Revival of a Historic Brutalist Building: Restoring its Original Charm
The existing building is one of the rare examples of the Brutalist architectural movement in Greece. It was constructed in 1972 and represents one of the most significant works by the Tombazis office. It served as a flagship for the company specializing in industrial concrete production.
Ethical Challenge: Balancing Intervention and Preservation
The revival of the historic building posed an ethical challenge in terms of the intervention limit on the existing structure. It is worth noting that over its 50 years of existence, the building had been covered in various hues and materials, with the most recent being an ochre shade, which obscured its original Brutalist texture. Therefore, the initial intervention focused on restoring the original (1972) composition of exposed concrete in all visible elements of the building (40,000 sqm).
Creating a New Space: Spatial Rearrangements and Grid-Based Design
The goal for the interior was not to eliminate intervention through a faithful reconstruction of its original form. The radical spatial rearrangements inside aimed to create a new space that was always there, in the building’s “subconscious” since 1972.
This effort was primarily guided by the 1.20m x 1.20m grid, corresponding to the dimensions of the typical element of the barrel-vaulted roof. This grid became the basis for every architectural and electromechanical element of the building, designed upon the natural, three-dimensionally projected grid that defined the barrel-vaulted roof.
Preserving the Roof’s Geometry: Removal of False Ceilings and Equipment
To highlight the geometry of the roof as the driving force behind the entire design, all mechanical or other equipment was removed. This contrasted with the initial state of the building, where the roof was covered with various false ceilings and other architectural and electromechanical elements. Thus, the previously “buried” barrel-vaulted roof serves as a significant archaeological finding that determines the new morphology of the building’s interior and guides the space “towards absolute architecture” (Jean Pierre Raynaud – Maison de La Celle-Saint-Cloud).
Integration of Earthy Materials and Water Elements
A fundamental intervention in the interior of the building is the implementation of a clear functional access axis on the horizontal plane, with continuous water surfaces. Additionally, a vertical axis is created by a series of self-supporting marble cantilevers integrated with the central staircase. Earthy materials and minimalist clean lines are applied to enhance the Brutalist elements of the building through contrast. Water elements are modernized, redesigned, and expanded within the building’s interior, while the central staircase is reoriented to relieve congestion and widen the circulation routes (horizontal and vertical) of the common areas. The mezzanine is removed, and a complete reconfiguration is executed in the entrance area, aiming to create a clean and iconic reception space. Auxiliary spaces are added, and an opening is made towards the surrounding area of the ground floor event hall to create a multifunctional contemporary space. Raised floors are implemented on all levels to accommodate all mechanical installations while leaving the barrel-vaulted slab untouched and visible. The courtyard is highlighted in the Administration area, and a limited, open-plan arrangement is employed in the closed office spaces with extensive use of glass, along with a functional open layout for the office areas. Finally, the basement is excavated with the aim of creating a wine cellar and tasting area.
Modernizing the Building Envelope: Insulation, Openings, and Shading
Regarding the building envelope, all roof and terrace insulation is reconstructed, including waterproofing and thermal insulation. Thermal bridging points on all horizontal surfaces are addressed, minimizing them on vertical surfaces without causing any alteration to the facades. Additionally, all external openings are replaced with modern thermally broken aluminum frames and energy-efficient glazing. Solar shading systems are implemented to control sunlight, while water elements in the building’s exterior are modernized and expanded to provide natural cooling and improve the microclimate.
The architectural treatment of the facades is discreet, almost reverential, in terms of highlighting the character and overall philosophy of the building. One could argue that the choice of the same materials – concrete and glass, but in their present-day interpretation, almost 40 years later – better serves the core of the initial idea that governs the entire building, while simultaneously giving it a much more contemporary image.