Step for­wards for Vrisa in Lesvos

Ar­chi­tects back ini­tia­tive to en­sure quake-hit listed vil­lage is prop­erly, at­trac­tively re­built

Kathimerini English - - Focus - BY GIOR­GOS LIALIOS

“Vrisa was such a lovely vil­lage. The kind of place where you’d re­lax walk­ing around its small streets, en­joy the mid­day quiet, ride your bi­cy­cle and ad­mire the nat­u­ral sur­round­ings,” says Elena Zer­voudakis. The ar­chi­tect first vis­ited the vil­lage on the eastern Aegean is­land of Lesvos a few years ago for a res­i­den­tial pro­ject and fell in love with it. She was deeply sad­dened by the huge amount of de­struc­tion it suf­fered in an earth­quake last month and de­cided to act, team­ing up with a group of Vrisa lo­cals who live in Athens.

The ini­tia­tive, named Re­build Vrisa for the time be­ing, held its first meet­ing ear­lier this month to dis­cuss how it can con­trib­ute to the re­con­struc­tion of the vil­lage, which is listed for preser­va­tion as a tra­di­tional set­tle­ment. “We’re a team of vol­un­teers, most hail­ing from Vrisa, who want to see our vil­lage re­built quickly, beau­ti­fully and prop­erly,” says the head of the team, Peli Ge­orgi. “We or­ga­nized a meet­ing so we could present ideas for its re­con­struc­tion, dis­cuss the need for col­lec­tive man­age­ment and ex­plore var­i­ous al­ter­na­tives. We in­tend to con­tinue the dis­cus­sion in Lesvos so that the peo­ple who live in the vil­lage can also have a say.”

The ini­tia­tive has the sup­port of the Arch­points net­work of ar­chi­tec­tural firms, of which Zer­voudakis and pro­fes­sors from the Na­tional Tech­ni­cal Uni­ver­sity of Athens’s schools of ar­chi­tec­ture and civil en­gi­neer­ing are mem­bers. “We vis­ited the vil­lage in late June,” says Ge­orge Kour­madas, an ar­chi­tect who comes from Vrisa. “The sit­u­a­tion is so dis­heart­en­ing. Ex­pe­ri­enced civil en­gi­neers tell us that they have never seen such a con­cen­trated level of de­struc­tion in one sin­gle vil­lage.

“Why did this hap­pen? There are lots of rea­sons,” adds the ar­chi­tect. “For ex­am­ple, we made a record of the build­ings and ob­served that while the vil­lage was note­wor­thy in terms of ar- chi­tec­tural style, many of the build­ings were not con­structed prop­erly. For ex­am­ple, they had re­in­forced con­crete ad­di­tions that had not been at­tached prop­erly to the main build­ing. When you build a con­crete bal­cony on a struc­ture made of stone in the 1920, that bal­cony will act like a bat­ter­ing ram in an earth­quake and crack the stone.”

The group is striv­ing to en­sure that the restora­tion of Vrisa is not done in the usual slip­shod man­ner. “To be­gin with, we want to see a con­certed ap­proach,” says Kour­madas. “The state is giv­ing out some com­pen­sa­tion right now and says the Min­istry of Cul­ture will be in charge of the ma­te­ri­als and de­mo­li­tions, but its Ephor­ate of Mod­ern Mon­u­ments is too un­der­staffed to carry out the task. In­stead, the mu­nic- ipal author­ity has brought in a con­trac­tor who’s al­ready tear­ing build­ings down. It is our opin­ion that the build­ings have to be sta­bi­lized so we can de­ter­mine which ones can be sal­vaged, even among those that have been slated for de­mo­li­tion.”

One of the pro­pos­als on the ta­ble, not just to re­store but to im­prove Vrisa, is a sys­tem for tap­ping into geother­mic en­ergy. “The earth­quake could serve as an op­por­tu­nity for Vrisa to be­come a model vil­lage,” says Zer­voudakis. “For ex­am­ple, a cen­tral net­work could be cre­ated to uti­lize geother­mic en­ergy. A sim­i­lar pi­lot pro­gram has been ap­plied in Poly­ch­ni­tos. It is dif­fi­cult to make Vrisa like it was be­fore, but at least we can try take it a step for­wards.”

There are lots of rea­sons why the de­struc­tion in Vrisa was so ex­ten­sive, ac­cord­ing to ar­chi­tect Ge­orge Kour­madas, who points to faults in con­struc­tion, such as slip­shod re­in­forced con­crete ad­di­tions to stone build­ings.

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