By Jesse Hirsch (modern farmer magazine) on September 26, 2014
Photography by Sylvia Diamantopoulou
With his latest conversion project, Greek architect Ioannis Exarchou was not attempting to create a pampered getaway. He took a 100-year-old stable on Tinos, a remote island in the Aegean Sea, and crafted a masterwork of minimalist design.
Exarchou titled his project “Retreat,” even though its size is a spare 148 square feet. Built between 2008 and 2009, Retreat is both psychological and spiritual, a monastic refuge from our garish, plugged-in modern culture. The floors are colored concrete, the walls white plaster. Its effect is not unlike a well-designed cave. When Exarchou speaks of the property’s “amenities,” he’s referring to the most basic of flourishes, like indoor plumbing and a table.
These days, with hotels and resorts boasting their lack of connectivity, and Silicon Valley-types paying good money to spend weekends without their cell phones, Exarchou’s Retreat is oddly in style. With no WiFi signal, and no electricity for that matter, life is dialed back to its essentials. You get to spend time with your own thoughts, a luxury increasingly in short supply.
“Most people that visit Alonaki [Retreat] are a little uneasy in the first few days,” says the building’s owner, “but after a few days they are ‘reborn’ and totally go with its rhythm.”
That rhythm is symbolic as well as literal. Exarchou says the acoustics of Retreat are remarkable, magnifying the slightest sound. A dish being set on a counter, say, or stocking feet scuffling across the floor.
This is a bespoke space for two. It’s hard to imagine fitting more people. But lest you start to feel claustrophobic, the owner points out that everything is relative.
“If you were from Tokyo, this would feel like more than enough space,” he says. “We’re just used to bigger living areas.” Interestingly, most of Retreat’s renters are from Paris. The owner suspects there may be a cultural draw. He doesn’t think the space’s appeal resonates as strongly among his fellow Greeks…
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