Any intervention to a public space involves great responsibility, as it is a gesture that affects people’s spatial experience and contributes (or not) in developing a collective consciousness. When we were asked to form a proposal for the renovation of the entrance to the Castle of Monemvasia, a project that was initially considered of limited scope and of primarily circulatory interest, we undertook the challenge with a deep awareness of its significance. Our first concern was to extend the program in order to include both functional (traffic, parking, signage, stops, waste) and sensory qualities (the experience of approaching and entering the castle, textures of materials, thermal comfort, the relationship to the view and the wind).
Countless hours of studying, researching and discussing fervently were required, in order to shape the right questions regarding the future of that shapeless and awkward space that welcomes thousands of tourists every day and accommodates hundreds of residents:
− What is the form of a contemporary monument that comes into contact and dialogue with a medieval castle, without competing, while also expressing its era?
− How can a public space currently used for passing through become welcoming and attractive and how can one breathe into it a poetic dimension?
− How can one prevent the parking of vehicles without the use of barriers, signs and chains?
The proposal’s broader objective is to strengthen the mystical experience of arriving at the castle and the unique coexistence of the monument with the magnificent laconian landscape. The intervention does not attract attention to itself; on the contrary, it directs one’s gaze to the actual protagonists, mainly the Castle, stripped of unnecessary uses and overcomplicated design. A polygonal square, by the standards of the Roman piazza, is the primary gesture, which is differentiated from the arrival path to the gate in terms of tilting and choice of material, and is devoted to human activity and interaction. The piazza’s configuration prevents the strong presence of vehicles in front of the gate, reinforcing that of pedestrians and creating a pleasant space which functions as a reception, stop and information area.