In place | On the road



In place | On the road



In place | On the road



In place | On the road



In place | On the road



In place | On the road


Boulouki at the Bridge – a review

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“But even if stones are movable, relationships established between stones and men are not so easily altered. . (…) Now suppose these houses and streets are demolished or their appearance and layout are altered. The stones and other materials will not object, but the groups will. This resistance, if not in the stones themselves, at least arises out of their long-standing relationships with these groups.”
Maurice Halbwachs, The Collective Memory

The twelve-day Stone Masonry Workshop “Boulouki at the Bridge” was held at the village of Plaka in Tzoumerka, between the 20th and 31st of August 2018. “Boulouki” team, in collaboration with the Metsovion Interdisciplinary Research Center (M.I.R.C.) and the Municipality of North Tzoumerka, under the aegis of the Region of Epirus, organised this workshop, whose scope was to bring together young professionals from fields related to the built environment (craftsmen, engineers, artists) in a systematic approach of the traditional knowledge concerning stone. At the same time, in more general terms, the intention of the workshop is to contribute to the study of the traditional building techniques as a current gnostic field, orientated -apart from the conservation and documentation- towards their integration into  the contemporary practices.

Prompted by the historic Plaka Bridge, whose presence is a characteristic attribute of the area, the workshop focused on the three basic structural parts of a stone bridge: the arch, the wall and the cobbled walking path, which respond to three different building techniques, that are, also, to be found in more vernacular structures and building types, other than bridges.

Experienced and acknowledged masons from the area of Tzoumerka were the leaders of the practical training. Christos Tsekas from Raftanaioi, Pavlos Vichas from Ktistades, Kostas Pliakopanos from Monolithi, Charis Mpoumpougiannis from Michalitsi, Giorgos Triantafyllos from Graikiko, Dimitris and Kostas Photis from Koukoulia, Nikos Manthos from Platanousa and Dimitris Georgoulis from Chouliarades, as well as Kostas Tarnanas, who came from Pentalofo of Kozani, were our collaborators. While, Kostas Stavroulas from Pramanta, Charilaos Koniaris from Michalitsi, Giorgos Merantzas from Tsopela, Christos Mpriasoulis from Ktistades and more, demonstrated their art, being some of the most experienced older local masons to be alive today.

The teaching of and practice on these three techniques was the main focus of the workshop. The works took place along the old pathway which leads to the historic bridge. Our goal concerning the practical training was to restore the pathway according to the original structure, which was to be found at only some parts. From another point of view, having chosen the pathway as the backbone of the workshop, we attempted to engage with the “structure of the place”; through which and “on which” we decided to create a project, whose requirements would set the pace of our work, a project according to which we would judge the results of our efforts and which we would finally hand in to the place and its people.

In this direction, the preparation and the cleaning up of part of the pathway, was attempted to happen in the form of a mintati, meaning with the participation of the local community. Mintati is a word -between others in Epirus and the rest of Greece-, which referes to the practices of mutual support through which the local communities used to respond collectively to the individual needs of their members. After the work area was cleaned and prepared, it was divided into three parts, each one of which was dedicated to one of the three different techniques. In this manner, and while the participants were working under the instructions of the masons for two days on each one, some destroyed parts of the existing walls were restored, as well as part of the traditional cobbled pathway, while a newer temporary structure, which allowed the water flow towards the fields, was replaced with a small arched bridge.

Futhermore, the workshop’s program was supported by a series of lectures of theoretical and technical content, given by acclaimed scholars and professionals from the fields of restoration and cultural management. The lectures were scheduled to take place on the first and last days of the workshop and were held at the cultural space of the Mouhousti Monastery.

The talks, which are presented here in short, are just an indication of the variety of issues that were discussed and of the diverse backgrounds of our collaborators.

