Architecture on the islands of the Archipelago

The Minoan palace of Knossos is considered one of the earliest and most sophisticated specimens of architecture in the ancient world. Interestingly enough, some of its characteristics are still echoed in traditional Greek architecture. The palace’s structure is akin to the spare architectural style of the Cyclades and several of the decorative motifs found in the palace’s wall paintings are carried on through the pebble floor decoration of the Greek islands. This continuity of architectural styles and culture across the Aegean is the underlying theme of two books recently published by Melissa publications. «The Aegean Islands: Architecture» traces the development of Aegean architecture from antiquity to the present. It documents the diversity of styles and shows the cross-influences and the layers of history that are imprinted on public or private architecture. «Aegean Art and Civilization» is a smaller book that deals with broader cultural issues. Divided into self-contained chapters, it looks into a variety of separate issues ranging from Aegean architecture in antiquity and traditional Aegean art to the development of Greek commercial history from antiquity to the present. The book, which was published in cooperation with the Ministry of the Aegean, is partly based on the texts printed in «The Aegean: The Epicenter of Greek Civilization,» published by Melissa in 1992. Both books host a team of writers, mostly university professors and specialized in their field of writing, who have worked with Melissa publications before. Manolis Korres, Haralambos Bouras, Dimitris Phillipides, Angelos Delivorias and Panayiotis Tournikiotis are some of the books’ contributors. Melissa, which is one of the two oldest and most established publishing houses on books concerning Greek art and the first publishing house to develop a special interest in Greek architecture, will celebrate its 50th anniversary next year. An eight-volume series on traditional Greek architecture has been one of its most ambitious projects. A different version of the book comes in a series of smaller books, each specializing in the architecture of a distinct region of Greece. Last year, Melissa also published a four-volume series on the history of Greek architecture from antiquity to the present. Richly illustrated and densely written, they are a useful documentation of Greek architecture and are significant for making thorough research available to the general, non-specialized public. A study of the Aegean The two recent publications on the Aegean were recently presented at the Benaki Museum as part of a bigger project organized on the occasion of the Greek presidency of the European Union. The project includes the release of «The Archaeological Atlas of the Aegean» a CD-ROM designed by the Ministry of the Aegean and Kastaniotis publications (the electronic publication of a book published by the ministry a few years ago) as well as «The Aegean Archipelagos,» a video-CD produced by the Ministry of the Aegean and the University of the Aegean in cooperation with KINO. Angelos Hadziandreos has directed the video and Vangelis Papathanasiou has composed the soundtrack. Like most books published by Melissa, the two recent releases on the Aegean are broad in scope, since they cover Greek architecture across the Aegean and through history. This density of information is what makes the essays an informative but rather difficult encyclopedia-like reading. The well-printed images offer a pleasant visual break from the densely written pages. The combination makes for a vital reference book rather than a book that can be read from beginning to end uninterruptedly. «The Aegean Islands: Architecture» is structured across regions: Architecture on the islands of the eastern Aegean (Lesvos, Chios and Samos), the northern Aegean (Thasos, Samothrace and Lemnos) and the Sporades, the Argo-Saronic, the Cyclades, the Dodecanese islands and Crete are all examined separately. This structure is punctuated by thematic essays on the interior, domestic decoration in the Aegean, the link between Aegean architecture and modernism, and the development of architectural orders in ancient architecture. There is also an interesting essay on the prevalence of industrial architecture in the islands of the eastern Aegean. Less detailed and specialized, «Aegean Art and Civilization» was principally designed for a foreign audience and the officials visiting Athens on the occasion of the Greek EU presidency. The book contains brief surveys of Aegean architecture from antiquity to the present as well as an essay on traditional art. It also addresses some more unusual subjects: The essays on the the history of Greek commercial shipping and the music of the Aegean offer an interesting view into other areas of culture. It is likely that these two books will mark the beginning of a new series on the culture of the Aegean which Melissa publications plans for the future. As it is, they fill in a gap in the research and documentation of Greek architecture, the areas in which Melissa publications has thus far covered both with ambition and commitment.

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