Excerpt: Vora Villas, designed by K-Studio and set on a steep and relatively small site, called for innovative solutions to the challenges of circulation and layout but also allowed for spectacular views and vistas at every turn. A sharp-edged channel of gray volcanic rock paves the way down from the entrance and reception, which are at the top of the site, twisting and ricocheting from an angled wall, slicing a soft white mass into three separate and unique villas.
[Text as submitted by architect] The brief was to design a small boutique hotel on a dramatic site on the edge of the volcano of Santorini. The client, a native of the island, had a vision and determination that drove the project from beginning to end and gave us the opportunity to push the concept and its realization to the very edge, in all senses. The result is a truly unique and dramatic design that celebrates the inherent energy of the client, the architectural traditions of the island, and the intensity of the hotel’s crater-edge location.
The steep inclination of the relatively small site called for innovative solutions to the challenges of circulation and layout but also allowed for spectacular views and vistas at every turn. A sharp-edged channel of gray volcanic rock paves the way down from the entrance and reception, which are at the top of the site, twisting and ricocheting from an angled wall, slicing a soft white mass into three separate and unique villas. The villas are neat, compact, and dynamic, taking on a sculpted form when juxtaposed against the straight edge of the volcanic rock path and retaining walls.
Traditionally, the houses in such villages are small, cramped, and overlooked. To provide a high-end experience, the idea was to create spaces for the guests with the utmost privacy possible. The renovation of the original cave villa retained its characteristic layout of three rooms that moved in succession deeper into the rock. Literally carved out of the mountain, the curves of the vaulted ceilings soften the shadows, removing sharp lines and blending them into the darker space towards the back of the plan. Views and light are exploited in the façade, but the cooler, darker space further back invites guests to retreat from the oppressive heat outside.
This villa sits above the two newly constructed villas, which slice its linear plan in half, stacking one on top of the other so that each villa features an upper level of living space and a lower level of bedroom space. This arrangement allows for light and view to dominate in all areas, and with each villa carefully angled to take in the sunset from a unique viewpoint, guests’ privacy is also maintained.
The two driving forces behind the concept were the volcanic rock and the traditional local vernacular architecture. We wanted to reveal and control the drama and thrill of the site while providing guests with comfort, privacy, and a relaxed lifestyle. We worked with the natural volcanic rock to cut routes through the site and retain its boundaries, and with charred wood and blackened gunmetal to highlight the power of nature within the villas. We then juxtaposed these with the soft curves of the traditional ‘Aspa’ render and white lime wash finish and introduced lighter stone finishes and naturally pale linens to bring a balancing sense of cool and calm to the interiors.
Guests experience a series of carefully choreographed contrasts: the wide open exposure to the sun and view against the cool darkness of the cave rock; black volcanic rock and burned finishes against cool white curves and calming pale textures; dark with light; sharp with soft; drama with total relaxation. The hotel is intense and complex, yet laid out with clarity and designed with authenticity.