Space and Tradition
of Michael Arapoglou

Space and Tradition are two words that have been forgotten by man of the industrial revolution. Today, era of eminently disputes and thinking, both of these words are very useful. By default tradition is the oral or written transfer of habits from one generation to another. Other times, the transfer is done with examples. Then, the space is an area defined by specified points. In this area lives and develops a society that carries its habits from generation to generation. Space and society, society and tradition, are forms that co-exist today, particularly, in rural areas. So one that studies tradition and space is predominantly in rural areas.

Zagori is still today a place of tradition. Its area, approximately, occupies 1/5 of Ioannina Prefecture and belongs administratively to the province of Dodoni. Irrespective of this administrative division we will see below the limits of the traditional Zagori area. Zagori is designated by a triangle, having as vertices the cities of Ioannina, Konitsa and Metsovo. The traditional geographic boundaries of Zagori area are from the north to east of the Mountain Tymfi with the highest peak Gamila (2480), and the Aoos River that has its springs in the Zagori village Vovousa.

From East to South the Mountain Mavrovouni of Metsovo (2100m), the valley of the River Vardas until its intersection with the Zagorisios (tributaries of Arachthos).
From South to west the elongated Mitsikeli Mountain (1810m), and from West to North the Polgi, (basin) of Konitsa. The space within these geographic boundaries was identified with tradition, and this in its turn particularly described it. The social and economic changes as well as the cultural growth made in Zagori in the 17th, 18th, 19th century were reflected in the built environment. During this period with trade were gathered large funds in the hands of Zagori people, who were seeking safe investments. This created a human and material infrastructure in Zagori place to accommodate the large flow of funds. It is not accidental that were built from 1750 to 1868, more than 70 bridges in Zagori. The Zagori area from the Turkish occupation until 1868 is run by Greeks. A number of provisions make the place privileged. These administrative facilities allow the development of appropriate infrastructure to receive funds from the trade caste – bourgeoisie. A mountainous rural area under these conditions are converted to urban. The houses depending on the economic situation are built with larger dimensions. The economic situation determines the social one. The notables and the Zagor-Vekylis are people who come from rich families.

Among other habits are also the donations. The bridges, the cobbled streets, the fountains, the schools, the churches are built by donations of money of the rich. Teachers, priests are paid by the rich, even orphan girls are endowed with money from the rich. Work in Zagori area is distributed according to the origin of humans. Arvanites and Souliotes farm the land. Sarakatsans are engaged in animal husbandry, are nomadic and live outside the settlements in huts. The gypsies live in the periphery of the village and are engaged in ironwork and music festivals and other celebrations. The structure and function of the Zagori society is recorded for many years in the natural and built environment. It creates and forms the Zagori area. It converts a rural mountainous area in an urban area.

The occupations of the inhabitants, agriculture, livestock, forest, remain in the second level, as to the classification of the area. In Zagori, exists a class of rich bourgeois.
By today's standards it could be said that the space is transformed into a holiday center. Wealthy merchants, traveling ones, come to spend some time, usually from Agios Georgios until the Agios Dimitrios day, or the last years of their lives. The houses get urban character. The old low house is converted into two-storey and three-storey. The original function changes. It is created the kravvata (living room), a large space to receive visitors and for festive events. The urban form of houses is developed so that in the reception area many times is provided also a special platform for musicians. Under such economic and social conditions is born also the need of foreign art. So the building of houses, churches, bridges and for their decor are called to Zagori renowned craftsmen of the time. The craftsmen come mainly from Konitsa villages and from Northern Epirus and Western Macedonia. We know a lot about the morphology of homes, from works done.

The architecture in Zagori isn’t unknown, a big part of it remained to this day. Also, especially in the last decade, we have many information for the economy, the society from the various studies of organizations, ministries and individuals. Great need, however, is to meet with the supervisor research in the area, the tradition. It is needed the same for all the Greek province to determine the geographic areas of smaller scaleς with the guide being tradition. Several scholars have the need of methods that will help in-depth knowledge of each place in order to provide more correct solutions to their problems. It is important to know the geographical limits of each site regardless of their administrative division. I would end by saying that the knowledge of the area and the tradition is necessary to solve every problem and every proposal and potential of economic, social and cultural development.


MICHAEL ARAPOGLOU: Architect D.P.L.G., School of Architecture Nr 1 of the School of Fine Arts in Paris, 1976. D.E.A. of Environmental Geography.