Tinos through an architectural eye – Ioanna Papastathopoulou

An Athenian (although her grandmother is from Tinos, she was never taken for true Tinian) architect, Ioanna Papastathopoulou, has helped us see that the coin always has two sides and truth is somewhere in the middle.

“I wouldn’t change my life in Tinos for all the money in the world”, claims Ioanna in spite of the assimilation, adaptation and geographical limitations difficulties. The direct contact with nature and its alternations, the culturally rich place and the human pace made her realize quickly that Tinos has beauties that remain undeveloped at the altar of profit and ignorance. This thought has led her to be professionally occupied with architecture specialized in cultural heritage management and not with the field of general contracting. “Looking at a field with dry-stone walls, we would see land. Looking at a path, we would see a rural road which would help us at our building activity and through a small widening, the cement mixer and digger could pass through more easily. Looking at the landscape, we would see the price of the building if we sold it as property with view to the sea. Looking at a dovecote or a windmill, we would see the picturesque house that we could sell to a foreigner. In this period of abundance, the resistance voices against irrational building activity were extremely rare. And they were all archived in the black list of “the enemies of the island and progress” under the name of “ecologist”. I believe I own a special position in this list, just because I have chosen to act as an architect specialized in cultural heritage management and not as a contractor”.

An organized management plan which would take into account criteria such as history, culture, local conditions, new trends and needs, could set fundamental general rules of action aiming at the well-being of the people and the island. For instance, the irrational behavior regarding the constructions or even the uncontrolled grazing of goats has provoked serious discontinuities to the quite significant old mule road network, mostly known as paths. Given that such state action plan for their protection doesn’t exist, any private sensitization move is more than welcome and has to enjoy everybody’s support. Moves of this kind was Ioanna’s who has founded the urban non-profit company “ALaLAZODA TOPIA” (=SCREAMING LANDSCAPES) as well as the continuous action of the local associations in the villages. These associations try to fill the gap of the local authorities and from time to time have shown important social and cultural action.

According to the architect, Tinos has numerous historical monuments which are in need of human attention and protection and instead, they are left to their fate. “The castle in Exobourgo forms a typical example. The former capital of the island, a very significant monument and landmark which could be a very strong trademark of Tinos, is experiencing the total discredit.
Abandoned buildings and falling walls, uncontrolled goats over the ruins, no special signs and informative material, no excavation research related to its venetian past, futuristic antennas, others set at the top and others rusty and thrown inside the archeological site, all these are far from honor us. Quite often I wonder if there is another castle in Greece or the rest of the world whose sole use is to set antennas!”. Other cultural features of the island, like agricultural monuments, paths and settlements have had the same luck. The appearance of technology had serious consequences to an environment totally primitive, at least up to that moment. Human interventions have led to the destruction of traditional architecture.

Still, Ioanna is not in favor of the mummification of the landscape. She claims that there are plenty of alternatives in order for change to come. Which are these alternatives? She responds wisely: “I often dream of a relatively autonomous Tinos, like it used to be. A Tinos that produces what consumes and is able to cover the nearby hypermarkets like the ones in Mykonos and Paros. I dream that Xobourgo is a landmark of Tinos and the area of the granites to be a famous geological park which will be giving life to Mousoulou, Potamia, Falatados, Volax, Agapi villages. I dream of a Tinos which will have quality tourism all year long; which will utilize its exquisite elements, the magnificent settlements, the significant history, the monuments, the granites, the sea and invite everyone to pay a visit to the island; which will acquire a clear goal regarding the future and call up all people and friends of the isand towards this direction.

As far as I am concerned, this direction should not be the easy one neither necessarily the most technologically advanced. I believe that is a huge mistake for Tinos to compete or copy mainland areas or areas which have completely different ground morphology. It is easy to ride roughshod over everything. But it is impossible to recreate the land of Tinos”.

Ioanna Papastathopoulou is Architect Engineer of TUA, specialized in Cultural Heritage Management (Univ. of York). Together with Panagiotis Papastathopoulos (agronomist) and Elena Dimitropoulou (decorator), they founded the Aegean Architecture Studio (11, Philippotes Str.) in 2012. Goal of the studio is to provide quality services in all sectors related to the house, from design to construction, the formation of the surrounding area and furnishings.