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Young entrepreneur prepares "Architectural Wonder" in Athens neighborhood

04 March 2011 / 19:03:37  GRReporter
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Young Greek entrepreneur Yasonas Tsakonas, together with a team of equally young and inspiring Greek and foreign architects, plan an “Extreme Makeover” of urban space in the neighborhood of Keramikos. His story is compelling with the spirit of young and spontaneous guy who obviously has a sense of the possibilities afforded by time and circumstances and the courage to believe and invest in ideas. 

It sounds tangled, but it is actually very simple. Yasonas has graduated from an American University and has lived in New York for several years, where he started working in a bank, but early enough realized that the corporate environment does not tempt him as a way of life. Then he goes to visit his brother, who lives in Moscow, but found his Eldorado in a neighboring country - Azerbaijan. At that time, Azerbaijan is one of the former Soviet republics, which passes through its development phase to the open western type market. Without hesitation and with capital in his pocket of 3000 Dollars, loaded with confidence, Yasonas starts looking for suitable buildings to be leased to embassies or to oil companies. Subsequently he ventures into investment and construction of buildings for embassies in the capital of Azerbaijan - Baku. There he gained his first major capital at 27 years of age and as he says himself: "I was much bigger than I expected." When he was 29 years old, he returned to Greece to wean his service in the army. At that point he makes his second "kick", but this time in the local market, making him famous around the world. 

His local business Yasonas Tsakonas started in 2002 from the island of Antiparos. "I had told myself that if I earn enough money someday, I would like to have my own house on an island in the Cyclades. But while searching, I realized that such house does not exist. And so, I decided to make it myself..." He chose the island of Antiparos because a friend of his from the military had told him how magical the place is and when he himself visited it, he understood that it really is true. At that time Yasonas was 30 years old and decided to buy a large plot of land, although everybody was discouraging him, since it was dry and unimproved. Right there was born the business project "Antiparos Design Properties" by the company that he founded for this purpose - Oliaros. He started from one house, which subsequently became seven, and finally now there are 24 houses built perfectly into the landscape of the island on an area of 500 acres. All are in sync with the environment and are built on the principles of bioclimatic architecture. The first houses are sold fairly quickly. "Some customers chose to buy a house for geographical reasons. For instance, when Tom Hanks came with his wife and children, he was looking to buy a house that is the Cyclades islands, not on Mykonos, and at the same time in a central location where there is a scuba diving center,” tells Yasonas Tsakonas for "Status" magazine.

The project with the houses on Antiparos became famous and prestigious architectural magazines were taking pictures of them for their covers and also making dedications to the complex. Greek and foreign architects who worked on the project began to receive awards in architectural competitions and disarmingly Tsakonas reveals the secret of his success - his idea is to work with young people who share the same views, who can understand and learn from each other. This is why, the first houses on Antiparos were designed by his friends, like the founder of the Deca Architecture company Alexandros Vaytsos, who he knows from school, and also Lebanese Tala-Miknatsi – a friend of his from New York, who has also worked for Renzo Piano. 

Work continues. In his latest project Yasonas Tsakonas focuses on Athens and just like in the case of Antiparos, everything starts slow. Seeking for a place to settle, to live and to have as headquarter for his company, he finds an old mill in Metaxourgio. The initial idea was to transform it and the first floor to hold exhibitions, theatrical performances, book presentations, concerts and underground style parties, but when he starts bringing his idea to life he sees all the shortcomings. His phone starts ringing at two o'clock in the morning and people ask him if he could give the floor for rent, or where the party is and which is the address. And so he dumps the idea, but keeps the building where the headquarters of his company are. 

In 2006 Yasonas Tsakonas started buying abandoned buildings and parcels in Keramikos and he is currently the owner of 65 real estate properties, stating that his total investment in the region will reach 100 million Euros. His interest in the neighborhood, as he says is: "it is in the city center and it is a place, which was abandoned, so I suddenly saw perspective. This is an area which has a history and a nice aura. Moreover, many buildings have been declared to be historic and with restoration they can be saved. There are also many empty plots where modern buildings can be designed and it is also close to the subway. Contrary to Plaka or Kolonaki, Keramikos was such a seedy neighborhood that you have a sense of perspective.” 

Tags: society architecture capital city Athens Yasonas Tsakonas islands renewal
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