Located in the Southern Peloponnese in Greece, the Mani peninsula is a beguiling land of wild beauty peppered with medieval hilltop villages, sleepy fishing coves and ancient olive groves – a place where “every rock and stream is a myth” as English writer Patrick Leigh Fermor wrote about his adopted home. “Monolithoi”, or Monoliths, a pair of recently-completed summer houses on the west coast of Mani, evocatively reflect the region’s rugged soulfulness and indomitable spirit while offering contemporary hospitality characterised by understated sophistication and exceptional comfort.
Athens-based Desypri & Misiaris Architecture drew inspiration from the local vernacular, in particular the monolith-like stone towers that dot the rocky landscape, which the project takes its name from. Reimagined as a cluster of taller and shorter cubic volumes that open up to a series of terraces and courtyards, the stone and cement buildings harmoniously blend into the natural landscape. Complemented by the timeless elegance of bespoke furnishings by Interior Design Laboratorium, and the panoramic views of the Messiniakos Gulf that looms beyond the property’s two infinity pools, the property encapsulates Mani’s Doric sensibility as much as its mythic allure.
Known as ‘Ksemonia’, which translates as ‘the one who has been left alone’, Mani’s stone towers were initially constructed for defence purposes, standing independent of other buildings (hence the name “monoliths”) and used only as observation points, a testament to the region’s turbulent history. Later, the towers were incorporated into residential complexes, boasting a wider footprint in order to provide accommodation on the ground floor.
Architects Ira Desypri and Aristeidis Misiaris have channelled the storied typology of Mani’s towers in the project’s volumetric composition with one-storey blocks organized around two taller, tower-like volumes. In conjunction with the use of stone as the primary building material, the strict lines and geometric simplicity of the building complex reflect the region’s vernacular architecture albeit through a contemporary lens of modern elegance. Complemented by uncoated cement surfaces and wooden elements like pergolas, latticed window shades and outdoor furniture, the stone-built houses harmoniously blend into the rugged landscape.
On the ground floor, a spacious living room and adjoining dining and kitchen area are completed by two bedrooms, with the upper level of the towers being reserved for the master bedroom. The staggered building configuration isn’t just a nod to the disordered configuration of local villages, it also ensures privacy by forming a series of independent terraces and courtyards. Featuring sun-soaked infinity pools, shaded patios for al fresco dining, secluded yards and sunken sitting areas with sunset views, the property’s outdoor areas offer summer living at its best.
The exterior’s austere elegance and rugged beauty is carried on inside where generous living areas are swathed in earthy hues and textures. Cement flooring, exposed stonework, and smooth plastering strike a fine balance between vernacular and modern, as do the bespoke furnishings by Interior Design Laboratorium. Underpinned by simple, geometric forms and made from natural materials like oak and stone, built-in and free-standing furniture echo the building’s architecture as well as the surrounding landscape. Ascetic in design yet full of character, Monolithoi highlight Mani’s timeless appeal and inimitable spirit in contemporary sophistication.