A proposal from George Batzios Architects for the Konaki Averof Cultural Center in Greece uses a cutting edge, sustainable approach to revive a deeply historical site. The design intertwines elements of architecture and agriculture to refit an existing structure with reference to the Thessalian plains on which it lies. The new architecture recreates the existing envelopes with straw cladding, regenerating the "golden environment" which defined the place in the late 19th century.
The structure is scattered among the ruins of buildings in the Thessalian plains, a vast site that once functioned as the granary of the Greek territory and beyond. Georges Batzios propose that the historical architecture cannot simply be reinterpreted as a copy, as the landscape has evolved to the extent that the original architecture is no longer functional. The urban life that existed there has become superseded by the growing urbanization of nearby Larissa, and the vibrancy of the existing structures has faded.
The architects propose that the unique characteristics of Konaki Averof are invigorated by combining the qualities of the old with the capability of modern construction technology. The context and the addition relate dominantly through materiality, enabling the refitting of the building to revitalize "the site, not only the artifact."
The Thessalian land traditionally bore golden wheat crops, which is directly translated into the evolved building's primary material: straw. The exposed straw is compressed and forms the entire outer skin of the building. This construction technique, developed in Northern Europe, is here used to this extent for the first time. The material's insulation capabilities are able to reduce 95% of the building's energy needs, creating a passive thermal environment. Visually, it presents a golden glow, reinstating the lost color and texture of the plains.
The main area of the building contains two levels; the ground floor, which houses the functionality of the building, and the attic, which becomes the "social playground." The two are rationalized in completely different ways, the first a clear segregation of programmatic elements and the latter a public open space, able to be used freely.
The proposition was developed as a response to the Konaki Averof Cultural Center Competition, in which Georges Batzios received second place.
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PhotographsCourtesy of Georges Batzios Architects