Design Legends ("DL") had the distinct honour to interview legendary designer Constantinos Yanniotis ("CY") for their original perspective and innovative approach to design as well as their creative lifestyle, we are very pleased to share our interview with our distinguished readers.
CY : Being the offspring of Architects, I was introduced into the Design World at a very young age. Among my first childhood recollections are some scattered, magic moments in my parents’ architectural bureau where I felt like home or some visits to the construction sites with my father. Becoming an Architect was truly a natural selection. Having failed to enroll at the Architecture School, I studied Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Patras. Upon the completion of my studies I was planning to continue as a doctoral student in the field of Finite Elements under the supervision of my Professor Mr Harris Apostolopoulos. Before returning at Patras in order to begin my new studies cycle, I took three months off, by staying in Athens and joining my parent’s Architectural Bureau and the rest is history…
CY : Each project opens up a whole new world to me. Coming across with new challenges, new people and new knowledge fields provides a strong motivation. Each new design shares a piece of my heart and spirit as I am totally devoted to it.
CY : Becoming an Architect was a natural decision. My parents, having experienced the difficulties of the profession I would say that they even tried to consider it twice before taking a decision about my future.
CY : Architecture is what I practice professionally. As a designer though, I have explored various fields such as graphic design, painting, sketching. All these expressions of art share a common element; the embodied thirst for discovering creative ways to communicate one’s feelings or beliefs. Of course I love Architecture and I wish that I will be able to continue practicing and to continue serving the users’ needs, desires and wellbeing.
CY : Legend is a term I don’t feel that best describes me. It takes a lot of effort to accomplish something like that and surely it is not up to me characterize myself as a legend. The way to succeed in architecture though is to have devotion, work hard and expand your Knowledge through the continuing education concept and through the projects. Knowledge is power and self-awareness reassures that one acknowledges their level and the steps they have to follow in order to improve as professionals.
CY : I think the greatest difference between the two is the passion to deepen more and more into their art and thus to their own soul.
CY : Good design is difficult to achieve. It demands intellectual resources that sometimes are hard to draw. Inspiration does not come alone and does not come easily. I wish that I will achieve some good designs and why not some really good designs in my career. And when the time will come and I will look back, I hope that I will be relieved by finding that I have served Architecture with all my forces, doing the best I could for the users and my clients.
CY : A good design respects life and human existence. A well designed building is a life container more than a volumetric exercise of building forms. A well designed building affects directly the lives of its inhabitants; their productivity, their mood, their attitude. Who wouldn’t want to be part of the wellbeing of someone?
CY : I would love to design a Pharaonic Pyramid, to carve a Stonehedge rock, to work with Fidias, Ictinus and Callicrates in the Parthenon construction, to join Brunelleschi’s Dome team in Florence and Le Corbusier’s Atelier at the time when he designed Unité d'habitation. Time is relative, isn’t it?
CY : Each project, architects come up with, hides its own challenges and in this sense it is unique. It widens their horizons and offers a chance for self-improvement and for reevaluation of their design capacities. One may be intrigued or thrilled by projects that in a way seemed trivial or insignificant at the beginning of the design process. I find residential projects extremely interesting, attractive, complex and challenging. Accommodating all these complex usages occurring in a single residence; Creating a stimulus, functional and a welcoming domestic environment that enhances the sense of belonging; Meeting the ever-changing needs, desires and wellbeing terms of all dwellers through a lifelong design; Creating a place where children will be born and grown up to young adults, where adults will evolve and grow old, where older, frail people will reflect in wisdom or be challenged by their own age. Yet architecture, may similarly support all human activities hosted in environments, different than the dwelling units. So, I love Architecture for the attraction it exerts over me, for the emotions it creates, for the excitement of creativity and for the knowledge I gain in every project I come up with.
CY : Devotion, working hard, Knowledge expansion through the continuing education concept
CY : I am happy to answer this question because I am given the opportunity to pay my dues to all my Teachers that formed me as an Architect and especially my parents for cultivating my architecture instinct since my early years. To me these people are my design legends I draw inspiration from.
