Panos Koulermos within the Framework of Mediterranean Culture
Antonio Velez Catrain

       Listening to Panos Koulermos, I have learned much about him as an architect, as a human being, above all, as a thinker. In the process. I have discovered the profound bond of his ideas with the philosophy and spirit of the Mediterranean- not only the Hellenic Mediterranean, but the whole immense region, with its diverse shores and primal, mystical waters. The Mediterranean is perhaps the most serene of all seas, and serenity is perhaps the most important feature of Koulermos' architecture.
       At present, when Koulermos is at the height of his career, his work appears more reflective, well conceived and careful than ever. Other architects, when intensely busy, give up the search for new inspiration, preferring to copy themselves in order to meet the demand for their work. For Kuolermos, each new project is more complete than the last, with fewer concessions made to frivolity. Most importantly, he has remained independent of the trends that have come and gone in rapid succession in recent years. He has chosen a difficult means of developing his work: even his smallest, most everyday projects, such as dwellings and villas, show a search for transcendence and solemnity. Running through all his projects, like a golden thread, is a concern with the physical and historical aspects of the site and place, irrespective of time.
        It is no accident that one of the buildings which interests Koulermos most is the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, In this exemplary project, Louis Kahn responded to a site that was exceptionally evocative, though hardly fraught with history. The resultant building transcends the landscape. Close to Heraklion, Koulermos' buildings for the University of Crete and the Foundation of Research and Technology establish the same kind of transcendent dialogue with the landscape and the elements that shape it: the wind, the scent of the place, the changes in temperature, the seasons and the crops. In the case of his Biennale project on the Grand Canal in Venice (Ca' Venier/Guggenheim Foundation) the site, with its mystery and its poetry, is the thread leading to Koulermos' magical solution that also links itself with Gardella's architecture in the same city. One might even say that Koulermos designs not only the buildings themselves, but the space around them.
       I had the opportunity to work with Koulermos on a competition project for the area around the Alhambra in Granada, He grasped the place and its history immediately, extracting Its truly important aspects from his very first visit. He had a clear sense of the culture of Granada and the Islamic architecture which is part of the heritage of the Mediterranean - and an equally clear sense of the practical issues involved. He knew just how to scale the project: how to orient it, define its boundaries and manipulate the difficult topography of the site.
       A further element that I consider to be essential in Koulermos' work is his ability to create works of architecture which are solemn without being 'monumental' (a widely misused term In contemporary architecture). Those who strive to build a city out of a succession of significant buildings often fail to convey the kind of solemnity that Koulermos infuses into a building or citadel by the act of binding it with the greater natural environment. Koulermos has nurtured this ability throughout his life. He is constantly curious, always attentive to events that may have a profound cultural meaning in our times.
       Regarding his craft as an architect, the outstanding aspect is the strong yet simple way in which each of his buildings relates to the ground. In each case, the esplanade, platform, podium or staircase will respect the various topographic incidents and respond to the requirements of the programme itself. The building will rise in a clear manner, without ambiguities or distortions, unfurling itself freely against the horizon, capturing the light and sending it across roofs and walls, defining a whole new architecture as the shadows fall over the horizontal planes.
       Needless to say, these brief comments cannot fully describe Koulermos' work and thought. However, I do believe that they can help the reader find in his work the inspiration and motivation that those of us close to him have learned to value so highly. To conclude, I will mention an element of his work that has been very important to me personally: his vision of history. Panes believes in the oneness of time. Present, past and future all converge in the site, sustaining the work of architecture from its birth to its natural destruction. The true architect has the ability to envision the finished work, to imagine, while he draws, how it will look after the passage of time. This, to me, is Koulermos' most important asset - and his most admirable one.

Translated by Ana Virginia Ras