Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor (1915-2011), universally known as Paddy, was one of the most charismatic and adventurous personalities of the last century. An author, scholar, decorated hero, and adventurer, he was widely regarded and celebrated as the finest travel writer of his generation. As a member of the British Military mission to Greece, he played a prominent role in the Cretan resistance during the Second World War. A great admirer and lover of Greece, he and his wife Joan chose to live at their home in Kardamyli, Mani, for the rest of their lives.
THE DONATION OF PATRICK AND JOAN LEIGH FERMOR
In 1996 Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor bequeathed their home in Kardamyli to the Benaki Museum with the intention that the house’s ownership would be transferred to the Museum after their death. This particular choice had been suggested to them by their dear friend Tzannis Tzannetakis, an idea, wholeheartedly accepted given the important legacy of the Museum and Leigh Fermor’s old friendship with its founder Antonis Benakis and his daughter Irini Kalliga. In the donation contract, Leigh Fermor appointed Tzannis Tzannetakis and his lawyer Antonis Masouridis as supervisors for the fulfillment of the terms of the donation. The Museum acquired full ownership of the property after Leigh Fermor’s death in the autumn of 2011 and since then has been closely collaborating with Tzannetakis' children, Mrs. Tonia Tzannetakis and Mr. Petros Tzannetakis. According to the expressed desire of the Leigh Fermors and the donation contract, the house can be used to host intellectuals and scholars (writers, researchers, artists, poets, etc) who are looking for a quiet and hospitable place to work. In order to cover the running expenses of the house, the Benaki Museum has the right to lease the property for a period of three months per year. The Museum will collaborate with Aria Hotels, a hotel company that specializes in the provision of authentic retreats in restored, historic Greek properties.
Furthermore, the property was donated in order to contribute to the Benaki Museum’s mission, in accordance with the decisions made by its Board of Trustees.
The property is located in the Kalamitsi area of Messinia, very close to Kardamyli. The three discrete low stone buildings, designed by the architect Nikos Hatzimichalis in close collaboration with the Leigh Fermors, are scattered in a beautiful Mediterranean garden with cypresses, olive trees, shrubs and wild flowers. It is, by general consensus, one of the most beautiful properties in Greece, to say the least. Just below the house, a narrow path with stone steps leads to a small pebble beach.
Brief description of buildings:
- Main house: L-shaped, stone structure with a tiled roof, built on two levels because of the slope. Both levels are connected with courtyards and gardens. On the top level there is the living room, kitchen and master bedroom with a small bathroom, along with three small bedrooms (secondary) and two more bathrooms. The spaces communicate with each other through a covered walkway (arcade). On the lower level there is a bedroom, shower, WC, storage room and semi-open area.
- Studio-office building: Stone structure, flat roof with a pergola. Includes a large office space/living room, a bedroom and a bathroom.
- Secondary house: Stone structure with a main room, a bedroom and a bathroom.
- Hencoop: Stone structure with a protective roof.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation announced the approval of the Benaki Museum’s request to fully cover the repair works and the restoration of the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor House as well as the cost of the equipment,, so that it can soon start operating as a centre for hospitalities of notable figures from the intellectual and artistic worlds as well as a centre for educational activities in collaboration with Institutions in Greece and abroad.
The Centre, (working title: The Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor Centre) will provide a space for:
- honorary hosting of notable representatives from the fields of literature, the arts and other fields,
- hosting of young writers and scholars for work and research purposes,
- organization of higher-educational activities in collaboration with Universities and institutions in Greece and abroad,
- organization of educational and cultural events for the general public and residents of Kardamyli,
- scheduled tours of the property, focusing on the donors, the history of the house and its use by the Benaki Museum,
- honorary hosting of benefactors and major supporters of the Benaki Museum.