D. Kaliampakos, professor at the Department of Mining and Metallurgical Engineering of NTUA and Director of M.I.R.C., gave a talk on the research concerning the development of mountain regions, which is, also, the objective of the relevant master’s program of the NTUA, and about the critical decisions that had to be made for the restoration of the Plaka Bridge by the team of scientists in charge. S.Mamaloukos, associate professor of Architectural History at the University of Patras, made an in depth presentation of the role of stonework in vernacular architecture, using examples from all over Greece. He was, also, our main guide during the trip we did on the same day to places of cultural and architectonic interest, like the Politsa bridge and the settlements of Pramanta, Melisourgoi and Fortosi. G.Smyris, assistant professor of Architectural History at the University of Ioannina, dedicated one of his talks in the importance of knowing a place and its local materials, as a means to avoid the pathogenies that characterise the greek built environment today. In the other, he presented the first phase of the construction process of the new foundations of the Plaka Bridge, from a constructional and organisational standpoint, since he was the head engineer of the works. D.Baxter, European Projects Director of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation (IHBC), talked about the mechanics of arched structures and described the ongoing initiative to restore the Bánffy Castle in Romania, while training students and local craftsmen. On the next day, he gave two talks about the properties of lime and lime mortars and coordinated a demonstration of the hydration process of lime and the preparation of various mortars. Representatives of the Eco-museum Zagori presented their work, and more specifically referred to the acknowledgement of dry stone landscapes as cultural landscapes and their promotion as cultural routes. Lastly, the first series of lectures ended with a talk by Th.Papagiannis, a sculptor and emeritus professor of sculpture at the ASFA, with regard to the role that his experience of working with stone masons played in his work, and focused on the masons’ world in general, as a universe of qualities that constitute a source of inspiration and direction for the contemporary practice. He also, welcomed and gave a tour to the participants who visited the Museum of Contemporary Art that is named after him, in Elliniko village. On the same day we visited the Monastery of Tsouka, one of the most important monasteries of Epirus that was built in 1190 A.D.

On Friday the 31st of August, and after wrapping up the works on site the day before, the workshop returned to the Mouhousti Monastery. E.Mamani, an architect and vice director of the Albanian department of the international organisation Cultural Heritage without Borders, presented the organisation’s activities of the last couple of decades around the Balkan area and explained the ways through which cultural heritage can become a platform of sustainable development for the local communities. V.Gkaniatsas, professor of Architectural design and History & Theory of Architecture in NTUA, gave a talk on craftsmanship as a distinctive kind of knowledge, while thoroughly developing the philosophic-epistemic approaches that support this concept. V.Nitsiakos, professor of Folklore studies at the Department of History and Archaeology of the University of Ioannina, analysed the historical appearance of masons from Epirus, as a result of the transformation of the local economy from farming self-sufficiency to technical expertise. In the end, M.Korres, emeritus professor of History of Architecture in NTUA, referred to the contribution of NTUA in the study of the restoration of the Plaka Bridge and presented a systematic review of bridges and   bridge building from the ancient times until the Renaissance. He concluded by narrating a story accompanied by original drawings and thoughts on matters of memory and place.

From our side, as a Travelling Workshop for the Traditional Building Techniques, we could say, that the reference point for this effort has been the common belief, that the traditional techniques have an important role to play in the interpretation and the dealing with the manifold crisis which characterises the greek built environment for many decades already. Although probably unnecessary, it is worth mentioning, that the focus around traditional techniques does not mean the adoption of a pictorial approach of tradition, which is in a way the other face of the abandonment of traditional settlements. Very briefly, the focus on the techniques, means an attempt to find an alternative way of thinking, a different stance against the “how”, but also the “why” of the production of space. In short, the revaluation of the knowledge of the craftsman and the investigation of the present state of being of the manual practices, automatically means the questioning of the current grid of ideas and ideals, through which our cities are built, and, which, also, support its reproduction.

