Dappled Sunlight Shines Through the Walls of This Mesmerizing Tiny House in Greece

Dappled Sunlight Shines Through the Walls of This Mesmerizing Tiny House in Greece

By Laura Mauk
Botanical cutouts punch through the green metal walls of this 226-square-foot retreat in Halkidiki, recreating the effect of an olive tree canopy.

When architect Eva Sopeoglou was commissioned to devise a small, low-maintenance summer house in Halkidiki, Greece, she decided the landscape was so spectacular that it should be integrated into the design. "The site is located on a hill in a pristine olive grove," Sopeoglou says. "It overlooks the sea and the famous monasteries of Mount Athos."

"The architectural reference for using metal sheets is the existing sheepfolds and sheds which were scattered around these hills before any of the summer vacationers settled here," Sopeoglou says. "One can still hear during the day distant sounds of bells from the herds feeding on the land."

Sopeoglou’s clients, a retired couple who live permanently in the city of Thessaloniki, an hour’s drive from Halkidiki, wanted respite from city life. Now, they escape to their home in Halkidiki on weekends and during the summer. And in March, April, and October, the couple visit just to be outdoors and take in the sun for the day. 

"In November and December, the olive trees bear fruit and olive harvesting happens," Sopeoglou says. "In the spring, there’s some gardening, and maintaining the grounds takes place. My clients were not interested in maintaining another structure. This was commissioned as a temporary accommodation, something more permanent than a tent, but less permanent than a regular house—this was the brief."

"The porch was designed to use most of the concrete slab surface," Sopeoglou says. "The metal panels fold out from the kitchen and allow for maximum openness. I removed the structural column from the corner so the space is free from obstruction, and the clients can enjoy the views when they gather during lunchtime."

Cutouts in the shape and scale of olive tree branches on the site mark the pale green-painted metal siding of the tiny home.

Sopeoglou situated the design—a 226-square-foot construction sided with pale, green metal panels that display cutouts of olive branches—in the center of three existing olive trees. "The trees are to the north, the east, and the west," the architect says. "There’s also a large rock to the south." Using natural features as a kind of frame for the house joined it to its setting. "The structure itself became a small part of the larger landscape," Sopeoglou says. "The clients were very keen on the building being responsive to the sun and views toward the sea and the hills. I spent many days with them on the site, discussing layout and documenting the path of the sun and the wind patterns."

The bedroom, which also acts as a living room, features metal closets on the western elevation that provide siding as well as storage space. The green-painted metal panels on the northern elevation fold open to views of rolling hills.

The house’s floor plan includes a kitchen, a bedroom, and a bathroom; an outdoor shower on the south elevation offers views to the sea. A long corridor separates the kitchen and the bathroom from the bedroom—which also acts as a living room—and ventilates the rooms as it funnels natural air from one side of the house to the other. 

Metal closets separate the bedroom-and-living area from the kitchen and the bath.

A narrow corridor between the bedroom-and-living area funnels air through the tiny house, serving as a passive cooling system.

The box-like structure features a sloped, corrugated metal roof. "This is a standard vernacular for sheds," Sopeoglou says. "The metal is ubiquitous in Australia, the global South, the Americas, and in general throughout the rural parts of the world." The slope of the roof drains rainwater and allows hot air to rise and collect in the highest, most eastern portion of the house. The air then exits the home through a series of vents or openings that act like clerestories. 

Sopeoglou accented the vented clerestories with vibrant color that interacts with sunlight and casts brilliant geometric shapes onto the walls and the floor. "Any heat that’s generated escapes through the openings and creates a breeze," the architect says. "A lack of insulation throughout the structure does not allow heat be stored anywhere in the building."

The home's simple silhouette and sloped metal roof references historical agrarian-style architecture that dots rural landscapes throughout the globe. 

A colored ventilation system on the upper portion of the eastern elevation expels warm air and helps to cool the home's interior. The metal siding below the vents folds open and facilitates outdoor connection and more air circulation.

The colored ventilation system interacts with sunlight and projects a spectacle of color, light, and shadow onto some of the interior's wood beams.

Sunlight passes through the ventilation system and casts teal and sunshine-yellow squares  onto interior structural surfaces. 

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The breeze felt inside the home gives a feeling of being outdoors. And when the green-painted metal walls of the kitchen and the bedroom-and-living area fold open, the home expands and ties to a large deck and the boundless, cinematic landscape beyond. 

"The rooms open to the sun or the shade, depending on the season and the weather," Sopeoglou says. "When the walls are pulled closed, the leaf-, olive-, and branch-shaped cutouts cast sunlight and shadow play onto the surfaces of the interior. The interior space transforms and takes on the effect of sitting under the shade of an olive tree."

Sopeoglou wanted the olive tree branch cutouts in the metal siding to create the feeling of sitting beneath an olive tree.

Mosquito nets suspend from the corrugated metal ceiling and provide protection from natural elements while resting or sleeping.

Choosing metal for the cladding gave Sopeoglou an opportunity to experiment with Metalso, a metal fabricator in Greece. "We’ve a longstanding [relationship] and together, we conceive, construct and test prototypes, full-scale enclosures, perforated facades, and environmental screens using CAD/CAM technology," she says. "Digital fabrication is as much a craft as working by hand or using analogue tools. A collaboration between architect, material, fabricator, and machine takes place each time." 

The architect also employed metal because of its robust quality. "The western elevation is an opaque wall made of metal closets that provide storage and protect the home from the harsh afternoon sun," she says. The same metal closets line the corridor and help mark the divide between the bedroom-and-living area and the kitchen and the bathroom. 

The architect textured the cutouts in the metal siding to create an authentic experience.

The kitchen area features plywood cabinetry and counters and metal shelving.

While the walls of metal closets are wonderfully practical, the perforated green-painted metal cladding—which is both functional and visually compelling—takes center stage when it comes to presentation. Sopeoglou was impressively detailed when she created the perforated walls, scaling the botanical cutouts so they’re the same size as the olive tree branches around the house. "I measured the sizes of the leaves nearby," she says. "Otherwise, the pattern would’ve been perceived as a caricature." 

In an effort to minimize waste, each wall panel was made from a single sheet of galvanized metal. "The final design followed an innovative method of cutting, folding, and combining digital fabrication with craft," the architect says. "The motifs were machine-perforated, then folded both digitally and by hand to produce a three-dimensional texture. Because the walls are textured, the shadows and the sunlight are textured and animated just like a tree’s texture." 

The folding metal walls, which cast light and shadow onto the concrete floor, are as dynamic as they're eye-catching.

The home’s color, too, is in harmony with the nature around it. "The dusty green matches the palette of the site which is predominantly green and blue," Sopeoglou says. "Each side of the house has quickly acquired a distinct patina due to weathering effects and orientation and different exposures to the sun, the wind, and salty mist of the sea. The house does not impose on the land. This juxtaposition of compressed interior space placed comfortably next to expansive landscape reverses and challenges our current and prevailing experience of architecture."

An outdoor shower on the northern elevation lets the residents spend practical time in the landscape.

Sculptural olive trees frame the house, which is woven with its natural setting.

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