CY : That is a really tough question. It is as difficult to answer as the one asking what or who would you take with you on a deserted island. I hate this place!!! There are so many influential designers and artists, not only architects, whose work and visions have become iconic and universal. Wow…tough question…I will take the challenge though and state that I am a great admirer of the works of Peter Zumthor and Tadao Ando. Their Architecture is meaningful, spiritual, inward-looking. They create powerful places that are emotional, still, silent and calm by using simple forms and raw materials. Brilliant, pure Architecture!
CY : My favorite design actually is INTERelationships. That is why I have decided to submit it to A’ Design Awards. It was a project that arose from my inner need to propose a complete concept of a sustainable living model. A model that defines sustainability in terms of the User, the Infrastructure and the Operation Management.
CY : There is no secret or a magic recipe. Hard work and believing in one’s self is the only way to go. One step at a time. Mistakes and wrong decisions are unavoidable and are there to make us better personalities and professionals.
CY : I would have been a much better son, husband and father. I owe a lot to my family that supports me and believes in me.
CY : Design above all means Responsibility; responsibility towards the client and the user of the built environment. The user’s needs and desires should be met and the design ought to be Flexible, allowing them to interact with it. Aesthetics and Functionality should not compete with each other and should both add value to the design. A Design that follows the goals and principles of Inclusivity, that caters for the needs of all possible users, is a Design that seeks to accommodate Quality of Life. Inclusive design with the aid of technology, may transform spaces into vibrant living units that boost self-esteem and self-conception. A Design that focuses on the Details, while keeping a balanced relationship between Functionality and Aesthetics. Setting the user at the center-of-interest, architecture may well accommodate Sustainability not only in terms of Energy Consumption and Waste Management, but also in terms of the user's needs, desires and wellbeing.
CY : The design journey has been a long course with ups and downs. The latter helps you manage the former mentally. I think that my biggest supporter all over these years has been my father. But I will certainly not forget my wife Joe and my 3 year-old daughter Anna who cope with my attitude and support me with plenty of love and affection.
CY : Well, the title great Architect is not something I feel comfortable with, but to answer this question I will have to go back in 1997-2003 during my studies as a Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineer. I believe that in this period I carved a solid mentality and mindset. Through mathematics and engineering courses I gained the skill of being able to organize my thoughts, my desires and channel them into addressing the complex synthetic challenges that each project raises.
CY : I think that the obstacles never stop occurring. They change through the years and differ in quality and in the level of difficulty. I always felt that obstacles, just like challenges, are our comrades in our design quest. We need them to endure and to evolve as architects or professionals. One of those obstacles that still continues to exist, is the economic crisis in Greece that almost eliminated the construction sector.
CY : There are various media through which a designer can present his/her work. Online and print format magazines, participation to exhibitions (especially for awarded projects), press releases or interviews to name a few. The problem that occurs though, has to do with the quality of these presentations, not in terms of their technical attributes but in the way that the public will comprehend the project in depth, distinguish its values and will be able to apply them in the future.
CY : The next design project would be the offspring of INTERelationships. We are currently focusing on implementing its values in the smaller scale of affordable inclusive private residences that are energy efficient, have reduced environmental footprint in terms of CO2 emissions and waste management.
CY : Dreams are free of charge, aren’t they? So what I dream to achieve, is to travel around the globe and why not contribute to the architecture evolution by grounding it back to human scale.
CY : Once again, I don’t believe that an award distinction, no matter how important it is, makes someone special or legendary. Yes it is a moment of excellence, an opportunity to celebrate a great achievement to feel proud for the extreme design efforts that were recognized. But the day after the gala night, this award should raise the responsibilities, expectations and perspectives, so the awarded designer should be prepared to satisfy them.
CY : When design focus on social and human sustainability, there is plenty of room to create a better society. But designers are not alone in this battle. They walk hand in hand with their clients who have to share the same vision. The adventures that we experienced in the recent years showed that Sustainability should be the long-term goal.
CY : Apart from the design projects, I am very interested in following online continuing education programs and courses offered by formal AIA institutions and universities overseas. I deeply believe that knowledge is our power as professionals and as individuals. It feeds our mind and spirit and keeps us up to date to current technologies and design movements.
