« Porto Kale|The Rammed Earth Towers » project is the architectural proposal of two autonomous hospitality and leisure towers, located in a traditional village called Porto Kayo in Eastern Mani Peninsula. The main target of the proposal was to minimize the ecological footprint of the new construction and have an harmonious dialogue with the unique historical and morphological landscape of the Laconian mainland.
The imposing presence of the traditional stone towers has been a benchmark for the morphological approach of the project. The signs of passing years though local towers’ “skin” offer a unique historical beauty, which would be impossible to be imitated in any new-built construction. Therefore we had to approach the way of thinking, behind these construction during 19th century and later. That was the intention to build, using natural materials provided by the site in abundance (stone and soil), creating robust and safe structures, protecting its habitants from outside factors (pirates’ raid, Ottoman empire, weather conditions, etc).
One of the key points of the project is the material selection for the exterior masonry. Mechanically compressed soil (Rammed Earth) is used, in combination with traditional stone masonry. A plywood formwork is created on concrete slabs filled in with the local soil extracted from the excavations of the land. The original mixture consists of gravel, sand, mud and clay. A small amount of cement (5-10%) is added and pressed with a mechanical plunger for structural reinforcement, creating its final form. Rammed Earth walls are considered as heavy type masonry, with high thermal mass. The need for mechanical cooling and heating installations are minimized and can also be considered as negligible in the Mediterranean climate. With 50cm thickness, this type of wall offers a great structural behavior, overcoming all waterproofing, soundproofing and fireproofing codes. Their facades are very interesting and make a perfect fit with the local terrain, which is the structural base of the new material and the traditional towers. This construction method occurs at various periods since ancient times.
At floor level, the permitted 120 sqm area of the building is divided into two autonomous two-level towers of 60 sqm each, with attic. The height and narrow facades of the local towers that enhanced the sense of safety and protection from outside factors are highlighted. As archaeological and urban planning constraints impose, roofs with Byzantine tile are boxed in parapets, maintaining the plastic purity of the new built forms.
Another interesting point is the adaptability of the created plans according to visitors’ needs. Each tower has a main exterior staircase plus an interior detachable one (hidden in slabs). This way, the new towers have the ability to provide a single 60 sqm area accommodating up to 10 people, or be divided into two separated areas of 30 sqm each one accommodating different client groups. The functionality of the plans has been resolved accordingly.
Due to archaeological and morphological constraints, massif wooden frames are used at the exterior openings on a specific width-height analogy. Wooden floors are used to divide the two levels on the inside of the towers. Between them, there is an infinite type swimming pool, with an unlimited view of the bay (Psomathous), offering an atmospheric relaxation and recreation area under the magnificent olives, a typical tree of the wider area, which are planted in specific positions providing shaded comfort zones during summer months.