Mykonos Through the Architecture
Cyclades are a region highly representative of the Mediterranean climate. Strong winds, intense and extended sun exposure, long rainless periods, and at the same time high humidity levels.
Adaptation of architecture to local conditions and to the region’s natural environment, are the main elements characterizing traditional Cycladic houses.
Flat roofs and cubic shapes provide protection from the strong Cycladic winds. Small openings in the houses’ northern sides eliminate thermal loads and humidity. Stone walls and shady areas from dense foliage in the exteriors, achieve cooling. White washed walls minimize the absorption of heat from the walls.
Even the distribution of houses’ volumes, in relation to their exposure and the direction of the winds, is not coincidental. Interior yards, recesses, ledges, different heights, different types of semi open spaces –verandahs, alcoves, semi open entrances, all play an important role.
However, though similar at first sight, each one of the Cycladic islands maintains its own unique characteristics. These characteristics are tightly linked to each island’s different historical course, its population’s activities, its geological particularities, and, of course, the wealth of its soil. Santorini’s caves, Naxos’ and Andros’ tower-houses, Tinos’ pigeon-lofts, Antiparos’, Folegandros’ and Sifnos’ castle like settlements, Syros’ neo-classical buildings, are just a few indicative examples.
Mykonos has all the typical characteristics of traditional Cycladic architecture. Like a cluster of white grapes, with tiny strokes of color here and there, its houses stand bathed in the glaring sun of the Aegean. Whitewashed walls, flat roofs, wooden doors and window shutters painted in all shades of the Aegean blue, flowered balconies, and a maze of paved narrow alleys, flood the visitors’ senses from the first moment they set their foot here.
Characteristic of Mykonian architecture is the dense lay-out of its cube-like houses, and the smooth asymmetrical shape on the corners of all its buildings.
The island’s many votive chapels, some of which have been designated as historical monuments, stand out for their simple construction and their red arched roofs.
The windmills, once a strong component of its economic prosperity, have, in our times, become a Mykonos trademark.
A very unique, and not at all typical of Cycladic architecture, corner of Mykonos, is “Small Venice”. It is located between the centre of the old Castle and Alefkadra, and it is literally washed by the sea. Its houses are decorated with wooden open air balconies painted in vivid colors.
Finally, Paraportiani, declared an important monument for its architectural uniqueness, is a distinct feature of Mykonos. The name comes from the fact that it is next to the small northwest gate (paraporti) of the Middle Age fortification of the island, and it is a two-level cluster of five churches. At its eastern façade, it is crowned by a small bell tower with a quaint arch, which completes artistically this unique in its kind complex, the remains of the Cycladic castles architecture.