Written by Felipe Gutiérrez & Claire Oiry
To spiti tou Pappou is a Mediterranean story about family, friends, and nature that gather all around every year trying to keep history and tradition alive.Pappou used to live in a small island in a far corner of Europe, a small island whipped by winds, sculpt in rock and clay, a land full of thyme and juniper – Gavdos. One day, just like his neighbors, Pappou left Gavdos taking a boat to Crete, leaving behind the almond and olive trees. He left his tiny stone house that has fallen asleep together with the rest of the village... for more than half a century.
Many years later, Gelly, his grand-daughter, came back to the house to awaken it slowly. With the help of friends, she began the first works. People from all over the world who wanted to learn about the forgotten building techniques - the ones that require the use of local materials like earth, wood, sand and stone are invited to come. That’s how the To spiti tou Pappou project was born.
When Gelly arrived to Ambelos, her grandpa's village, restoring the house was just a personal project, a family story... until she met Claire, a young Architect, in October 2013. They both decided to extend the project – the house was much more than a family story, it was meant to share human and ecological values with the biggest audience. To Spiti tou Pappou has become a manifesto project.
The main idea was to make all the restoration work in the house through workshops opened to everybody, the perfect place where the participants would learn the traditional building techniques using natural materials. In that way they will spread the knowledge and take advantage of working in this beautiful place. Beautiful but fragile: the idea is to make each one of the participants understand the fragile beauty of the island of Gavdos and the whole Mediterranean; the organizers believed that everybody has to be aware of it and must take action accordingly.
THE TO SPITI TOU PAPPOU WORKSHOP OF JULY 2015
After 3 years of working in the house, the workshop of July 2015 was the opportunity to finish the main room of the house. The main idea was putting the last layer of the natural plasters based on lime, earth and sand on the walls and the floor.
In this opportunity people from Colombia, Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Czech Republic, Greece, and Tunisia got together to contribute to the restoration and put all their positive energy and vibes into this house.
I arrived there thanks to the two organizers of the workshop, two good friends and colleagues from my actual formation in France, a Masters in Earthen Architecture. The techniques we used there were not new for me, but for many of the other participants it was their first time working and building with earth. So the three of us used this chance to explain the basics about what is the earth, the test we used for identify its quality and the formulations designed by the organizers to mix the different natural materials in order to get the best possible earth for each of the activities that we would do.
In the bathroom we wanted to make something different, special and waterproof natural materials, so we did the plaster with lime (perfect for the humidity) but using a very old and traditional plaster technique that comes from Morocco, the TADELAKT. With this technique you can get a natural, shiny and colorful final layer of plaster in a place where you normally won´t use earth. It takes a lot of time and a lot of preparation, and once you start, you can´t stop until it’s done. It is a very precise work done with some special stones and vegetable soap that gives the shine and impermeability. After several hours of work you get a great, soft and beautiful plaster.
At the same time we had one day training in ceramics: a well-known ceramist from Crete, Giorgos Kokovlis, came to teach us how to use some special paint for the ceramic and cook them inside a paper kiln (volcano) of paper and earth.
And we can´t forget that we were working in the middle of the Mediterranean and in the Southern point of Europe in summer, so the heat could be so high that we had to make breaks and run to the nearest beach. After all, we worked so hard ;)
This stage of the restoration works was very important, because it was the opportunity to finish the main room and the perfect way to show how it is possible to build and restore with the traditional techniques respecting the local context.
Workshop organized by:
Architect specialized in building with natural materials and earthen architecture.
Architect specialized in natural plastering (earth and lime) for traditional and contemporary buildings.
Owner of the house in Ambelos.