Catharsis: spiritual exercise in lake Prespa

Sissi Kasimati

Project idea

The present project examines the possibilities which the mountaineous landscape of lake Prespa entails, in order to accommodate spaces intended for a modern ascetic.

The particular idea stems from the inner need of a human to isolate temporarily from one’s hectic schedule and lead a more peaceful lifestyle, even for a short period of time, in order to exercise and reach inner completion and self awareness. Due to the existance of previous hermitages in natural caves all across the lake shore, since 1400 AD, the area of lake Prespa was considered suitable for such an experimentation.

Thus, this project reconsiders the term of ascetic life within a contemporary context and attempts to revitalize the ascetic tradition in lake Prespa, suggesting a combination of built spaces, offering a sense of seclusion and providing friendly conditions for spiritual exercise.

Project description

The main proposal consists of a submerged structure in the coast of Aghia Eleousa. The aforementioned structure is formed by a group of individual cells, where visitors can stay temporarily, for a few hours or even a month, combined with a few spaces dedicated to serve some primary physical needs. Every space is submerged in the pebbled beach of Aghia Eleousa, and cannot be seen by visitors or fishermen, except for the cells, which extend vertically in the form of wooden balconies above the surface of the beach, leaning on the cliff.

The proposal can be divided into three parts: as the visitor enters the submerged structure, they stand at an entrance hall with a grid of concrete posts. In the middle of the composition lies a submerged garden, as a connecting element between a public library and the private spaces on the left. The library is a place where the temporary residents keep track of the area’s history and record changes in the surrounding environment, while visitors can read about the ascetic tradition in lake Prespa. The private spaces consist of the individual cells, where residents can find seclusion and concentrate. A hallway connects the cells, while on the opposite side one can find the shared spaces, which are to accommodate a few primary human needs the semi-open shared kitchen, which offers a fireplace and some food preparation tables. At the end of the composition, one can find the spaces related to tha hamam. Due to its importance as a place for “catharsis”, the hamam is gradually evolving starting from spaces of a more practical sanitary function and ending in a larger room of hot water, offering a place for social interaction and discussions.

Technical information

In order for the structure to adapt and look like it was par of the surrounding environment, as well as for sustainability reasons, the excessive use of materials was avoided and local materials were preferred. Therefore, pebbles from the nearby coast of Prespa were used on the floors of open and semi-open spaces, while everey wall in the composition was made of local stones, covered with a local stucco mix. Regarding the extension of the excavated cells above the ground, local oak wood was used, while a cable system supported the wooden elements leaning on the cliff.

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