Interdisciplinary Research on the Aegean Islands: Archipelagos Institute – University of Toronto School of Architecture

Archipelagos Institute’s planning and preliminary work on the Aegean Islet Conservation Project continues as part of Archipelagos Institute’s collaboration with the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape & Design.

The joint research, which began in 2021, focuses on dozens of islands in the southern and eastern Aegean Sea and aims to map the Anthropogenic and Natural Landscape and Ecological Identity of the Small Islands.

By recording and studying data on the economic activity of these small islands, where nowadays barely a few bushes survive, our aim is not only to gain knowledge, but also to extract knowledge and understanding of the wise management practices on the basis of which societies survived for thousands of years in the small Aegean islands, with absolute self-sufficiency.It is noteworthy that while for thousands of years and until a few decades ago the small islands were not only inhabited, but they produced and traded cheese products, meat, cereals, legumes (such as the famous fava beans) and others, nowadays not only is there no primary production, but we have indulged in their total destruction.

With the mismanagement of Community subsidies, livestock (sheep and goats) have been virtually abandoned on many of these islands. These are counted to receive European subsidies and then abandoned on the islands where access is very difficult. The result is not only that dozens of dead animals are found on the islands, due to dehydration or starvation, but also that desertification and irreversible erosion of the islands are caused. When the bushes disappear due to overgrazing, the retention of nocturnal moisture (the so-called ‘agiasis’) also stops. The few centimetres of the productive surface soil on the islands are eroded and this erodes into the sea. What remains are the rocks where nothing can grow anymore. In collaboration with the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Architecture, in addition to studying and mapping the residential and natural history of these small islands, as well as the threat factors, the next objective is the physical establishment of an on-site research station aimed at implementing recovery and desertification mitigation practices.

The rehabilitation process will include, among other things, the reconstruction of old dwellings with traditional practices and materials present on the islets, replanting of local shrub and low vegetation species and the re-cultivation of arid local varieties (legumes, cereals).

To this end, we interlink digital documentation with traditional practices, with an interdisciplinary approach of environmental and social sciences, ethnography, history and all available local knowledge.

Nowadays, when with so many modern means we find it difficult to survive even in the most productive ecosystems, the traditional forms of management followed for centuries by the local communities of the Aegean, even in the small islands, are the subject of international scientific research of invaluable value, which is nowadays more relevant than ever.



The Aegean Islet Conservation Project is led by Thodoris Tsimpidis, Director of Archipelagos Institute ( and Petros Babasikas, Architect and Director of Honours Bachelor of Arts, Architectural Studies at the University, Canada (