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Kostas Kondilis: My dream is to design buildings in Greece

21 March 2010 / 13:03:30  GRReporter
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Kostas Kondilis is born in Africa, he has graduated architecture in Greece and in the past 40 years he is one of the most established architects in New York. His signature stands behind the project of 75 already built sky scrapers and another 15 which are now in the process of construction. He is the author of the projects of the buildings of Donald Trump in Manhattan and in many other cities around the world. In his studio in Manhattan the famous architect talks to Maria Spassova.




-         For such an established architect in New York as yourself, which is the greatest creative challenge you are facing here?


-         The architect is by definition an artist who combines the art with the commerciality. He has to have the right proportion of talent for both things. The big buildings are actually big investments on the part of the banks and the entrepreneurs, who work in real estate and the architect is the one whose art brings their profit. This is the main challenge. There are other challenges as well. For example how to meet all the various rules and regulations – the zone regulation, the regulation of the buildings, the fire safety regulation. The question is how with all those regulations to create something artistic and different, beautiful from an architectural point of view. This is a constant fight against the rules.


-         When you are working on some kind of project, what inspires you?


-         My inspiration can com from many different things. It could start from a flower, the structure of the flower resembles the structure of the building and its balance. It could come from the automobile design – from the shape and the colors of a car. Most often, however, the inspiration comes from the classic architecture of New York, Paris, London, Athens.


-         How long does it take you the design work of a building?


-         We have three to four weeks in order to suggest a preliminary design. This is the tie which I call the dream period. The time when we as architects dream of a clear conception of the building. Then comes the reality – how can we turn our dream into reality.


-         And what about the reality, how long does it last?


-         It is about 9 months in order for us to finish the sketches of the building with all of its details and all of its specifications so that it would be ready for construction. This is the New York schedule. In New York this process of turning the dream into reality takes two to three times longer.


-         You are born in Africa, you have grown up and graduated your education in Greece then you start working as an architect in New York. Have you ever thought about the opportunity to come back and work in Greece?


-         Very often. I have always wanted to work in Greece, however I do not want to compete with the local architects. They are doing their job in a great manner. However I also want to offer my talent and my experience in favor of Greece. That is why the right project has to come in the right time and this has not yet happened.


-         To me it is interesting to hear that you admire the architecture of Athens. It really has the potential to be among the most beautiful cities in the world, however to the people who live there this is not at all true.


-         Generally speaking I agree with you. There are two types of operations that can be done in Athens. The first one is related to the small changes – the planting of trees, the building of green areas, taking the squares away from the cars and giving the to the pedestrians. The putting of benches, beautiful street lights which would make the city more pleasant and more humane. The big change is to create a new city center in Athens at the place of the old airport. This is a change which will come after 2010. Each historical period forms its center in a big city. In Athens has to be created a center of the modern ages. Many times I have spoken about this idea of mine on the television and in magazines and books, however nobody has yet understood me.


-         Here in your offices, I see your buildings in Moscow, Istanbul, Doha, the Philippines. Why did you switch to the international market?


-         It all started from the idea to design a building in Moscow. I have always been a New York architect, I had never built in other cities and all of a sudden I was invited to design a building in Moscow. I started a project, then I was invited for a second one, and a third one. There was the avalanche effect. The people didn’t stop calling me, we started designing in Dubai and in Turkey. I am very happy that I came back in Europe – where I actually started from. Europe was to me a new territory, there we started from scratch, however we are already well known, the clients know we work there and they are looking for us. The secret of my success in Europe is that I know very well the architectural history of Europe and I combine the European architectural tradition with the American techniques which I also know very well. I am very happy from the way things went over there and I can share with you that very soon together with a Greek company we will start on a new project in Bulgaria as well.


Picture: Kalman Peter Toth

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