Located on the Greek island of Santorini, the Saint Hotel proves that Nordic and Greek aesthetics have, in fact, quite many things in common. In Design Stories’ interview, Marianna Kapsimali from Kapsimalis Architects talks about the challenging project and the stunning end result, which is complemented by furniture supplied by Finnish Design Shop's Contract Sales.
IN 2016, KAPSIMALIS ARCHITECTS were faced with a fascinating yet challenging project: a new hotel was to be built on the edge of an ancient, volcanic caldera in the village of Oia in Santorini, Greece. The plan was to preserve and renovate the old buildings on the site and to create 16 new suites in the caves that were previously used as storage facilities.
The new suites were reconstructed into traditional Santorini cave dwellings, where the temperature stays constant and pleasant all year round. The rooms are staggered on the slope on six levels, and each has a spacious terrace with sea views and its own, unique swimming pool.
Completed in 2019, the end result is a dazzling white, intimate luxury hotel with a restaurant and spa department. The architecture of the Saint Hotel has references to the cubist style of the site’s original buildings, and it also brings a touch of contemporary Scandinavian design to the Santorini island.
Paradise holiday in volcanic landscapes
The Saint Hotel was designed by Greek architects Marianna Kapsimali and Alexandros Kapsimalis who run the architectural firm Kapsimalis Architects based on the island of Santorini.
Marianna Kapsimali, where did you draw inspiration for the design?
“The rough volcanic landscape of the Caldera of Santorini with the crooked lines of the existing elevation curves and the morphology, scale, materiality, and colors of the traditional village had a huge effect in the designing process. The overlap of the above parameters shapes the building’s final form and its intense dynamics.”
What were the biggest challenges of the project?
“The steep slope was one of the biggest challenges because one of the objectives was the design of new cave hotel rooms that follow and repeat the Caldera's natural terrain. The excavations in such an inclined landscape and the construction of six levels connected through a central exterior staircase were demanding and time-consuming but necessary for the proposal to fit gently into the surroundings.”
Echoes from the North
With its pure white surfaces and cubist lines, the exterior of the Saint Hotel represents a fusion of modern and traditional Greek architecture. Inside the hotel, the Greek interior is accompanied by a strong Scandinavian vibe, and you can spot furniture, lighting, and accessories by Nordic brands such as Nikari, Hay, &Tradition, and Muuto. Many of these were acquired through Finnish Design Shop’s Contract Sales.
You have used a lot of Scandinavian design in the hotel. How did you choose the items?
“The interior design of the hotel follows an austere and minimal approach based on the Cycladic architecture norms. The choice to use Scandinavian design resulted from our need to correlate the shapes and the volumes of the interior with the forms of the exterior synthesis, in a simple, minimal but functional way. Moreover, a sense of high-quality craftsmanship and a vivid-color aesthetic were also important objectives in order to achieve a touch of elegance and to create inviting and comfortable spaces.”
In your opinion, how does Nordic design fit into the Greek environment?
“The simplicity of the forms, the connection with nature, and the fact that it is finely crafted make Nordic design compatible with the Greek ethics and norms and the traditional approach of housing. The neutral colors, minimalist shapes, and natural materials can be perfectly fitted to the Greek landscape and showcased by the intense natural light, creating harmonious and aesthetically pleasant spaces.”
And what are your opinions about the final result?
“The final result represents our thoughts of how we imagined a new hospitality project inside the traditional and distinctive landscape of Caldera of Santorini. Our intention was to design a hotel that endures the pass of time, in a contemporary way and with respect to its environment, serving the challenges of its use.”
Text: Nora Uotila Images: Giorgos Sfakianakis