Gorge_ous Trails

25 February, 2015

Gorge_ous Trails

Vouraikos. Achaia. Greece.

Greek version

Students : Athanasiou Antonis, Akrivou Maria – Chrysoula
Consultants : Katherine Liapi
Department of Architecture, University of Patras
Presentation date : October 2014

The human, the memory, the myth and the landscape in their synergy constitute the main theme of our project, which is manifested to the visitor along his movement on the site. The Aroania Mountains and their dramatic presence constitute the proper background for this experience. The proposed linear path brings together the topography and the legend, like the odontotos rack railway, revealing hidden aspects of the landscape, which are highlighted through a series of interventions.



Vouraikos River stems from the region of Priolithos at the northeast side of Helmos. It is the river with the largest water supply in the area and runs through the canyon, surrounded by dense vegetation, cliffs, waterfalls and caves.

Ο Οδοντωτός σιδηρόδρομος ξεκινά από το Διακοπτό διασχίζει το φαράγγι του Βουραϊκού ποταμού με προορισμό τα Καλάβρυτα και αποτελεί ένα από τα ομορφότερα φυσικά αξιοθέατα της χώρας μας, μάλιστα έχει χαρακτηριστεί ως η πλέον θεαματική σιδηροδρομική γραμμή των Βαλκανίων. Είναι ο στενότερος οδοντωτός στην Ευρώπη, με πλάτος γραμμής μόλις 75 εκατοστά και χαρακτηριστική είναι η σχέση του με την τοπογραφία.

The odontotos rack railway starts from Diakopto, crosses the gorge of Vouraikos and terminates at the village of Kalavryta. It is known as one of the most beautiful railways of our country and it is also known for its narrowest rails in Europe, just 75 cm. It has also been described as the most spectacular railway line of the Balkans, due to its characteristic relationship with the topography.



The terrain presents a special interest. The river bank, in combination with the rocky soil and the overall relations between the area and the river, give an impressive diversity, creating a dramatic landscape.

Walking on the rails of the odontotos rack railway we realized that the hiker has not contact with the nature and the landscape. The existing route limits the hikers on the rails of the train, converting the most interesting points of the area into dangerous and unreachable places. Under these circumstances, the descent into the gorge of Vouraikos, turns into a difficult task, with no interest for the visitors. These conditions led us to the construction of a new autonomous linear route, combined with resting points, to highlight the landscape and its most interesting sides.



The Accommodation Center is the first site intervention and provides a shelter for the visitors. Today the area has limited housing infrastructure to attract the interest of hikers, climbers and bird-watchers. Considering the borderline between the nearest village and the natural landscape, the intervention is placed in the southern border of the Zachlorou village. The main views reveal the river and the linear route, trading the landscape and habitation relationships.

The proposed design suggests spaces defined by such relationships, leaving their traces on the landscape. Utility rooms, resting areas, as well as some administrative and parking areas are included in the center. The visitors’ path is bounded by a system of parallel walls and openings, which direct their movement and frame their eye to the natural landscape and to water contact.

On motion axis, perpendicular to the mountain’s main axis along the direction of the main path, autonomous and independent housing units are placed, intruding the natural boundary of the mountain, like the train “breaks into” the landscape. The housing units can be moved on rail axis and they can accommodate up to 4 people each. They can be easily stored in artificial caves in the mountain, as needed for weather protection or when there is limited tourist demand.



Leaving behind the accommodation center and walking northern, passing the village of Zachlorou, we meet the first resting point. This is the last contact between the route and the rock offering view into textures of the area and dense germination.



Observing the landscape, loosing for a moment the sound of the water, we reach the second resting point, which is in the highest level of the route. Ramps lead the visitors to a platform offering touch with the water.



As one keeps walking, the landscape becomes more rocky and wild and leads to the third resting point, which is placed at the intersection of the route, the train and the river. The steep slopes of the mountains in this location prevent access to the water, which can only happen through a vertical movement across the mountain.



Along the direction of the vertical path the only view now is the narrowest point of the gorge of Vouraikos. Τhe myth , the nature the landscape and the odontotos rock railway come together in that dramatic coexistence. According to the myth, the creation of that narrow point came from Hercules, - who loved Voura (from Voura derives the name of the river) - and opened the gorge in order to pass, reach the sea, and meet her. The width of the river at this location is 8m. This area is selected as the ideal location for the second intervention. The river flows through the gorge surrounded by steep cliffs, waterfalls and caves. A landmark of the area is the old bridge of the odontotos rack railway.

Our goal here is to allow the visitor discover the history of the train, the myth and the landscape as he passes through a    structure that function as a museum. This structure is the result of a bold gesture that splits the cliff almost the same way that the river does. Through a series of walls we allow movement through the structure which penetrate the rock and create open spaces that reveal the landscape.

The space of the museum is defined by a system of walls and a series of enclosed spaces which include administration areas, storage areas, interactive projections and damp areas. The exhibits related to the train and its history, are placed directly on the rock, a few of them are displayed inside the museum. The second level of the museum is cantilevered over it a main body and connects to the floor level via a ramp. It includes a reading area and leisure areas.



Leaving the museum, small structures mounted on the edges of the wall offer to the visitors the possibility of bird-watching and viewing the landscape from a higher point and with a different perspective.
Each unit has two levels and its perforated shell allows for view to the most interesting sights. The visitors who reach this point have already gained a full experience of that special and dramatic landscape and have discovered its unique qualities.


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