As part of our collaboration with the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto, in the past few days we completed the preliminary phase of the joint workshop “Documentation of the cultural and natural landscape formations and ecological identity of islets”.
One of the main goals of this collaboration is the continuation of ongoing design research by faculty and graduate students of the University of Toronto for the restoration of the building of the Aegean Marine Life Sanctuary (AMLS) and the rehabilitation of its surrounding landscape in Lipsi island. This is an industrial building initially built as part of a fish farm, later abandoned for decades. Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation has already successfully completed the first phase of the building’s transformation into a rehabilitation center and marine research base.
Even though it is located in a remote area, away from electricity and water distribution networks, it has now become a model building powered solely by renewable energy while it also has a solar-powered desalination unit that can cover the water supply needs. Its sewage and water management system will soon be completed. Being a model building, AMLS is open to share the know-how to those eager to follow the same sustainable practices.
Our current objective is the rehabilitation and sustainable management of the surrounding landscape. Our partners’ specialization in sustainable building science and traditional building techniques for the adaptive reuse and landscape rehabilitation is of invaluable importance for our aim to achieve an integrated restoration of building, landscape, and seascape.
At the same time during the workshop “Documentation of the cultural and natural landscape formations and ecological identity of islets” we traveled on board the Aegean Explorer to small islets of the northern Dodecanese. Combining the use of drones and on-site recording, we surveyed the anthropogenic and natural landscape (buildings, constructions, dry stones, sewerage network systems, plantings) focusing on the traditional constructions techniques and details. In addition we studied the ecological identity of each islet in connection with the different species that inhabit them and the effects of intensive animal farming, but also recorded testimonies and narrations by locals about the history of each island and islet and its transformation over the years.
As we study the financial activity that these uninhabited islets had in the past, it fills us with awe that not only they were inhabited, but also produced and exported dairy products, meat, legumes and more. Nowadays, even though we have access to state-of-the-art technological means, we struggle to survive even in the most rich ecosystems. Therefore the traditional resource management practices which were followed for centuries by the local communities of the Aegean islands, are a topic of research by internationally acclaimed institutions – a research that today is more relevant than ever.
The main goal of this long-term collaboration between Archipelagos Institute and the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape and Design of the University of Toronto, is to gain knowledge and comprehension about the wise traditional resource management practices that local communities used for centuries to survive in the Aegean islands, with exemplary self-sufficiency.
The University of Toronto research team is led by Petros Babasikas, Architect, Director of the Daniels Faculty’s Honors Bachelor of Arts, Architectural Studies, and includes 9 graduating Masters’ students specializing in adaptive reuse, landscape rehabilitation, and sustainable community engagement.