Once upon a time, Mykonos was filled with castles to protect itself from thieves and pirates. With streets narrow enough to deter pirates from looting the towns and little houses built one atop of the other for the exact same reason, Mykonos has some pretty imposing architecture to showcase.
Back then, the scarcity of basic building materials forced the creation of small houses while their cubic shape and distinct white color were in reaction to the unique weather conditions. The square formations protected the houses from the strong Meltemi winds. As for the white-washed walls, they provided a shield against the scorching temperatures by minimizing the absorption of heat from the walls while, at the same time, allowing the eye to follow the undulation of the surfaces and seeing the shapes as a union. All that takes place in Mykonos Town or Chora, as the locals call it.
Rural Mykonos has something different to demonstrate. Simple, plain cottages, with cell-like rooms and shaded patios nestled amidst vast fields, each adorned with pens for livestock, a well, a water cistern, a winepress, a wood-fired oven, and in several cases, a small chapel, all built with an incredible, in-depth knowledge of the concept of space, where every little cube is so correctly oriented and beautifully placed in just the right part of the surrounding field, completing what is known as the Greek farmhouse. The idea was to have a house big enough to fit in and own a field just as far as you can see. Seems that these people had captured the very essence of life, where one’s wealth was not demonstrated by the size of their house. Instead, people’s riches were coming from the simple, ordinary, everyday things and the pleasure of enjoying what Mother Nature offered in great abundance in this Mediterranean spot.
Inspiring Landscape & Artistic Uniqueness
Many architects tried to impose their vision on Mykonos’ powerful landscape and bend nature to their ultimate advantage. They failed miserably. But, those that did adjust to the natural pre-existing landscape conditions did manage to create structures in total alignment with the island’s pulsing heart and overall feel were able to taste what simple intelligence means. Everything here is thought down to the last detail. Take, for example, the fact that the Mykonians shielded their houses from the tough north winds by situating them with their backs turned to the north. This means that you could stand on the front veranda of an old house on a windy day and be totally protected!
Speaking of uniqueness, we could not leave Paraportiani out. Declared a significant monument for its one-of-the-kind architecture, the two-level cluster of five churches comprises a distinct feature of the island. It owes its name to the fact that it is built next to the northwest gate of Mykonos’ Middle Age fortification, which translates as “paraporti” in Greek. Its eastern facade completes this unique complex artistically with the small, arched bell tower and speaks loudly of the Cycladic castles’ architecture.
As for the windmills, these were once a powerful component of the island’s economic prosperity. Today, it is a much-photographed Mykonos trademark; a proud reminder of the good times gone but not forgotten.
Eco-Friendliness at its Best
The buildings in Mykonos island blend seamlessly with the environment, showing utmost respect to the land in a totally eco-friendly way. The flat roofs were traditionally insulated with seaweed and sand. Small openings in the northern sides of the houses eliminate humidity and thermal loads. The smooth asymmetrical shapes on the corners of every single traditional construction are there for a reason. External shady areas with dense foliage and stone walls achieve cooling. Nothing is coincidental here, including the distribution of the dwellings’ volumes in relation to the direction of the winds and their exposure to them. Different heights, recesses, interior yards, a varying types of semi-open spaces, like alcoves and verandas all play a vital role.
But, something new and exciting happened in the more modern years, when the architectural committee decided to give permission to build houses that were not white, in very specific cases. After architect Dimitris Mantikas presented them with research which proved that a large white house up on a hill would detract from its surroundings and look ostentatious, the committee gave the green light to construct non-white hilltop houses (i.e. built from rock, which blend in so perfectly that they almost disappear into the hill). It was the same architect that also designed and established the double walls that brought much of the shapes of the old farmhouses, which have contributed in keeping the traditional Cycladic style and architecture alive.
Villa Mare Aleomandra Mykonos
From the ancient eras to the contemporary landscape, where Mykonos luxury villas with refreshing private pools grace every hillside, Mykonos has witnessed a remarkable evolution, continually adapting to modern desires. Over the centuries, the traditional Cycladic character has seamlessly merged with newer, innovative elements. The traditional homes, once the epitome of basic living, have transformed into the epitome of opulent holidays, akin to the allure of Mykonos Greece villas and the broader range of Mykonos villas.
Today’s structures, built with cutting-edge materials, are a departure from what ancient architects might have envisioned. A standout area in Mykonos, called Little Venice, nestled between Alefkadra and the heart of the old Castle, beautifully contrasts the classic Cycladic architectural style. Here, houses, kissed by the sea, radiate in vibrant colors and showcase wooden balconies that breathe the fresh sea air.
Yet, amidst all these evolutions, Mykonos has steadfastly retained its unique charm. Since 2005, the island has been legally recognized for its unparalleled natural beauty. It’s adorned with dry patches of land, smooth rounded rocks, and quaint chapels with iconic red-arched roofs, together painting a dreamlike tableau.
Even as Mykonos resonates with opulence and grandeur, it has remarkably preserved its traditional Cycladic architectural spirit. This preservation stems from both urban planning regulations and the deep respect architects have for the land’s storied past.
Every summer, Mykonos, with its vast array of Mykonos villas, beckons a diverse crowd. They’re greeted by remnants of once-majestic castles, such as those at Portes and Lino, which historically stood vigilant over the island’s inhabitants. The iconic whitewashed, cubic homes, adorned with blooming balconies and wooden fixtures painted in shades of Aegean blue, resemble lustrous clusters of white grapes. Welcoming visitors with the brilliance of the Mediterranean sun, the island offers a maze of intertwining narrow paths, crystal-clear waters, and sun-drenched beaches that continually enchant.