facades of the house is a reinterpretation of the xerolithies | Xerolithi House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    The main facades of the house is a reinterpretation of the “xerolithies” Image: Yiorgos Kordakis, Courtesy of Sinas Architects
  • The exterior wall is constructed using stone with no joint mortar | Xerolithi House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    The exterior wall is constructed using stone with no joint mortar Image: Yiorgos Kordakis, Courtesy of Sinas Architects

Because the walls seem to move independently from one another, they create spaces in between them which are unique. All the functions of the house are placed sequentially, adding to its long and narrow form. This particular aspect of the home makes it distinctive when compared to the more cuboidal forms generally associated with the Greek islands. The 245-square-meter house has a living room, dining space, an open kitchen, a master bedroom, and two independent guest bedrooms. The house is technically split into two parts, with one section that comprises the main house, with the master bedroom, kitchen, living and dining space. The two guest rooms are on the other end of the long and narrow structure. The two sections of the house are connected by an open dining space which is covered with a traditional bamboo pergola.

  • Interior view of the living room | Xerolithi House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    Interior view of the living room Image: Yiorgos Kordakis, Courtesy of Sinas Architects
  • Interior view of the kitchen | Xerolithi House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    Interior view of the kitchen Image: Yiorgos Kordakis, Courtesy of Sinas Architects

The motif and detail of the pergola are seen throughout the length of the house, both on the inside and outside. Its wooden raw beams are kept in their natural colour and trail the curvilinear morphology of the walls. The beams supporting this structure take on a similar form, and look like vertebrae on a long spinal cord. One of the techniques used to knit the bamboo was the fishbone, it created a unique pattern that added a texture to the shadow it casts.

  • Outdoor dining covered with a wooden pergola | Xerolithi House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    Outdoor dining covered with a wooden pergola Image: Yiorgos Kordakis, Courtesy of Sinas Architects
  • Details of the courtyard | Xerolithi House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    Details of the courtyard Image: Yiorgos Kordakis, Courtesy of Sinas Architects
  • View of the courtyard | Xerolithi House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    View of the courtyard Image: Yiorgos Kordakis, Courtesy of Sinas Architects

Along the longer edges of the home are two open-to-sky spaces that encompass the living spaces. An open-to-sky courtyard is inserted between the structure and the existing xerolithies against the slope. This courtyard also has two grand staircases, along the shorter edges, that lead down into the space. The main house even has windows that look into this space. Facing the shore is an expansive terrace that offers a grand view. The doors and windows, all made of wood and painted a light olive colour, are carefully inserted to create framed vistas. The two open spaces are connected through the outdoor dining space.

  • View of the xerolithies| Xerolithies House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    View of the xerolithies Image: Yiorgos Kordakis, Courtesy of Sinas Architects
  • Drone footage from above the house | Xerolithi House | Sinas Architects | STIRworld
    Drone footage from above the house Image: Yiorgos Kordakis, Courtesy of Sinas Architects

The variations in the massing of the house allow for a more dynamic spatial experience, while also enabling the home to feel larger than it truly is. By attaching itself so closely to its geographical context the house provides privacy from outside. While from the inside one can experience their natural surroundings with immense ease.

Project Details

Name: Xerolithi House
Location: Serifos, Cyclades
Area: 245 sqm
Year of completion: 2021
Architect: George Sinas, Sinas Architects
In collaboration: Maria Mamoura
Interior Decoration: Olga Ktena

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