This Sustainable Greek Getaway Puts the Art in Architecture

In a pristine olive grove overlooking the lapping shores of Halkidiki, Greece, there sits a modest dusty green metal summer home called ‘The Olive Tree House.’ Don’t be fooled by its bucolic credentials, though – this is a highly experimental and conceptually complex structure from London-based architect Eva Sopeoglou.


Half summer house, half site-specific art installation, this “low-maintenance” weekend getaway has for many years been a pet project of Eva’s. From design to construction the project took 6 years to complete, but the results are impressive, and have won Eva the 2016 Surface Design Award (London, UK) in the Light & Surface Exterior category.

All building components for the house were pre-fabricated, so it can be dismantled without a trace, and the walls can be removed or shifted to create a dynamic and adaptable space. The most striking feature, the exterior lightweight envelope perforated with olive-inspired design, employed cutting-edge digital CAD/CAM technology. It was made in a process generating minimum waste from galvanised metal, with parts of the patter hand-folded to create a three dimensional surface. The walls are finished with a dusty green powder-coat paint.


The textile-like pattern is Eva’s own design, conceived after experiments with olive tree image manipulation and fabrication testing. 30 motifs in total were manually arranged on the metal sheet, and were then ‘embroidered’ using an industry-standard sheet metal CNC punching machine in a fully digital process. The intricate result creates a pattern of shadows inside that shift with the day’s changing sunlight.

Inside, it’s an intimate and unimposing 21m² building, on a 4150m² plot. The 3m x 7m rectangular plan is aligned to the cardinal points, and is sub-divided into smaller rooms, with a corridor connecting the spaces. The rooms are oriented towards the north and east, favorable for the Summer months, and local thermal phenomena have been taken into account to maximise the residents’ comfort. The twin bedroom is fitted with mosquito nets.


Additionally, the house is deliciously off-grid, and furnished with composting toilets, photovoltaic systems, rain water collection facilities. Eva’s ecological agenda is focused on improving the way humans interact with nature, and as such, this summer house is low-maintenance both for its inhabitants and for its surrounding environment.

‘The Olive Tree House’ is an interesting exploration of interior and exterior space in architecture, whilst providing a beautifully calculated catalyst for the abundant Greek sunlight to show itself at its most artistic. 


THE PLUS: As an architect, in what ways do you think we should be more ecologically-minded in our building practice?
Eva Sopeoglou:
In general terms, we can be more ecological by considering how people inhabit space and the landscape. For example, this house is practically off the grid. I consider delight and pleasure to be part of a sustainability agenda in architecture.

TP: So sustainable construction doesn’t have to be a design burden?
I believe that a sustainability agenda in architecture should employ an element of delight and pleasure rather than serving the practical side of construction.

TP: The way the sunlight and shadows fall, it’s as much installation art as it is architecture. Could you take us through the artistis experience?
Each elevation and each room has its own character, derived from the quality and intensity of its shadows. The east sends colourful shadows in the mornings while the southern direct sun in the midday dissolves the metallic cladding, creating a dramatic light effect in the main space.

TP: Where would your ideal low-maintenance home be?  
I am a sailor, and in my spare time I race yachts, so my ideal low-maintenance ‘home’ is a sailing boat traveling by sea across the world!