CY : All projects are important because they all contributed to my evolution as an architect. The project that I really enjoyed though was INTERelationships because it offered me the opportunity to go back to basics of architecture and design inspiration. I had the time and freedom to create a residential building complex which could set an alternative sustainable dwelling proposal. This is why I feel grateful for its success even though it is a conceptual project. But who knows, maybe we will have the opportunity to realize it…
CY : Less is more. I think that this diachronic phrase entails all the precious life values
CY : I wish I had this magic sphere to predict the future. Unfortunately no one does. What I am sure of is that the pandemic crisis, global economy and climate change are all very serious and life changing facts that will affect the design field profoundly. Globalization of technology advances, sustainability terms and inclusive design will be the next thing that will rule the game.
CY : Actually this depends strongly on the project, its category, the difficulties that the site poses into adopting certain forms or solutions and the complexity of the design attributes of a project (sustainability, inclusivity etc.). Unfortunately time is not our ally; we always feel that we need more. But we should also respect our client’s needs and project deadline and make sure that everything will be there on time. Time schedule, deadlines and deliverables are agreed with the client.
CY : I always follow more or less the same design procedure. It is like a sacred ritual to me! Visiting the place is very important I order to sense the local character and absorb as much information as possible. Information that may provide design ideas. An interview or a creative dialogue with the client and/or the project’s stakeholders in order to approach each other and set a basis for the future design options is also imperative. Then I write down very strictly, just like a mathematician does, all the parameters concerning the project as well as my desires and the aspects that should never be neglected during the design process i.e. inclusivity terms, certain functional demands etc. And then conceptual phase follows…What it is very important to me, especially at the beginning of a project, is that I give the necessary time to each stage to help me comprehend what has be done and to decide the next steps. This means that I even stop, take small breaks, or even entire day offs, before returning back to continue the conceptual process.
CY : ‘Design for a Lifetime’ when Functionality meets Aesthetics.
CY : I have always been hesitant towards trends. There were times I turned against them since trends usually come and go without impact. So as an architect I am very suspicious about the authenticity of trends and I admire those designers that have marked their era with the integrity of their work and the values that they have transmitted throughout their career.
CY : Technology is a precious tool if used accordingly. The significant contemporary technological advances have broken new grounds in the design process, the materials technology the construction methods. They have also enhanced the threefold relationship between the architect, the client and the project. We as architects should have the control over these tools, know their attributes in detail and master their use. Technology has modified our lives completely by providing convenience and by simplifying daily tasks and duties. It is important to embrace these advancements and embody them to our design in an inclusive way.
CY : I use ARCHICAD as a design software, Artlantis and Twinmotion for renderings and visualizations and Adobe Suite for presentations and photo editing. I am happy to exploit the powerful computer capacities of my IMacs that enhance my work and produce reliable results.
CY : The impact of color, materiality and ambient in design is enormous. They may transform a rather dull and monotonous space into a vibrant and stimulating place. A place that boosts social interaction, respects diversity, empowers people, improves wellbeing and increases productivity. Moreover, according to the space usage, color, materials and ambient should be selected appropriately so that it will serve its users and it will function harmonically.
CY : I wish that they would appreciate the values of lifetime design and its contribution to sustainability and I hope that they will discover these elements in our work and get attracted to solutions that do not compromise but enhance aesthetics through functionality channels.
CY : I try to observe and figure out what design elements produce this certain ambience that creates these emotions. Is it a matter of materiality, of the forms, of the scale, of detailing, of the overall environment and surroundings? What makes a design unique and distinct? These are lifelong questions seeking desperately for answers!
CY : During the Architecture School years, I had been trained to work in Teams and form collaborations in various projects. I believe in Team’s capacity to develop powerful ideas through creative dialogue and through setting and sharing the same goals. Architecture nowadays, has become complex with the introduction of sustainability, new technologies and materials. Even the design procedure has changed significantly, with the use of effective design tools that has expanded creativity tremendously. In building design apart from architects, other disciplines such as civil or structural engineers, mechanical engineers, sustainability consultants, industrial designers, contractors, project managers etc. are essential in order to complete a project. Thus being part of a Team is both inevitable and imperative and creating a team that is project-oriented and works in tune is extremely important for an architect.
