Interior design dialogues with the unique context of Kastellorizo Island
“Kastellorizo is the last island of Greece, or the first, depending on your point of view. It is located a few hours by boat from Rhodes, the Greek city on which it is administratively dependent, but is only three kilometres away from the Turkish coast and the town of Kaş. Kastellorizo is an other-world, a crossroads of incredible stories, a place that has a complex, layered and present history. It is an island that, despite its incredible beauty, does not have a strong tourist vocation – there are no large hotel facilities. This factor has certainly preserved it and allowed it to still be a reality in its own right,” this is how the curator Annalisa Rosso describes the island in which 4Rooms, a project promoted by the collector Silvia Fiorucci, President and Founder of the non-profit Società delle Api, is contextualised.
The eastern end of Europe is one of Fiorucci’s “places of the heart”, a location she has been going to for 20 years and where she has renovated a historic residence: Porta Rossa. The 4Rooms project concerns precisely the interior design of the rooms of this house: through a competition of ideas, four designers were chosen to transform its bedrooms into spaces with a unique character. Curated by Annalisa Rosso, the 4Rooms project aims to support the work of emerging designers and, at the same time, promote dialogue and cultural exchange in the context of Mediterranean culture and its historical heritage and landscape.
The protagonists of the initiative – Phanos Kyriacou, Julie Richoz, Studio Brynjar & Veronika and UND.studio – were selected by a commission of experts composed of Michael Anastassiades (Designer), Alexis Georgacopoulos (Design Expert, Director of ECAL), Silvia Fiorucci (President and Founder of Società delle Api, Collector), Cristiano Raimondi (Vice President of Società delle Api, Curator) and Annalisa Rosso herself. The design of the communal spaces, on the ground floor of Porta Rossa, was instead commissioned from Superpoly, one of the award-winning studios at 5Rooms, a project developed in 2018 in Grasse, in the south of France, of which the initiative in Kastellorizo is analogous.
“The designers were able to incorporate in their different creative languages the unique reality of the island – its historical, social, geographical context. They experimented with objects, materials and original reinterpretations of the existing, they involved local actors and invented solutions, they all put themselves to the test. The result is a radical work of great courage, a new way of thinking about design: the very sense of space, the idea of function. An open and inclusive design practice, in the name of the hospitality typical of the Bee Society,” explains the 4Rooms project curator. “Superpoly, authors of the communal spaces, created some of the furnishings using and reworking existing elements, such as creels, sponges and nets. Julie Richoz worked starting from traditional clothes and fabrics and, in a way, dressed her room, maintaining a sense of lightness and temporariness. Studio Brynjar & Veronika worked with the natural elements of the island, from colours to local stones. Cypriot Phanos Kyriacou, an islander by definition, eliminated the existing superfetations in his room, returning it to its original state and working on the concept of the archetype. UND.studio has instead inserted an ‘impossible’ element into the room: a unique vertical metal structure, like an alien capsule that lands in space and becomes a world of its own.”
The unique project is not only exceptional in its concept, but also in the material conditions under which it was developed. Rosso also told the ‘behind the scenes’ of 4Rooms: “A big problem is that in Kastellorizo if you don’t have a screwdriver you can’t get it, you can’t buy or borrow it. You have to go back to Rhodes and lose a day’s work. Considering that almost all the parts were made ad hoc, imagine the complexity of the project, starting with the shipping and ending with the relationship with the local workers. What you can do depends very much on the material resources you have at the time; therefore, the constant presence of the designers was very important. It was a life-changing experience for them.”
Finally, it is important to emphasise the sensitivity with which the project has related to the fragile and complex context: ‘Silvia Fiorucci has a very strong bond with the inhabitants of the island. She has been going to Kastellorizo every summer for 20 years and inevitably gets to know the whole community, which counts only a few hundred people. So the inauguration of the project was shared with them – before that with friends, journalists, collectors and the whole large global community of the Bee Society. Because first of all, for a whole year, the locals were there for those who came and left. It’s interesting to see how the locals help you, how they integrate you but at the same time are a little wary: these are micro-community dynamics that even a project of international calibre must be able to take into account.”