BRIEF HISTORY – WHAT HAS BEEN COMPLETED
- the archival material found in the house has been delivered to the executors of the will and the National Archives of the United Kingdom, as stipulated in the will,
- the property has been insured,
- the staff selected by Leigh Fermor himself have been retained to ensure that the ongoing care of the buildings and surrounding area continues on a daily basis,
- cataloguing of the library has progressed,
- detailed photography of the house and recording of the household effects have been carried out,
- artworks and valuable books have been transferred to the facilities of the Benaki Museum in Athens for conservation and safekeeping, until completion of the requisite repairs,
- detailed mapping of the property has been completed as has the architectural and electromechanical study for repair of the buildings and maintenance of the gardens, with the principle of maintaining all those elements that render the property so unique (study team: the architects Maria Kokkinou-Andreas Kourkoulas, the mechanical electrical engineer Pantelis Argyros, the civil engineer Dimitris Pastras and the landscape architect Helli Pangalou),
- the process of legalizing buildings on the estate has been completed,
- the feasibility study by AEA Consulting on the future use, operation and viability of the house has been completed with funding from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation,
- two consecutive fumigations have been carried out for the protection of the house and household effects, and in particular the wooden elements of the house such as the ceilings of the rooms, the furniture and so on,
- one bank account has been set up in Greece and one especially activated in the United Kingdom, in order to facilitate donations,
- the Benaki Museum applied for the necessary permits to the Greek State (Structuring Service – Municipality of Kalamata), for the commencement of the repair works. The architectural survey was approved by the Board of Architecture of the Peripheral Unit of Kalamata and the required certificate from the Forest Inspection Service has been issued. However, due to changes in the procedures of the Forest Mapping Program, which is now in effect for the region of Messinia, delays were have been caused to the issuing of the final permit,
- the necessary permit from the Greek state for the repair works has been issued,
- the implementation study for the repair works was completed by the study team and the preparation for the project tendering followed,
- in May 2017, the preparation of the house for the repair works was is completed, as all household effects were transported to the Benaki Museum premises. The packing and transportation was conducted by MoveArt, a company specializing in art handling, in collaboration with four conservators from the Benaki Museum Conservation Department: Vassilis Paschalis, Nikos Smyrnakis, Haris Grammatikos and Vassilis Argyratos. A large part of the objects will return to the house when the works are completed. In the meantime, the Conservation Department of the Benaki Museum will work on the restoration of the furniture and artworks of the house and the Benaki Museum Library on the books,
- after a closed-bid process, the project was awarded to Ballian Contractors Company,
- weekly visits at the property have stopped, until the repair works are completed. Up until July 2017, 1.900 people have visited the House and surroundings,
- in September 2017, the Benaki Museum organized an event at the Hellenic Centre in London in order to inform the public for what has been done, since the Museum acquired full ownership of the House, as well as present the future operation of the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor Centre. Participant speakers were: Irini Geroulanou, member of the Executive Committee and member of the Board of Trustees of the Benaki Museum, Dr. George Manginis, Academic Director and member of the Executive Committee of the Benaki Museum, John Kittmer, writer and former Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Athens, Sir Michael Llewellyn Smith, writer and former Ambassador of the United Kingdom in Athens and Evita Arapoglou, art historian, writer and curator of the exhibition Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor: Charmed Lives in Greece,
- the 9th supplement of the Benaki Museum journal, dedicated to the life and work of Patrick Leigh Fermor, is now available.
According to the study and the proposal of the future operation of the house and considering that property can provide ideal accommodation for up to 5 people/couples at a time, minor building interventions will be carried out without altering the form of the house. More specifically, the 5 guestrooms will each include a bedroom, an independent workplace and bathroom. (Basic kitchen equipment will be provided in the guesthouses located outside the main house). This setting ensures that all guests will be offered a large separate living space, perfect for isolation and uninterrupted concentration. Moreover, common spaces will be used as places of assembly and not as workplaces. All spaces created – apart from the basement, which may be considered the least privileged – will include large openings, a view and plenty of light and ventilation.
Apart from fireplaces in some of the rooms, the house hasn’t had any other form of heating up till now. A heating and cooling system will be installed underground or through the roof, in order to keep the façades intact. The plans also include the full replacement of the electrical, plumbing and sewerage system, as well as the repair of the bathrooms and kitchen. Furthermore, repair and partial replacement of the roofs as well as reconstruction of the hencoop are also planned.
Along with the construction works, the garden shall be thoroughly cleaned, properly pruned and any damaged plants will be replaced. The current form of the garden will not be altered. Members of the Mediterranean Garden Society, who have visited the house, have expressed their interest in helping with the works in the garden.
- The Benaki Museum will collaborate with Aria Hotels, for the three month rental period, as stated in the donation contract by the Leigh Fermors. Under the alliance the museum will ensure the preservation of the house and its contents, and enable members of the public to have access to the property, while Aria Hotels has pledged that it will undertake operation of the property during the rental period with particular sensitivity to its unique legacy. The Benaki Museum - Aria Hotels partnership will be launched in 2020. (Press release),
- the exhibition Charmed Lives in Greece - Ghika, Craxton, Leigh Fermor, presented at the Leventis Gallery in Nicosia and the Benaki Museum in Athens, is currently on show at the British Museum until 15 July 2018,
- the first exhibition of Joan Leigh Fermor's photographs, titled Artist and Lover: Photographs of Joan Leigh Fermor will open to the public in May 2018 at the Benaki Museum,
- the Board of Trustees of the Benaki Museum in collaboration with the Executive Committee are working on the final details of the operation plan of the House for the upcoming years,
- discussions with educational institutions regarding collaboration in the future operation of The Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor Centre are progressing,
- other publications on the Leigh Fermors are being prepared,
- the repair works at the Leigh Fermor House are underway.
EVERYONE CAN HELP!
The Benaki Museum is in the process of creating an endowment for the collection of donations, which will ensure that the operational expenditure of the Centre is covered and that the proposed educational activities will continue to evolve and grow.
The Benaki Museum, as owner of the house is the only official Institution that receives donations for the endowment fund which will be created for the future operation and sustainability of the Centre.
There is a number of ways, you can donate to the Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor House:
- For payment through bank transfer / direct deposit (from Greece and UK), please press here
- For donations from US residents, through the Benaki Museum US Fund at the King Baudouin Foundation United States (KBFUS), please press here
- For payment through credit card or pay pal, please press here
* In any case, please quote that your donation is for the “Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor House”
Following the donation, the Benaki Museum will issue and send a donation receipt.
Repair works at the House of Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor are already under way and the site is not open to the public until completion.
For further information on the House, please contact the Benaki Museum, specifically Ms Myrto Kaouki, by email at email@example.com or by phone at +30 210 3671090, Monday to Thursday.
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Roberto Calasso - συγγραφέας και εκδότης του εκδοτικού οίκου Adelphi