Kefalonia is for Lovers
“Kefalonia is for Lovers”, in Do you remember how perfect everything was? The Work of Zoe Zenghelis. Edited by Hamed Khosravi. London, UK: AA Publications, 2021.
OMA’s practice from 1972–1985 is undeniably characterized by projects that problematise the metropolitan condition of the late-capitalist city. Their design briefs, speculative projects and competition entries were informed by post-domestic environments, emerging spaces of leisure and work, and the challenges of new forms of life, aiming to reclaim a role for architectural form – a contemporary language of brutal realism. Berlin, London, New York and Paris, archetypal cities of western modernity and urbanity, offered a fertile context for these radical experiments; they became the playground in which Rem Koolhaas’s writings, Elia Zenghelis’ drawings and Zoe Zenghelis’ and Madelon Vriesendorp’s paintings created a universe of beauty, lust and unapologetic hedonism.
The text addresses four projects developed by OMA in 1984–85 on the island of Kefalonia: the redevelopment of St. Gerasimos Sacred Plain, the redesign of Koutavos Bay, and the beaches of Skala and Platys Gialos. In these projects, Zoe’s artistic practice – and particularly her work on Greek landscapes in Kefalonia and beyond – became enmeshed with OMA’s formulation of architectural devices that operate in the ‘transposed paradises’ of these Arcadian, hedonistic projects. Colours, abstract forms and the confrontation with topographical and natural elements – the sea, the sky, mountains, plains, lakes – are here not mere representations of architectural projects, but rather the conceptual framework through which these projects exist in the first place. Moreover, this phase of the collaboration between Zoe Zenghelis and OMA resulted in a striking design experiment based on the deployment of archetypal forms such as ‘the avenue’, ‘the pier’, ‘the platform’, ‘steps’ and ‘the canopy’, as well as the treatment of vegetation as a primary formal and organizational element in their projects.
The text concludes with an interview with the Greek architect Elias Veneris, a key member of the Office of Metropolitan Architecture in the late 1970s and early 80s, project leader of OMA Athens and key contributor in the Kefalonia works.