Text by Kimon Fraggakis
Hosted by MARMYK Iliopoulos and Design Ambassador, pioneering architects were introduced to the secrets of a mythical product: Greek marble. It was a weekend that combined oenology with geology, and archeology with modern constructions.
The earth carries the material. People transform it into culture. From generation to generation, craftsmen, architects and engineers find new ways to deify it, with inspiration and moderation to all of us who live in matter. A material that in the case of marble carries a huge geological, historical and cultural burden.
Architects on the moon
The past, present and future of marble could not fit perfectly in a “simple” showroom. The showroom for such material is the earth itself or rather the moon! “Man on the Moon”, an initiative of Vassilis Bartzokas (The Design Ambassador) and MARMYK ILIOPOULOS, was the first event that incorporated so organically and ultimately monumentally, the experience of the material into a total experience.
From the ancient theater of Epidaurus to the “lunar” landscape of the modern quarry, and from the factory that transforms the marble and sends it to the ends of the earth, to the nearby winery with which it has eclectic affinities, the ancient history unfolded and the modern possibilities of a wonderful material.
The selected architects and Andro visited the place where the marble is born. They dived into the womb of matter, into the quarry, passing through their eyes and touching millions of years and geological layers. They also met other products produced by the same land, above the soil, such as the vineyard that the fine wine gives us. They toured through the history of the place from antiquity to the present day, where are the related marbles carved by our ancient ancestors.
The beginning was the wine
From Nafplio, visitors went to the Skoura Estate where Wine & Marble Pairing was planned: Panos Iliopoulos of MARMYK and Dimitris Skouras of the SKOURA Estate combined different wines with different marbles in a game of taste, texture and contrast.
What are the eclectic affinities of marble and vine? The rock is formed deep underground. The grape sprouts above the soil. Marble and wine are transformed into human hands, from antiquity to the present day.
At Ktima SKOURA, fine wines of the winery were combined with 10 types of marbles, activating the 5 senses: taste, touch, smell, sight and hearing, smelling and tasting, listening successively to the producers traveling from the underground to the glass. It was also an opportunity for the guests to reflect on geology and agriculture, the fluid and the solid, the eternal and the ephemeral, the Greek land and the creations of man.
The Epidaurus made of marble
The next day started with a tour of Epidaurus. The Ancient Theater, the Archaeological Museum, the Sanctuary of Asclepius, the Guesthouses, the Baths, the Ritual Restaurant, the Conservatory, the Stadium and the Avaton were additional stations of the tour of the world of marble, guided by the civil engineer Evangelos Kazolias that works at the archeological site.
Considering the tens of millions of years it takes for a stone like fine marble to form, one realizes that the approximately 2350 years that separate us from the foundation of the ancient theater of Epidaurus may be historically very long, but geologically negligible. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the marbles of Epidaurus are first cousins with the marble that we can extract to dress our house today, in the year 2021.
Visit to MARMYK
From Epidaurus, the architects went to the MARMYK factory. There, the CEO of the company presented the process of cutting and processing the marble. He explained that the raw volume of the stone becomes a final product with dozens of different finishes, and that the production line is configured to serve international orders, which are often a challenge not only for architecture but also for engineering.
The name MARMYK comes from the first syllables of the words Marbles & Mycenae, as in the ancient city of Argolida Mycenae, was the first marble mined by the Iliopoulou family, in 1979. Nowadays, the collection of marbles of MARMYK includes more than 26 species, which come from its 10 privately owned quarries throughout Greece.
Maria Callas at the quarry
After leaving the factory, it was time to visit the famous quarry: In a lunar landscape high up in Ermionida overlooking Hydra, between huge vertical “walls” of marble and oblique sections parallel to the “veins” of the rock , able to slide a mammoth, culminated the weekend experience.
When it got dark, MARMYK and Design Ambassador lit up this exoplanet with colorful beams, invited guests to an imposing solid marble bar for the aperitif, and flooded the entire quarry with arias by Maria Callas. The stage was set for an unforgettable presentation, “carved in marble”.
The projectors enlivened the steep white “walls” with projections on sustainable mining practices, the importance of restoring the environment, the life cycle of a quarry and its potential for use as an event space, museum or even design hotel, winery and more. These possibilities may sound close. And yet, if there is a vision and will, with the appropriate interventions, a quarry can be transformed into a modern architectural monument that will attract visitors from abroad.
Along with the development of old quarries, there is the possibility of licensing several new quarries, with the appropriate specifications. Greece is already the fourth country in the world in marble mining and based on its geological reserves, the potential for development of the field of extraction of valuable rocks for construction, can be literally inexhaustible for centuries. Here is an area that we do not hear about at all from politicians as opposed to issues of other energy mining, or other exports such as food.
Let us not forget that as a country we have high know-how and unsurpassed tradition in the utilization and sometimes in the apotheosis of a natural material that takes tens of millions of years to form.
In the end, like all things, marble has its secrets, from the technique of high quarrying to the art and technique of processing it for commercial use. And as Man On The Moon reminded us in the most fascinating way, we Greeks have these secrets, since ancient times.