Recent winner of the 2016 American Architecture Prizes, the Mirage project is a poetic effort to reconcile nature and architecture. An island house fused with its surroundings, which not only documents and highlights the region’s identity, but also acts as an illusion of the natural environment, an almost invisible construction camouflaged under a water tank. It is an experimental intervention on the island landscape, with the pure intention of leaving it almost intact, due to an implemented design strategy and a targeted selection of building materials. Also known as the ‘Island of Madonna’, Tinos has a rich theological history and is the third largest island of the Cyclades complex. Within its rocky landscape more than 40 villages and more than a thousand churches can be found, lit under the Greek sky, scattered across the hilltops like fragments of ancient ruins. The scenery is lined by thousands of kilometers of drystone walls, as if embroidered on the rocks, which complete a unique landscape.
This project’s essential aim is to illustrate the Greek Cycladic aura and its magic. All materials - most of them extracted from local sources - were strategically used to make the house ‘disappear’ into the existing topography. This cave-like house establishes a continuous dialogue with the landscape, in an effort to highlight how less is actually more.
The residence is situated on a steep sloped rocky plot overlooking the Aegean Sea. The design’s main essential was not only to integrate the volume of the house into the rocky island landscape, but mainly to investigate the boundaries between built and natural environment, always keeping in mind the basic Cycladic architecture elements of functionality and simplicity, not nevertheless neglecting aesthetics.
The house consists of a single-level structure. A linear wall, resembling the characteristic drystone walls of the island, runs from the outside to the inside of the house and separates the public from the private section of the house, also acting as a boundary of the territory.
On top of the residence overlays a rimless infinity pool, merging with the seascape and the Greek sky, thus providing an illusion inspired by the optical phenomenon of “mirage”. The presence of the house is revealed only through the mirror-effect surface of the pool, keeping the rest of the property camouflaged.
The pool, acting as a roof, provides thermal insulation and protection from solar radiation and heat transmittance. Cool sea breezes penetrate the house pushing warm air out, thus achieving natural ventilation.