CY : I strongly believe that I would have never been an architect, had my parents followed other professional paths. I would have never obtained this design clarity of thought had I not studied Mechanical Engineering. I would have never conceptualized the foundations in Architecture had I not my Architecture masters teachings. I would have never followed the path of Inclusive Design, had I not met Margarita, a person that stood as a second mother to me. I would have never been devoted to Architecture had my family not supported and believed in me and my dreams. I would have never been an architect or even had designed INTERelationships had I listened to the discouraging voices of “logic” that compromise dreams. I prefer being unhappy as an Architect to not being one. And thanks to all the people that I came up with, Family members, Friends, past relationships and great love affairs, Mechanical Engineering and Architecture Teachers and fellow students, past Tennis coaches, Dance teachers and partners, my drawing students, clients, project partners and consultants, I have carved my personality and lived lifelong experiences that enhanced soft skills of my professional entity.
CY : With no doubt my Inclusive Design research on its teachings and bibliography has profoundly changed and influenced my architecture considerations. The way of thinking, the fundamentals, the user-centricity of design, came to complement my basic architecture knowledge earned during my studies. In a sense, Inclusive Design expands Le Corbusier’s Vers une Architecture and Modulor Man concepts to even more universal spheres.
CY : Architecture is a life container creation vocation. It draws inspiration from personal experiences, teachings and knowledge to create spatial experiences for other people, thus affecting directly their living terms. Apart from design teachings, project developments and professional experiences, I owe a lot to the people that surround me, to my family background, and to the course of my life until today with all experiences included both positive and negative.
CY : Great question with unlimited options to choose from! Many figures come in my mind from all fields of human activity: arts, science, music, religion, philosophy, history and politics or even notorious criminals. Important or controversial figures from the recent and past years, till Antiquity. In what context would we meet? For example I would never ask Mozart to join a rave party, even if he would love to! Wouldn’t be interesting to see how these people would react in completely different situations or environments? For example wouldn’t it be interesting to watch Gary Kasparov as a playmaker in a team sports or Alexander the Great in peacetime? We have witnessed Michael Jordan playing golf! Although many people may have thought at the time that golf wouldn’t fit to Jordan, it was rather an interesting match. Wouldn’t be interesting to arrange meetings that would bring together personalities such as Sir Isaak Newton and Albert Einstein for example? How would they interact? I think that I love this option! There is song by my favorite Greek musician and singer called Loukianos Kilaidonis, entitled The Party. Loukianos has also studied Architecture at NTUA and in this song he dreams of organizing a fantastic party in a Deep Dungeon along with a bottle of rum! So in this surreal setting he would invite Fellini, the Beetles, Charlie Chaplin as Charlot, Wassily Kadinsky, Jorge Luis Borges, Frank Sinatra, Andrés Segovia, Picasso, Walt Disney, Elvis Presley, Bertolt Brecht, Hamphrey Bogart, François Truffaut, Scott Joplin, Johan Sebastian Bach, Giorgos Seferis, Georges Braque, George Gershwin, and even Zoro! I would love to join Loukianos’s Party, where I am sure that he would invite all the important personalities that he did not include in the brief lyrics of his song!! Now, concerning one of the most controversial and mysterious historic figures of both the arts and science, Leonardo da Vinci, I would rather leave him in his peace…The mystery that surrounds his personality, part of which it was intentional, has created his legend and has thus contributed to the attraction Leonardo exerts to all scientists and artists till today. I would never ruin this feeling by just satisfying the curiosity of meeting him.
CY : Gaining an award or recognition represents a whole period of strong efforts, focus in a goal and devotion to a project. Submitting this project to awards, contributes to understanding the values it reflects and to reevaluating its potential. It is imperative to pass through these inward-looking, self-awareness procedures, before communicating and expose a project to the public. Each project represents its creator’s views, considerations as well as their design and artistic capacity and prospective. In this sense, yes it is a tough and dangerous process and one should be prepared to face rejection or address objections to their project, as it may be considered an extension of their personality.
