Though the Byzantine Empire ended centuries ago, its architectural influence remains present today. Design Delta Architects (DDA) has recently constructed Australia’s first Byzantine-style monastery on picturesque Mangrove Mountain near Sydney. Built for Greek Orthodox monks, the complex, called Pantanassa, bears resemblance to a 15th-century monastery by the same name in Mystras, Greece.
Ancient orthodox monasteries and grand basilicas represent some of the finest works of Byzantine architecture. In building Australia’s Pantanassa, DDA relied on hallmarks of the style, such as heavy, low-to-earth masonry; central domes; vaulted ceilings; and tile roofs. "The main inspiration for the design is the Athonite monasteries in Greece, with their austere, fortresslike exteriors and ornate, open, villagelike courtyards," says DDA’s principal architect, Demetrios Stavropoulos.
As authentic as it may look, Pantanassa could not have been built at any point from the 4th to the 15th century (the approximate reign of the Byzantine Empire), as it incorporates many contemporary building techniques. Much of the monastery’s concrete shell, for example, was formed in a polystyrene mold, with some features made from sheet metal or fiberglass-reinforced Styrofoam. These modern materials will help it withstand New South Wales’s climate and accommodate many generations of Greek Orthodox monks to come.