Greece is famous for its architecture, some of it standing for thousands of years. These structures were built for both survival and decoration, but few people throughout history assumed their buildings would be considered ‘picturesque’ and ‘quaint’ to future generations. In the Cyclades, white-and-blue painted houses that dot the cliff sides are common, and Santorini is no exception.
The cities of Santorini are relatively far from the shore, not pushed up directly upon it. This was because of the threat of pirates throughout history. To make the cities a harder target from naval enemies, the villages are located on tall, steep cliffs or in inland valleys; many of these villages see protection from sun and wind as well. Red and black stone makes up many of the building; on an island such as Santorini, lumber is often a luxury. Instead, the buildings are made of ‘Theran earth,’ which is volcanic ash and dirt that makes a sort of strong cement.
Most of the buildings in the villages are made of plaster of similar color, giving the villages a unified, coexistent vibe. Terraced buildings provide a more community-like feeling. The roof of one building, for example, may be a path leading toward another one further up the cliff face. Too much open space causes glare and more heat emission, so it makes sense to build very close together; adjacent buildings protect from sunlight and strong prevailing winds. Many buildings are built into the cliff in a sort of cave, giving more room and natural heating and cooling, but less daylight and ventilation.
Oia, one of the towns on Santorini, was part of the preservation and traditional development program of the Greek National Tourism Organisation. This organization worked for over ten years to preserve and restore traditional Greek architecture. It was in this time that Oia saw a growth in hotels and restaurants, which sprang up in former seamen’s houses on the caldera’s edge. This repurposing of old buildings is common throughout the islands of the archipelago. Santorini matches old world charm with new, modern use and beauty, creating a wonderful and popular tourist and residential island.