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Forget ancient Greece and move into the future July 3, 2006

Posted by grhomeboy in Architecture Greece.

Architect Mark Potiriadis tells about the modern resorts he believes will transform his country.

From the yet-to-be-installed rooftop jacuzzi of his house near Kilada on the Peloponnese, architect Mark Potiriadis reckons he will be able to see eight or nine snow-capped peaks across the clear blue waters of the Argolic Gulf.

What he won’t be able to see, he assures me, are the ten other luxury houses on the hillside below, each of which has been carefully positioned to maximise their sea views, but avoid overlooking each other, with trees and landscaping finishing the job. Potiriadis and his wife, Isabella Gilmartin, are the first residents of Kilada Hills, a development of 11 striking contemporary houses he has masterminded in one of mainland Greece’s most chic locations. Next-door neighbours include a couple of shipping tycoons, while the Heineken family own a villa nearby.

Potiriadis was inspired by the site itself, he says, to build a collection of houses that draw inspiration from the Greek cube. ‘They are a man-made thing that enhances the landscape,’ he says, conceding that his creations in concrete and glass have met some initial resistance from his compatriots. ‘Greek architecture is dominated by respect for neo-Classicism and folk architecture,’ says Potiriadis. ‘There are few modern houses and Greeks haven’t been exposed to them. A lot of people are against these houses at first, but then they warm to them.’

Potiriadis spent 34 years practising in the UK – specialising in leisure resorts and free-form swimming pools – before returning to Greece in 2000 to help the country prepare for the Olympics. Now he’s trying to shake up his compatriots’ design sense with a collection of houses unlike anything else in Greece.

Kilada is just around the corner from Porto Heli, a two-hour jaunt by Flying Dolphin from Athens, making it a favourite spot for weekenders from the capital. The islands of Spetses, Hydra and Poros are a sea-taxi ride away. The houses themselves are aimed at the top of the market, from 240 square metres of living space upwards, each including at least four bedrooms and bathrooms as well as home cinema, extensive terracing and an infinity pool.

Everything is suitably high-spec, from the Pilkington K glass used in the floor-to-ceiling glazing and balustrades, to the fittings and furnishings from the likes of Phillipe Starck, B&B Italia and Duravit. There’s underfloor heating and cooling, state-of-the-art security and technology and outside landscaping that will include a huge sum spent on mature cypresses and other trees. For a fully finished house including everything but the furniture buyers will pay around €3,500 a square metre.

The showhome, with all its fittings and furnishings, is on the market for a cool €3 million. What is unusual is that only two of the houses are completed; the rest will remain as shells, allowing the buyer to decide exactly how they want each of the floors to be configured, where they want the pool, and to choose their own fittings. Buyers will also have the final say on what colour their house is painted: the two finished so far are a burnished orange and an acrylic blue.

Just who will buy these properties remains to be seen; early interest has come from Germany, the Lebanon and the US – as well as Brits and Greeks. This is, in any case, all something of a precursor to a much larger development that Potiriardis has planned a little further down the line. On the hills behind, above the nearby fishing village of Kilada, his company, Ergotex, has secured a 240-acre plot among olive groves that he is planning to turn into Greece’s first Championship golf course. Greece currently has only around five or six golf courses and the Government recently began to recognise the potential of mixing high-quality courses with upmarket holiday homes, as has happened in Spain and Portugal.

Potiriadis has secured four sites around the country for this purpose, and at Kilada he plans to develop around 70 high-end villas and 245 serviced apartments with full resort facilities for the non-golf playing members of the family. ‘We are going to do it in a Greek style, keeping the maximum number of olive trees, and making the least impact on the landscape,’ says Gilmartin, who is Ergotex’s marketing director.

Water will be pumped from below the ground and Ergotex has also agreed to clean up sewage from Kilada itself, to provide further irrigation. It’s hard to envisage such a large-scale development in what has been a sleepy part of the country. But Greece does seem to be waking up to the potential of the overseas property market to bring in investment to the local economy. ‘The aim of the local authorities is not to lose the character of this as an agricultural community,’ says Potiriadis. ‘But they see it as a chance for Kilada not to have to rely on seasonal jobs. We want to create a development that is sustainable and will create full-time jobs, and that will mean that local children don’t have to leave and go to Athens.’

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