Bad Monsters Make Way
John Hejduk

    Panos Koulermos is in love with architecture and his work proves it. Panos knows about form, space and, most importantly, about spirit. Of course he should because he comes from that part of the world where such things are honoured and celebrated. Panos has stories to tell and we listen to him. He makes us happy to know about the various fates of man and also of woman. Panos understands that the ancient gods are always waiting, observing our creations; that is , they compare and finally judge. I think they smile with and upon Panos Koulermos. In their positions, the gods need their hearts to be warmed a bit as do we humans, and Panos provides us with the necessary heat, just enough, for he does not want to burn us. He is clear about the ambiguity as to what the heavens might bolt down, so he makes an appropriate offering, that is , the offering of good work in the form of architecture.
    I imagine part of our friendship is due to our similar respect to the time honoured generators of architecture. We both love white surfaces where the sun and clouds can do their work. We respect the shadows and the shades. We think that the site, the plan, the elevation, the section and the detail are weights enough in which to express our imaginings. We are suspicious of the facile, the extravagant, the noisy. We believe in structure and construction. We are the enemies of chaos and of de-constructions. We abhor the mindless and exaggerated visceral. We celebrate the invention of programme and the explorations into the unseen. We revere our discipline and we enjoy eating with each other. If ever I have to take a dangerous voyage, I want to have Panos next to me. He has the ability to make bad monsters make way. He laughs them to death. His oblique rationale speeds up their disappearances. I always look forward to seeing my friend again. With him, one is still able to talk about the square, the circle and the triangle.
    At this moment of his life, Panos is having a remarkable spurt of energy. He is moving like a bat out of hell or a man out of hell or a man out of the labyrinth. His architecture on Crete/in Crete is extraordinary; wonderful plans, solid geometries/volumes bathed in unrelenting sun/light, the mastery of large programmes, elaborate requirements made into imposing structure, cities on a hill, at once hidden and seen. One can be assured that these are joy-full places of learning and discovery. How refreshing to see an architect making precise/simple architectural plans. Panos loves columns, beams, piers, wall, stairs, ramps, windows, balconies, cylinders, cubes, earth modulations, bridges, floors, ceilings, lightwells, skylights, doors , entries, arches, masonry, plaster and steel. He uses the above as an alchemist would. His chemistry is judiciously mixed.
    I want to extract out and speak to/of two of his most recent projects that provoke thought - thoughts about time , our time, past time, new time, old time, time within time...The two projects are the Nursery School in Los Angeles and House 12 in Ithaca. In a way they encapsulate the conditions we confront today.
    The Los Angeles Nursery School presents the diabolicalness of the outside conditions if our cities, the compressions upon the innocent and the proposition that, like the monasteries of the Middle Ages, the schools of today are becoming the refuges and protectors of our youth and their freedom to learn. Panos' school presents certain problems head on. He understands that our educational institutions are under attack and he makes a monastic/defensive proposal. One can inter/change the programme: stated school/unstated refuge. Also, the undertone as school for sunlight, air, and school as penitentiary, schoolyard as playpen, and schoolyard as minimum security exercise yard. The Los Angeles Nursery School plan is quite simple: three cylindrical volumes in a court surrounded on three sides by a volumetric wall-walkway-rampart; the fourth side enclosed by a two-story volume which contains kitchen/dining facilities plus administration, toilets, etc. Basically a normal nursery school . Taking the same plan, two other institutional programmes could be imagined: a monastery and penitentiary. For the monastery, the surrounding narrow walkway could be considered the cloister walkway, enclosed and overlooking the cloister yard . The three cylindrical volumes could perhaps be the monastery chapel, library and meditation areas, with the large vaulted structure serving as kitchen/dining and administration along with sleeping facilities. All told, a reasonable plan for brothers.
    The second programme/plan could be conceived as a penitentiary, with the encircling outer wall-walkway, the elements for security guards overlooking the prison exercise yard. The Three cylindrical volumes could be used for the prison work areas, and the fourth elements, the vaulted rectangular volume, for administration, kitchen, dining, sleeping, toilets, and so on.
    I speculate about this because I believe plan/programme can be interchangeable, as shown in the above case either for learning, for prayer or for incarceration. It is eerily strange that our times seem to need all three. In one case a joy-full programme, in the other a thought-full programme, in the third a chilling programme.
    Panos Koulermos' Los Angeles Nursery School could be thought of too as school for angels that provides for prayer so that the angels are not captured and imprisoned.
    PanosThe project House 12 in Ithaca is a beautiful idea and seminal work. I am deeply moved by it. It is a land ship, a house ship that a modern-day Ulysses would have to engage, Whatever his trials and tribulations, at least the ancient Ulysses always had a water ship, a ship that floated upon the liquidity of a fluid. Panos' modern-day ship/house is tied to the land. Its fate physically is to be static and fixed. The oar-like structural buttresses are at once ancient, medieval and modern: the wood of antiquity, the concrete/masonry of the Middle Ages and gripping of modern earth.
    I believe Panos is saying that with all our apparent modern-day mobility we in fact have become more fixed, more internal, more inaccessible and, in a strange way, more private.
    In response to his land/fixed ship, I can live within it. That is , I can think within it, I can pray within it, and I can travel throughout the world within it. And most important of all, I can imagine it.
    I think somewhere or other Le Corbusier has stated that the only thing transferable is thought. Panos Koulermos helps us to understand.

First published in the catalogue to the Panos Koulermos exhibition Topos, Memory, and Form, shown in 1990 at he House of Cyprus, Athens.