Cycladic Island White
Brief history and reasons as to why so many buildings in the Greek Cycladic islands are white
Why are buildings in the Greek Cycladic islands white?
The answer may surprise you, as it originally does not have much to do with aesthetic architectural design, even though the globally renowned architecture in Cycladic islands attracts tens of millions of tourists every single year.
1. The Heat Problem
Homes in the Cycladic islands were initially built with dark stone, actually. This came to be a problem during hot Greek summers, as the dark stone would absorb the heat and thus cause indoor temperatures to also subsequently increase. To combat this heat issue, people began painting the buildings white in hopes that it would cool down the interior as well. Whether or not you’re familiar with the impact of white versus black on heat absorption, the exterior switch from dark to white was in fact successful in lowering indoor temperatures.
2. Greek’s Cholera Epidemic
Compared to the previous reason, this one may be more unexpected. During the 1930s, there was a Cholera epidemic in Greece which had proven difficult to contain. The leader at the time, Ioannis Metaxas, instructed that Cycladic island homes be painted white and black. Why, you ask? An interestingly helpful quality of whitewash paint is that it contained limestone, a formidable disinfectant. By painting their homes white, Greek residents were sterilizing the buildings and thus decreasing the spread of the intestinal illness.
Although the original reasons for so many Cycladic island buildings being white were not due to intentional architecture design by the Greeks, it definitely worked in their favor. Not only was the choice of white paint successful in cooling down the interiors of buildings during hot summers, but it is believed to also have helped decrease the spread of Cholera thanks to to the cleansing properties of limestone. Practicality and beauty!
I had the privilege of visiting Mykonos last summer – I can confirm the white architecture that the Cycladic islands are so well-known for, is even more beautiful in person. Here are a few pictures I took that display these iconic white buildings:
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