On a cove on the Cycladic island of Kythnos, Kathy and Chris Saccopoulos have built a unique living space. Its polyhedral building forms and lightweight ferrocement construction are pragmatic responses to the challenges of the site, preserving at the same time the scale, complexity, and visual appeal of a traditional island village.

  

   The Little Village, built on the Cycladic island of Kythnos, Greece, is the second home of Kathy and Chris Saccopoulos. We are academics, now retired, who taught at American universities. Christos is an architect, and Kathy is a photojournalist.
   We purchased Gastromeni, a tract of land on the southernmost cove of Trivlaka Bay, in 1972 and started construction shortly thereafter, primarily through personal labor, during our summer vacations. Locals dubbed our complex of buildings The Little Village (Mikro Horio in Greek), a name that delights us, for it demonstrates that our intentions were appreciated by non-architects (as well as architects — the project has received two American Institute of Architects awards).
   The Aegean coastline, the starkness of the Cycladic landscape, and the remoteness from any settlement are qualities that attracted us to the site. Along with remoteness, however, came lack of utilities and, until recently, inaccessibility to the site by land transportation. The problems of inhabiting such a site are formidable.
   The Little Village is our solution to these problems; it reflects our concerns, and it presents to the island community (and to the world beyond through this website) challenges to conventional practices.
  • First, it is a critique of the prevailing "neo-traditional" style of the past 40 years (which relies on a potpourri of iconic elements garnered from all over the Mediterranean basin) by presenting an alternate path of evolution from the traditional Cycladic architecture that is based on the endearing village qualities of complexity and human scale. Attesting to the powers of visual illusion inherent in these abstract qualities, the footprint of the four polyhedral structures comprising the Little Village adds up to a mere 140 sq. m.
  • Second, it is an exemplar of sustainable design, affirming the viability of environmentally sensitive approaches, including: power through photovoltaics; minimization of building mass through use of ferrocement; climate control through building geometry and cross-ventilation; water sufficiency through rainwater collection; hot water from a solar heater; soil improvement through composting; establishment of native trees, facilitated by drip irrigation and gray-water use; enhanced pollination through the introduction of beehives; and insect control through the construction of a bat house to attract bats.
  • Third, it is a record of experimentation with concrete (the primary building material in Greece) in a direction away from the usual massive applications towards lightweight uses, including the ferrocement envelope of the polyhedral buildings and of the gates; the use of precast sections as fencing materials and furniture; and the development of techniques for casting of the doors, shutters, and their frames, which now secure all building openings.
The project integrates architecture with sculpture and with landscape architecture. Examples include: the garden terraces which radiate from the center of the adjacent octagonal tower on one of the buildings; Aeolus' Balls, five spheres suspended from the ridge of a roof by a rigging system of pipes and cable; Homage to Michael Ventris, a conical birdbath elevated on a tripod designed using tensegrity principles; the entrance gate to Gastromeni, whose pillars bear graphics of welcome and a testament to the power of geometry to enrich the mind; and the Lararium, located by the compound's gate, a shrine to Christos' architect-ancestors, tracing his professional lineage to concrete pioneer Auguste Perret. Spheres, cone, gates, and lares (ancestral spirits) are — naturally — cast in concrete.

Additional Saccopoulos Websites


Background Information:
Mikro Horio Today:

Historical Overview:

The Architecture:
Landscaping:

Village of Driopis on Kythnos