CY : I love the ground tones and hues, like the ones of fayum paintings that best express their primitive and naïve notion. Passing moments or short periods near the sea, is a relaxing experience. However, I would never exchange the stimulating and vibrant life of the city center. Since I was a little child I craved for lentils and this is a dish I still enjoy eating. It sounds weird though, listening to my 3-year-old daughter’s claim that her favorite dish are the lentils too. I love both the nostalgic autumn mood and the nature’s spring revival. I do not get obsessed or stick with things. On the other hand I do insist wearing some clothes, while denying to admit that they may have worn out. My favorite brand is Apple. We have been fans and users of McIntosh and Apple products, since the first introduction of Mcintosh 128K to market place back in 1984. Brand’s finesse, user interface, targeted design and focus to accuracy and perfection are unmatchable.
CY : Architecture is full of tiny and brief moments, fun and funny incidents that occur during the design process. Most of them happen when working with partners in deadline periods. Stress levels and fatigue are high due to overnight and exhaustive work, thus leading to lough outbursts. These outbursts are common reactions and they are essential as they contribute to physical and emotional balance. One funny but still terrifying incident that I remember, occurred during a supervision visit to a building which was under massive restoration. At that times, we used to take our dog along, because the building was located in a walking distance away from our home. Gorby loved running and enjoyed playing with the workers or with the random debris or rubbish he was discovering here and there. One day, we visited the building and Gorby, as usual, started running crazy to all rooms without noticing that in a certain hall the floor had been removed and only the supportive wooden beams were left in place. It was the first time in my life that I saw a dog balancing like a cat, quite awkwardly I admit, on the thin, lengthy floor beams! He was terrified and once he managed to reduce speed and stop, he was lying in the middle of the hall, grasped on the floor beam, and crying helpless. Suddenly, everybody in the building stopped working and were all searching for Gorby who was barking and whining. A huge operation commenced that lasted about half an hour, and Gorby was ultimately saved and returned back to the hugs of his beloved workers who celebrated his rescue.
CY : Following everyday routines and habits reduces stress levels and creates a psychological state of mind in which I feel calm and safe. For example, the daily half an hour coffee at the local bistro, early in the morning along with people I know quite well, is the ideal way to start my day. This social interaction clears my mind and it is a kind of ritual to me. Reading articles or whatever I find interesting and enjoyable is also relaxing. Hand sketching and drawing, physically connects me to the project I work on and helps me explore its mental aspects in a creative and artistic way. The expansion of computer use to almost all fields and phases of creation, suppresses my needs for informal and physical expression. I thus resort to sketching and hand drawing, with the use of various writing mediums which I completely control and enjoy. Sketches and mock-ups are time-consuming activities that stimulate the mind and contribute to the perception of the building construction. Time is a crucial design factor in the sense of brain information processing. Brain needs time to absorb and perceive all the complex information, design criteria, building program organization, legislation or technical limitations and of course to develop desires; it takes time to transform ideas into architectural forms and hand crafting or sketching provide the designer with this essential motivational parameter with a creative and fun way.
CY : Being the offspring of architects and by having grown up in a design-centered environment, I have had rich and joyful memories that had a deep impact on me. Since I was a little child and especially during summertime I remember myself sketching and painting. These pieces were not something special artistically, but I remember my natural attraction to creation and expression through painting. I remember enjoying visiting construction sites along with my father and I still feel the intense and distinct smell of my parents’ bureau. It was the distinct smell of papers, rice-papers, inks, color markers, pencils and photocopies, subtly fused with tobacco scent. I loved this smell and to my childish mind, it acted as a creation metaphor. So, becoming an architect was quite a natural decision and a desire that occurred too early and in a very young age.
CY : My wife Joe, responded to this question describing the future as a Post-apocalyptic hell! I am happy that I will not witness her predictions!!!
CY : I would like to state that we will keep trying to improve our design skills and processes, to provide better, more qualitative and integrated services and we will seek to participate in future design awards and competitions with inspiring and interesting projects. Please stay tuned, safe and healthy.
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