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Presence Absence

Part 2 Project 2009
Ioannis Pinakos
Leeds Beckett University Leeds UK
This project for an archaeology institute and visitor centre at the archaeological site and natural reserve of Hephaisteia in Palaipoli Peninsula of Lemnos (Greece), uses the ancient patterns of the surrounding built environment (“mantres” a post-byzantine farmhouses) and the myth of a non-existing labyrinth to provide a functional and transient gateway to the area. A quote from Walter Benjamin’s Reflections forms the basis for investigation and exploration of an architectural challenge for the creation of a diptych space, that of presence and absence.

“Language shows clearly that memory is not an instrument for exploring the past but its theatre. It is the medium of past experience, as the ground is the medium in which cities lie interred. He who seeks to approach the buried past must conduct like a man digging. This confers the tone and bearing of genuine reminiscences. He must not be afraid to return again and again to the same matter; to scatter it as one scatters earth, to turn it over as one turns over soil. For the matter itself is only a deposit, a stratum, which yields only to the most meticulous examination what constitutes the real treasure hidden within the earth: the images, severed from all earlier associations, that stand-like precious fragments or torsos in a collector’s gallery – in the prosaic rooms of our later understanding …”
(Walter Benjamin’s Reflections)

The Archaeological site, the Natural reserve, the Non existing labyrinth, the Landscape, are all elements incorporated in the conceptual perception of a building that is formed from the interlocking direction of two separate spiral circulation and spatial gestures only to engulf a “relic”, a private-public space. Forms, massing, materials and voids propose a hidden place, a space waiting to be explored. The dialectic debate arising from this proposal attempts a move within the unspecified limits of Critical Regionalism and the critical approach of protecting the cultural and monumental heritage of Greece.

Ioannis Pinakos


The group’s interest was embedded in the exploration of site, myth and meaning, placing as much emphasis on ‘the invisible’ as the physical attributes of the built environment.

Ioannis chose an incredible site on Lemnos, in homeland Greece and his project is as much an outlet for the venting of frustration at the developer led changes which are ruining many beautiful and sensitive areas of the Mediterranean as a showcase to demonstrate Ioannis’s own undoubted talent.

The visitor centre and archaeology institute is placed with a delicate consideration of the wider context and is aimed at extending the experience of those who visit the island. Many come to search for a labyrinth which may or may not exist. The origins of the story lie in the distant past.

The new proposal takes on, and exploits the idea of ‘labyrinth’ and that of ‘presence and absence’.

The journey to the centre is controlled and reflective in nature, focussing thoughts; until at the point of return a change occurs, the journey is one of discovery and thought. The outward journey is one supported by further knowledge and confidence, the change is subconscious and inevitable.

The proposed building makes it’s mark in the landscape and enhances the appreciation of what is there, what is past and what is possible.

The architectural language is both contemporary and strong yet clearly has roots in the traditionally simple forms of the region.

The whole project is communicated with beautiful atmospheric artwork and a series of carefully made models that explore and test the proposal.

Tutor(s)

Mr Gary Hornsby
2009
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