2020 McDermott Traveling Fellowship

Meet Cassidy Jones, Assoc. AIA

My name is Cassidy Jones. I graduated from the 5-year Bachelor of Architecture program at the University of Oregon, and I am now an architectural professional here in Dallas, Texas.

I always felt like there are two distinctly different sides to myself, one that thrived in technical aspects, and one that flourished in the creative and whimsical. I could never pick which of these sides was more “me” until I got to college and discovered the Architecture program. Architecture allowed me not to choose, but to instead create the perfect blend of artistry and detailed technicality.

Architecture is immersive and should peak all your senses. How a space feels, smells, and sounds is equally important to how a space looks. You cannot experience all of this virtually, and after over a year of everything being virtual, I was ecstatic to get to experience spaces firsthand. I chose to go to Greece to see both the culture and the architecture that inspired so much of Western society.

The Islands

We took a quick flight from Athens out to Mykonos, where we made our way into New Port. The town is a maze of structures that all seemingly connect to one another, the white mud exterior blends directly from walls to narrow street, and back to walls. We had the opportunity to stay in a traditional Cycladic home that was right in the midst of it all.  We got lost a multitude of times in the few days we were there, taking the wrong slithering white alley, but they all connect back eventually. We enjoyed some traditional tzatziki by the port and watched the town come to life. In mythology, Mykonos is the site of the war between Zeus and the Titans, and in documented history it served as an important fixture in the Greek War of Independence. Today, it is a favored spot amongst tourists due to its beauty, its blend of artist shops and luxury boutiques, and its nightlife.

We rented an ATV to explore the island more freely, coasting along the wide turns and hills. As you get out of New Port you can see a distinct difference between the country homes of the locals and the vacation homes. The vacation homes are mostly built in a classically modern style and sprawl across the most picturesque vistas. Architecturally they are beautiful, but it is hard not to see the class difference they have created, and how much they differ from the regional buildings. Back in New Port, we wandered over to the windmills. Still standing from the 16th century, the windmills traditionally used the near constant wind of the island to grind wheat and other products into flour for the village. They are an interesting juxtaposition of Mykonos’ humble roots, as they preside on the hill overlooking one of today’s most luxurious port cities in the world.






The ferry from Mykonos to Santorini was a memorable experience. When the boat arrives everyone simply rushes on board in an unorganized stampede – one I recommend trying to keep up with. People depart the boat in the same fashion. We took a bus from the port to Thera where we were staying. The bus swung along sharp switchbacks as it climbed a death-defying cliff to the top of the island.

Santorini is a C-shaped volcanic island shrouded by exceedingly steep cliffs. Lore says that this section of the island broke off and sank, possibly the location of the lost city of Atlantis. The next day we followed suit from our time on Mykonos and rented an ATV to cruise down to the Archeological Site of Akrotiri. Akrotiri is a Cycladic settlement that was destroyed by a Theran volcano in the 16th century BC. It is also rumored to have been the “sister city” of Atlantis. It is still actively excavated, but they allow you to walk along carefully designed platforms to view the excavations. At times you can go down directly within it. I could not help but admire the juxtaposition of the ancient ruins with the modern structure built above them. A beautifully slatted wood ceiling covers the space, giving way to bright skylights and exposed structural metal. The lighting of the space feels as if you are still outside. The structure was built to protect the ruins. It is evident the detailed planning that went into it to create an environment that not only protects the Greek history but also displays the modernity of Greece today. The ruins themselves allow great insight into what life was like during this time and how progressed their society was. The structures were multistory and show signs of indoor plumbing. Many of the preserved frescoes show scenes of a culture centered around fishing and trade.  After this, we went to the nearby Red Beach where this volcanic soil has created deep red sand and jagged red cliffs. It looks almost otherworldly set against the azure sea.

The next day we rode up to Oia, one of the most famous towns in Greece and definitely the jewel of Santorini. Similarly to New Port, it is all white Cycladic buildings. However Oia is set on an incredibly steep cliffside, and the dwellings protrude out of the cliff in layers from tip to sea. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, and it makes you earn these views with the constant slick staircases. Oia is the height of luxury with cliff dwellings boasting private pools, restaurants serving panoramic views, and shops full of high-end goods. Within it all, you find moments of more authentic culture. Blue roofed churches hang on to the side of the cliff, bell arches frame the streets, and a primary school is nestled alongside one of the busiest tourist walkways. That night, we gathered with thousands of other people along the tiers of stairs to watch the sun set across the sea and the colors reflect off the white buildings as the lights slowly came on to light up the cliff. Everyone stood in near silence, enjoying the beauty of the moment.


We arrived in Thessaloniki and were quick to discover it to be a city unique to itself. Heavy engineering has created a beautiful walkway that runs the edge of the sea for nearly as far as you can see, and the city expands from it in straight lines towards the hills, with an obvious building height that nearly everything abides by. The traditional architecture of the islands was nowhere to be seen, and monuments to the Gods a scarcity. Instead, you see the remains of war.

Thessaloniki has been the site of numerous wars over the centuries between Turkey and Greece, due to its geography on the Northern coast of the Aegean Sea and its large port. Our first morning we walked along the sea to the White Tower positioned right in the main bay and climbed the many circling steps within it to reach the top. The tower is one of the lasting remains of the fortified city and was used to spot and attack ships coming to their harbor. Due to the modern-day building heights, the top of the tower gives you a panoramic view around the city. They have used the various levels of the tower as museum exhibits about its history. We then made our way up the hill, under the wall that used to form the edges of the city, and to the Heptapyrgion, which translates to “Fortress of Seven Towers.” The Fortress sits amongst the fortified wall surveying the city and was converted to a prison for most of the 20th century. Parallels can be drawn between here and the Acropolis in Athens, with the Greeks placing their monument buildings on the tallest hills. The area surrounding the Heptapyrgion is a heritage neighborhood and gives a glimpse to some of the older roots of the city with more traditional architecture.  It is the highest point in Thessaloniki and is compelling to watch the city sprawl towards the sea, becoming denser and more modern as it works its way down the hill.

Nowadays, the city is a modern cultural capitol of Greece. Art installations and monuments line the walk by the sea, a major university brings youth to the city, and restaurants and bars can be seen busy until early in the morning. Thessaloniki is popular today not for its monuments to the past or for serving their history to the world, but for its contributions to the present and showcase of an authentic, modern Greece.

My time in Greece allowed me to see the roots of antiquity. So much of modern day is based off principles and ideas that originated from this region. Greece has had an influence felt around the world, not just through their design, but through their culture as well. Their social and political structures have inspired many other countries. Their emphasis on education and philosophy has resonated with students for centuries, and their architecture still serves as the basis of design for so many of their original building types.

Although they have affected the world, my trip also allowed me to see the affects the world has had on Greece. They have been inspired by eco-tourism, urban planning, and modernism found in other regions and adapted these to their own culture. This fellowship allowed me to see the way the world has learned from one another for thousands of years and how it continues to do so today.

Interested in applying for a traveling fellowship? Applications are available now!