Nikos Karaflos, the visionary entrepreneur-turned-hotelier, initially contacted Athens-based k-studio several years ago with an idea to transform an abandoned wine factory on the west coast of mainland Greece, into a hotel. After a long process of design, development and bureaucracy, his dedication is finally paying off, as Phase 1 of the project is complete and the Dexamenes Seaside Hotel is now open.
The history of Dexamenes dates back to the “Era of Currants”. Since the liberation of Greece in 1830, the cultivation of currants took on impressive dimensions as the main export of the Greek Kingdom. But when the “Currants’ Crisis” broke out in 1910, the trade of currants collapsed and the need to convert the unsold stock into alternative products, such as wine, was born. This was when the first wineries and distilleries were created. Dexamenes was built literally on the sea so that the ships could be loaded with wine via pipes constructed as a platform on the beach of Kourouta, and then set sail for the major overseas markets.
The derelict, industrial structures that characterise the site have been left relatively untouched since the 1920s, sitting quietly on a place that literally dips its toes in the water of one of the most unspoiled and beautiful stretches of coastline in the western Peloponnese. It is a naturally ideal location for a hotel.
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“From the outset it was clear to us all that the strong history and raw beauty of the existing buildings should not only be preserved, but be delicately showcased in a design that would breathe new life into their walls, compliment their brutality with elegant interventions and so transform their austere functionality into a place of calm, comfort and relaxation,” explains the design team at k-studio.
This transformation was the primary challenge of the project. After testing various ideas on plan, the vision began to come clear. “We needed to play on the bare aesthetic of the site, work with it and avoid introducing any elements or materials alien to it,” says the team. “This realisation helped to define our palette of concrete, steel and engineered glass, with the addition of timber as a nod to the nautical connection of the site to the sea.”
It also became clear that new construction should tread lightly and leave the existing buildings relatively untouched. The key to the design was to contrast and balance out the old and new by elegantly utilising an industrial palette.
Dominating the site are two existing concrete blocks that are divided into 10 storage tanks. These approximately measure 5m x 6m – perfectly sized for hotel rooms. K-studio quickly established a linear plan of identical rooms, with views directed towards the beach. Phase 1 of the development has seen the conversion of this first row of tanks as well as the addition of a lightweight structure at one end of the block, all connected by a wide walkway raised above the sand, leading down to the water.
Each individual tank is a cool, private and monastic space, sitting in stark contrast to the heat and exposure to the outside elements. Large sliding windows can be fully opened to the patio or kept closed to retain the cool without closing off the view. The 30sqm internal volume is carefully designed to sit within the exposed concrete walls of the tank without inhibiting their unique texture and patina. Each room features a double bed adjacent to a single bed that can act as a sofa, and an open wardrobe with a storage area. The bathroom is separated by a wall of textured glass that allows light from the window to reach the back of the tank.
Polished terrazzo surfaces act as a link to the texture of beach-pebble aggregates. These were revealed when the concrete walls were sliced through during the construction of the window openings. A large double shower and separated WC bring a sense of luxurious comfort to the minimal, pared-down interior.
Strategically placed steel spotlights are positioned along a steel framework that supports the various elements of the room. The frame snakes from the bathroom, the bedroom and out to the shading screen and canopy on the patio. It then continues, linking each tank before wrapping around the end of the block to provide the support for the lounge, bar and reception.
The metal framework acts as a thin black underline to the new interventions, signifying the delicate approach to bringing warm hospitality to an industrial site.
Phase 1 of Dexamenes Seaside Hotel has seen the transformation of just 8 of the 40 tanks within the first of the 2 existing concrete blocks. Phase 2, planned for 2019, will continue to transform the first block to provide more rooms and facilities, with plans to introduce a lush vine-garden, a taverna, a boutique selling local produce, and a history room that will connect visitors to the story of the site.
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[Images courtesy of k-studio. Photography by Claus Brechenmacher & Reiner Bauman.]
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