The Participatory Project Under the Landscape initiates a tangible approach to the vernacular building techniques and the traditional craftsmanship of Therasia, while exploring multiple aspects of the place and its landscape through alternative patterns for cultural heritage appreciation and knowledge dissemination. Within this framework and having as a launch pad the theran volcanic materials, the following events were organised between 23rd August and 24th September 2021:
A professional apprenticeship of young technicians, with trainers and trainees from Therasia, Thera and other areas of Greece
A hands-on workshop unfolded in two directions: traditional building techniques and contemporary sculpture
The restoration project focused on the repair of a large part of the central cobblestone (kalderimi) of the underground settlement of Agrilia, as well as its lateral walls, using the dry stone technique. The stone path was restored from the entrance of the settlement up to the historical Church of the Presentation of Virgin Mary, an important landmark for the inhabitants of Therasia.
The central cobblestone pathway used to be the main road and public space of the settlement, while it also functioned as a river’s bed with the seasonal flow of the streams. Even today, locals indiscriminately use the terms ‘road’ and ‘river’ to refer to it.
With these particular characteristics in mind, construction improvements were not only designed to better manage the water flow, but also to enhance the public space: by reinforcing weak parts of the pathway, widening several areas, using the natural formations and creating rest stops. A particular challenge was the integration of a modern, underground water supply and sewerage pipe network, in cooperation with the local public agency, in an attempt to balance the preservation of traditional characteristics with meeting modern needs.
At the same time, parts of two underground rainwater collection cisterns, were integrated into the structure of the pathway and in direct functional relation to it, and were repaired with theran mortars. The internal surfaces were repaired with a system of plasters from lime and ‘theran earth’ and by applying a final waterproofing layer with the traditional technique - in which high pressure is applied to the last layer with a special stone (kochlidi) - the so-called 'pressed' coating or patito. The outer cistern area, for collecting and directing the water, was reconstructed by applying the technique of ‘pumice concrete’, a local traditional concrete made of lime, ‘theran earth’ and pumices.
The pathway and the cisterns compile a significant architectural complex within Agrilia’s residential plan, while revealing aspects of the vernacular technology; the drystone building and the preparation of mortars with the local volcanic materials. Both of these almost forgotten techniques are remarkable since they depict an intrinsic linkage with the raw materials’ exploitation and they constitute both tangible and intangible heritage, as well as experienced knowledge living in local memories.
The restoration works were completed through the professional apprenticeship and the 12-day hands-on workshop, while the local community was engaged through days of open participation.
Professional apprenticeship for young technicians
During five (5) weeks (23 August – 24 September 2021) four (4) young technicians were trained on the use of the local volcanic materials under the guidance of three (3) expert masons, Several residents from Therasia and Thera were among the trainers and apprentices.
“Boulouki” fosters the direct involvement of professionals who reside and are active in the areas where its projects take place, as a strategy aiming to the reclamation of the local building craft from its modern enactors, the local masons.
During two (2) weeks (6 – 17 September 2021), students and professionals from various disciplines were familiarised with the theran volcanic materials through two directions:
Direction 'Traditional Building Techniques'
Twenty (20) young architects, engineers, conservators and artists – including several selected undergraduate students from the ETH-Zurich, Department of Architecture – corroborated the restoration works and delved into the vernacular building craft and materials, as well as into modern architectural approaches and alternative patterns of cultural management.
Apart from the restoration project, the workshop focused on the study of the underground and vaulted structures of the island and their special building techniques, through field research, practical experimentation, and the guidance of masons and experts over the progressive use of raw materials and tools.
Direction 'Contemporary Sculpture'
In the forecourt of the historical Monastery of the Assumption of Virgin Mary, near a major archaeological prehistoric excavation site, nine (9) ASFA students used the local volcanic materials in modern sculptural creations, through a 12-day residency and under the guidance of an experienced ASFA instructor. Based on the scientific and artistic research results, they experimented with diverse mixes of ‘aspa’ with lime and defined their limitations and transformations through varioussculptural techniques.
The creation of original artworks inspired by the place’s identity and materiality is an initiative which promotes contemporary Greek art and its linkage with architecture and cultural heritage. The artworks will be exhibited during the Symposium that will take place in the spring of 2022.