While the Stone Masonry Workshop has come to an end and we, organisers and collaborators, speakers and participants, have returned home, which for most of us is an urban center, what we are confident to say is that the days by the Bridge have filled us with optimism. Since we were assured that there is actually a respectable number of people with similar ideas and expectations. From this point of view, the boulouki that was formed for those twelve days at the old pathway is a proof that there is actually an authentic, contemporary and progressive interest for the places, the local traditions and the traditional knowledge. With the people that we got to know in August and with others that we anticipate to meet in the future, we will meet again, around thοse who carry the knowledge, meaning the masons and their work.


Boulouki Team, September 2018

Stone Masonry Workshop in Tzoumerka (20-31 of August)

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We are pleased to announce our upcoming workshop on the art of stone building “Boulouki at the Bridge” and invite all interested individuals, from Greece and abroad, to apply.

The workshop will take place next to the Plaka Bridge in Tzoumerka region, (Epirus, Greece), between the 20th-31st of August 2018. It is a collaboration between Boulouki, the municipality of North Tzoumerka and the Metsovion Interdisciplinary Research Centre (M.I.R.C).

Objective of the workshop is to understand the stone construction as a whole, starting from the quarry and the extraction of the most suitable material, to the chipping of the stone and finally to the building process.

The three basic structural parts of a stone bridge (which can be also found in various different structures) will be presented and taught:

  1. The arch (using a timber formwork)
  2. The wall (dry / with mortar)
  3. The cobbled walking path

Experienced and acclaimed craftsmen from the area of Tzoumerka will teach and supervise the constructions during the workshop. Dimitris Lagos from Mihalitsi is going to be the main supervisor and will teach alongside eight more masons, including Haris Bobogiannis, Christos Tsekas, Patroklos Patsiouras and Dimitris Georgoulis.

In addition, older masons from the area of Tzoumerka, such as Yiannis Skentos from Melissourgoi, Lambros Giotis from Pramanta, Giorgos Merantzas and Sotiris Giotis from Tsopella, are going to serve as advisers, leaving pieces of their knowledge and passion for the stone masonry as a legacy to the new generation.

The workshop’s program also includes a series of lectures, focused on the theoretical and technical aspects of stone masonry, which will be given by qualified and reputable professors, such as:

  • Manolis Korres, emeritus Professor in history of architecture in the NTUA,
  • Dimitris Kaliambakos, Professor in the department of Mining and Metallurgy Engineering of NTUA and Director of the Metsovion Interdisciplinary Research Center,
  • Georgios Smyris, assistant Professor in history of architecture in the University of Ioannina,
  • Vasilis Gkaniatsas, Professor in architectural design & theory of architecture, director of Architectural Form and Orders Lab in the NTUA,
  • Elena Mamani, Architect and vice Director of Cultural Heritage without Borders in Albania,
  • Stavros Mamaloukos, assistant Professor in history of architecture in the University of Patras,
  • Theodoros Papagiannis, emeritus Professor of sculpture in the School of Fine Arts in Athens,
  • David Baxter, European Projects Director: Institute of Historic Building Conservation

The workshop is addressed to local stone masons who want to advance their skills, as well as to anybody who is interested in traditional architecture, architectural heritage and cultural management. The maximum number of participants is 16, not including the local residents.

During the workshop, issues regarding the ongoing restoration of Plaka’s stone bridge will be addressed and ideas related to the monument’s construction process and management will be discussed.

Also, the program includes an arranged visit at sites of cultural and architectural significance, as well as cultural initiatives in collaboration with the local community. The workshop will end with a general review and the awarding of the certifications to the participants.


The fee covers tuition, accommodation with breakfast in a hotel, a snack during the work-hours, workshop materials and tools, health and accident insurance and excursion travel expenses. Participants will be responsible for paying the arrival and departure expenses to and from the location of the Workshop, as well as any other personal expenses.

