The Unreservedly Modern Architecture of ISV

It is with great sorrow that we were informed of the passing of architect Tassos Sotiropoulos, founding member of ISV Architects. In his memory, we republish the curatorial note by Elias Constantopoulos, President of the Hellenic Institute of Architecture, that was written for the anniversary issue “40 Years: ISV Architects”, on the occasion of the eponymous event at the SNFCC in December 2018.

“Let us not hesitate to admit it.

The architecture of ISV is unreservedly modern, in the sense of its character, of its expression, of its “style”; the term implies “contemporary”, while their architecture is, in fact, timeless. Let me take the liberty of a hyperbole: Until today, there is nothing more “modern” than the “modern” itself. The work of ISV, especially involving housing in all its iterations – detached homes, apartment buildings, hotels – belongs to a significant tradition within Greek architecture, having remained faithful to modernism.

The architecture of ISV is provocative, because it is addressed to a high-end clientele, capable of having it actualized. Its opulence overshadows its fundamental virtue, which is the product of an uncompromising design ethos. Grand, lavish gestures, stated with clarity and transparency, designate the “proper” positioning of a person in space, converse with the landscape, and make the most of all the elements so generously provided by the Greek environment.

The architecture of ISV is impressively well built. They are exceptionally “professional” –a rare occurrence in our country-, undertaking the supervision of the entire design process, and control over the outcome. Having been tried over several years in many small-scale retail projects, they developed a particular sensibility for detail: In their interiors, where not only the eye but also the hand touches upon construction, their obsession with flawless detailing has been an imperative from the outset. Attention to structural and aesthetic fitness, regardless of whether it involved a building or a piece of furniture, survived into the larger-scale projects that followed.

The architecture of ISV is delightful. It captures the senses with its excessive aesthetic moderation, its composition of seemingly endless horizontal and vertical planes, interlocking the blue of the sky and the sea in their composition, as another element in their architectural canvas. This is an architectural conception typical of Mediterranean Europe, seeking to express the elemental by creating atmospheres of immaculate whiteness – the charming foundation myth of the Modern.

Their houses for “the few” –an unattainable dream of dwelling for “the many”- signal the ideal model of a refined life close to nature, a dream of the Enlightenment as well as of a contemporary “lifestyle”; not an eclectic, past “lifestyle”, but one consistent with Valsamakis and Zenetos, with California of Koenig and Neutra, radiating a feeling of joy for the “good life”, an optimistic cosmopolitanism made difficult to grasp in our current situation.

The architecture of ISV begs the challenging question: Can such high quality be achieved with different means, with coarse, cheap materials, in more modest conditions? The single-family house in Kerameikos brings about such a promise. It is in our hand to adopt such practices, considering the quality of the private and public environment, given that architecture is an indicator of the contemporary ethos of a civilization.”


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