The Canaves resort brand is well established and extremely successful on the island of Santorini. When they approached us to design a new hotel we immediately understood the unique opportunity they had in their site, which had spectacular views of the famous sunset, without the spatial restrictions of the often cramped sites within the Caldera. The Canaves Oia Epitome is the first hotel in this part of the island to offer open, light-filled space with unrestricted views.
Our first task was to find a way to work with the imposing concrete and brick structure that already existed on the site, without affecting the overall built area. The planned hotel was relatively big for the island, with 24 rooms arranged, along with a restaurant and reception, in 3 linear blocks that together created a U-shaped plan. The massing felt awkwardly big and disconnected to the landscape. So we began breaking it up into several smaller parts and then redistributing them around the site, allowing them space to breathe within their surroundings.
This approach totally re-set the design of the rooms and the arrangement of the program across the site. We moved the entrance from the bottom of the site to the top by swapping it with the dining room. This gave us a more generous reception area and gave the dining room and bar a more sociable poolside location. We added a second restaurant, accessible to non-residents via a separate entrance, beneath an extensive pergola overlooking the pool terrace and with stunning sunset views.
In designing the rooms our aim was to increase the perception of space without actually making them bigger. By breaking up the buildings we created an opportunity for a characteristically Cycladic choreography of enclosed and semi-enclosed space to provide a comfortably cool lifestyle suited to the heat of the Greek summer. We made a series of local stone-clad additions to each room to extend the sense of space and blend the boundary between indoor and outdoor living. Each room has its own entrance courtyard featuring an outdoor shower and de-sanding zone and at the other end of the room a stone box shades an external dining room and frames the view to the private pool with large arched openings. Stone ribbon walls wrap the terraces to give privacy, shade and shelter from the wind and direct each unique viewpoint to the sea beyond. These additions along with the split-level arrangement of the 4-bedrooms means that the room becomes more of a villa in experience, very well suited to family holiday life.
Our palette is dominated by the extensive use of heavy, black local Santorinian stone. The stone-clad structures blend with the rock of the surrounding landscape, rooting the hotel in its environment. This sense of context is elaborated on with the addition of ancient olive trees and large, strategically placed rocks throughout the hotel in a landscaping concept designed to minimize the visible footprint of the original concrete structures.
The hotel is a subtle blend of local textures and traditions, with a laid-back generosity, comfort and sense of private, personal space rare and valuable within its very special location.