Participation Fees:                                        350 €

Reduced Fees for students/unemployed:    200 €

Free for the local residents of Tzoumerka region

How to Apply

Download the application form here, fill it out and send it via email to till June 10th 2018. (To fill the form you need Foxit or Acrobat Reader)

Important Dates

17 June 2018              Deadline for applications

22 June 2018              Selection of the participants and confirmation of attendance              

20-31 August 2018    Workshop in Tzoumerka

Stone Masonry Workshop Proposal

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Stone, being the main building material of Tzoumerka region, crafted a unique particular built environment, which extends beyond the renowned settlement boundaries, comprising a coherent mountain landscape with a strong sense of place. The salient presence of stone, awakens the desire to investigate the local tangible heritage and social history, as well as the intangible heritage of the Stone Craft: the presence and practice of the stone masons and their so called Bouloukia, groups of craftsmen, and helpers who traveled while building (and vice versa), advancing their art and constructing a wide system of knowledge.

This knowledge has been tightly linked to the practice of stone masonry; given the conditions of each particular project, which also constituted an educational process. Therefore, the realisation of the project, the process of knowledge and the teaching of the art, become an inseparable whole. It is a fact that the craft is fading, being displaced by the contemporary building techniques and materials, as well as by the transformation of the economic and social terms, the very things that made it flourish once. A very important aspect of this issue, is that the stone structures themselves – documents of an era and knowledge archives are lost or degraded, after being severely altered by newer interventions.

The restoration of Plaka bridge (which is to strictly follow the traditional building methods) was the reason for us, to rake up the local knowledge and look for the last masons, who are capable and willing to share their skill, as well as the younger professionals who are currently working with stone. On this direction, Boulouki made a list of all the local craftsmen and professionals that could be found at the time around the Tzoumerka region, as an effort to map and assess the carriers of traditional knowledge. Discovering the older craftsmen, whose experience with stone masonry is in accordance with the traditional rules and ways, has been the most exciting part of the research.

Main purpose of this workshop -and also requirement for its success- is the connection with the local community; with its current affairs, its needs and symbolic references. Within this context, an association with the Plaka bridge and its restoration is pursued. The workshop is proposed to take place adjacent to the bridge. The practical part aims at shedding light on every step of the building process, starting from the selection of suitable material and its extraction from the quarry, to the hewing and chipping of the stone and the building techniques. More specifically, the focus will be on the three constructional elements of a traditional stone bridge, i.e. the building of the arch with the help of a formwork, the building of a wall and the construction of the cobbled passage.

At the same time, a series of theoretical and technical lectures by acknowledged academics will take place, supporting the practical part. The workshop is addressed to local stone masons – who will be invited to participate without a fee, but also to individuals, who are interested in traditional architecture, architectural heritage and cultural heritage management. Following the open call, 16 participants will be chosen. Additionally, during the workshop, subjects regarding the promotion and prominence of the monument and restoration site, as well as the landscaping of the surrounding area and improving the access to the monument will be discussed.  The ideas and proposals that might emerge, will be presented by the participants at the end of the workshop and will be submitted to the stakeholders.

Furthermore, the workshop is proposed to serve as a motive for young professionals and researchers from all around Greece and abroad, to get in touch with other aspects of the local traditions. Visits to sites of cultural interest and interaction with the activities of local communities is suggested towards this direction. Besides, the cultural association of Prosilio has already offered to include a screening within the workshop area, during their annual summer film festival.

Another objective of the workshop is to contribute to the mobilisation and preparation of the local human resources, considering the upcoming restoration, in order to make the best of the multiple opportunities that an occasion of such importance has to offer. In other words, apart from the unique opportunity to showcase the art of stone masonry, the restoration project offers a fruitful ground for the stimulation of the local community and the beginning of a discussion concerning the needs and development prospects of the region. From this point of view, the restoration site of the bridge can become the meeting place for craftsmen and academics, students, local residents and bodies, making this attempt a communal acquisition of many different groups.