Surrounded by Unesco ancient ruins and pure nature, Amanzoe resort & villas found its new home on a hilltop in Peloponnese – the heart of Greek culture – where time stands still. A modern-day Acropolis, home of goddess Athena, is surrounded by breathtaking views towards olive groves, pine forests and the turquoise of the Aegean Sea. Designed to meld with the land, landscape interventions create a remarkable sense of place, enticing the guests to feel “there” rather than “anywhere”.
Instead of creating a heterotopia, we recognized the elements of the existing landscape: the pine forests, the maquis and phrygana aromatic vegetation, the grand old olive and carob trees, the vineyards, the wheat-fields, and the stone agricultural walls. These elements are re-used in the resort to form various qualities, from refined to wild, and provide for a multitude of sensations, and a feeling that one is “in” the landscape, part of it, rather than looking at it from a distance.
The plot stands between a dense pine forest and a vast cultivation area of olives and wheat. The transition is achieved by creating landscapes of diverse density and planting, in order to enhance the Mediterranean flora and serve as home to local fauna. Current ecosystems which stretch across the site are reinforced through designed areas. Micro-climate serves environmental needs, reducing the energy used for climate control during the year. Roof gardens are essential, as they extend the adjacent landscape on a different level, provide continuity to the existing landscape and upgrade the buildings ecologically.
Huge, centuries-old olive trees – the sacred symbol of Athena – are treated with adequative respect. Using an innovative contemporary technique, first time used in Greece, we managed to transplant successfully some of the existing olives, without reducing their size or changing their shape. The olives were preserved at a temporary nursery that was set up on site, until replanted to their final location. The rest of the existing trees where strictly protected from construction with expedient earthworks.
In order to comply with the double role of the landscape design, the integration in a fragile landscape and the enhancement of the guest’s experience, the following strategy is formed:
The first phase of the project, the main core of the resort, the hotel Acropolis, is confronted with a gardener’s care. Carefully designed, colorful micro-landscapes provide a setting for the guest experience, where the protagonist is the enabled view of the surroundings. Marble and local stone are the main materials here.
While descending to the valley and moving towards the villas, the landscape gradually changes character. Paths are earthy, made of a mix of soil, gravel and special stones from the site (amygdalopetra). Native, non-irrigated plants play the leading role, while density diminishes, providing nature the space and opportunity to re-colonize. The manmade dilutes into the untouched landscape and limits disappear.
Throughout the second phase of the project, all villas maintain the main design principles, philosophy and plants outlined in the masterplan, while each has a distinct character. A special feature in the landscape design that derives from its place -location, surroundings, topography, views, existing flora, etc.- provides identity, while a couple of native plants -different in each villa- strengthen the sense of place and enable integration.
The working method provided not only for a beautiful integrated landscape, but also for important environmental gains:
One of the main factors of environmental degradation in Mediterranean areas is the use of excessive water in current irrigation methods. We minimized this irresponsible practice and took measures to conserve water through strategic planning. Mediterranean vegetation creates a habitat with low needs on water and maintenance. Actual native species where grown especially for this project in collaboration with designated nurseries, in order to incorporate with the pre-existing ecosystem. Working with gravel reduces evaporation and prevents stormwater runoff and soil erosion. Furthermore, greywater is recycled in the resort to serve the needs of the garden.
Responsible environmental design focuses on the reuse of locally available material. We utilized excavated earth and topsoil for planting, pebbles for road surfaces, mulching and as decorative elements. Altogether reduced the environmental footprint of the construction, while at the same time integrating the new resort with the materials and sensations of the surrounding landscape.
This project reflects our philosophy that landscape architecture must work with and enhance the existing landscape. We visualise that it will significantly impact the whole area’s environmental future due to its great visibility and publicity. Ecological strategies used here will serve as positive examples, progressively multiplying their effect over the whole region.
Landscape architecture: doxiadis+, Hypatia Mitaraki
Architecture: Edward Tuttle Designrealization, Archiplus Arhitects
Mechanical Engineer: LDK
Structural Engineer: KION
Lighting Engineer: FOSS
Photographers: Giannis Kontos, Clive Nichols
Project location: Porto Heli, Peloponnese, Greece
Phase 1: 2008 – 2012
Phase 2: 2012 – ongoing
Year Built: 2012 – ongoing