Holiday villas and beach bars aside, Mykonos has preserved much of its curvaceous traditional architecture intact, thanks to the efforts of private citizens and officials alike. Listed as one of Greece’s 800 “traditional settlements,” Mykonos still retains the stark beauty and poetic roughness of the humble fisherman’s island it used to be a century ago. This means that building on the island is carefully monitored: every new building or monument has to comply with a set of stylistic rules, and the locals are constantly on the lookout for any trespassers. In fact, they will call the police or the mayor’s office the moment they see any suspicious building activity —even if what’s being built was commissioned by the mayor himself!
A few months ago, the municipality of Mykonos commissioned Greek designer Minas to design a set of outdoor benches and lampposts, to replace the ones at the town’s old port promenade. Eager to bring new ideas to Mykonos, the mayor Konstantinos Koukas, deputy mayor Miltiadis Atzamoglou and counsil member Maria Kousathana approached Minas with their idea, and he was happy to oblige —himself being a regular on the island for over 30 years now. Known for his organic forms and intuitive sense of human anatomy, Minas designed a bench made of Pentelic marble and teak wood, its profile inspired by the front-row thrones of Ancient Greek theatres. “These seats were for the sponsors,” the designer explains, “the wealthy citizens who made the production of theatre back in the day possible.” The matching lamppost is made of 316-quality stainless steel on a 250-kilo marble base, and its lantern has an aerodynamic shape in order to cope with the strong winds Mykonos is so famous for. “I wanted the lamppost to be like a lighthouse for approaching boats,” Minas said. That’s why all the lampposts on the promenade will be facing north, where the port entrance is.
Due to the town’s status as a “traditional settlement” and the aforementioned regulations, the mayor’s office had to submit the bench and lamppost designs to the Ministry of Culture and the Antiquities Department for approval. The bench’s reference to Ancient Greece and the lamppost’s discreet minimalism earned the necessary permit and Minas donated the first pair to the town by paying for the production costs himself. However, when the first bench arrived next to Agios Nikolakis church one evening encased in scaffolding, someone called port security because they thought someone was trying to install a contemporary art piece! The issue was soon resolved with the intervention of the mayor.
“This whole project relies on private donations” deputy mayor Miltiadis Atzamoglou said. “We want local families, businesses and Mykonos lovers to participate in this effort. In exchange to their donation they can have their name engraved on the bench or lamppost they donate, so that the community will remember their contribution for many years to come.”
It’s not the first time that the Mykonians crowdfund their projects. Back in the 1930’s a group of Mykonians migrated to Joliet, Illinois, where they soon made a fortune through buying land and growing corn. At the time, Mykonos didn’t have running water, and households had to get their water from a spring just outside town. The Joliet expats funded the pipeline that brought running water to the town, and built a small fountain on the old port promenade so that locals could have easy access to water. This small marble fountain is still standing, as a memento for the anonymous Mykonians in Juliet who sponsored the project. And just as Mykonians 60 years ago donated water to their town, now they have a chance to donate light, by sponsoring one of Minas’s state-of-the-art lampposts.
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