We, as the Designer Interviews ("DI") had the distinct pleasure and opportunity to interview award-winning, most creative and innovative Constantinos Yanniotis ("CY").
Constantinos Yanniotis graduated from the School of Architecture NTUA in 2011, following his studies of Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Patras (2003). Since then, he has been practicing as an Architect at the Yanniotis & Associates Architectural Bureau, having an expertise in Inclusive Design. In its long-lasting activity, the Bureau has completed a significant number of projects – of both small and large scale – in various fields of building design and urban planning (residential buildings, office spaces, industrial buildings, tourist facilities, golf resorts & sports centres, culture, restoration and reformation of listed historical buildings, urban planning, decorating, special designs etc). Facing towards the new challenges, contemporary design account for Inclusive Design practices, Sustainable Energy Technologies and Integrated IT Services.
Constantinos Yanniotis Designs
We are pleased to share with you original and innovative design work by Constantinos Yanniotis.
Designer Interview of Constantinos Yanniotis:
DI: Could you please tell us more about your art and design background? What made you become an artist/designer? Have you always wanted to be a designer?
CY : Being a son of Architects I grew up in a design, inspiring environment. I have early memories of my parents spreading their draft plans on the floor of our living room and me, as an infant, I crawled around and I enjoyed the “messy” moments; I am not sure whether my parents enjoyed it too! My strongest memory though, is the image of my father, standing distant from his design table, lighting a cigarette and staring at his drawing for a couple of minutes. It was then that I first sensed the magic of creation, the close connection between an Architect and their brainchild and their absolute devotion to their art. To an architect this piece of work, even If it is just a conceptual sketch of abstract strokes, represents a living organism manifesting a vibrant intellectual universe. I feel fortunate not having started smoking though!
DI: Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?
CY : Yanniotis & Associates Architectural Bureau was established in Athens in 1980 by my parents Yannos and Vassiliki Yanniotis, In 2003 I joined the Bureau after my studies in Mechanical Engineering at the University of Patras. In 2006 I enrolled at the Architecture School NTUA from which I graduated in 2011. Since then, I have been practicing as an Architect, having an expertise in Inclusive Design. In its long-lasting activity, the Bureau has completed a significant number of projects – of both small and large scale – in various fields of building design and urban planning (residential buildings, office spaces, industrial buildings, tourist facilities, golf resorts & sports centers, culture, restoration and reformation of listed historical buildings, urban planning, decorating, special designs etc). Facing towards the new challenges, contemporary design account for Inclusive Design practices, Sustainable Energy Technologies and Integrated IT Services.
DI: What is "design" for you?
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.
DI: What kinds of works do you like designing most?
CY : I do not have a particular preference because every project has its own, special challenges that should be addressed. If though, I had to select a category of architectural projects that I favor, that would be Residences.
DI: What is your most favorite design, could you please tell more about it?
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.
DI: What was the first thing you designed for a company?
CY : The first thing I ever designed was a bookcase, inspired from Mondrian’s paintings motifs. It was designed during my studies in Architecture School and was constructed just after my graduation.
DI: What is your favorite material / platform / technology?
CY : Materials are as important to architecture as is the skin to the body. It is the epidermis that completes the building forms, enabling them to convey subtle messages to the possible users. Each project has its own character, aspirations and soul. Materials should serve all these high intellectual goals. Therefore, the designer should create a harmonic synthesis with the use of the appropriate materials.
DI: When do you feel the most creative?
CY : What I appreciate most in every project, is the team spirit and harmonic cooperation between all stakeholders of a project. Design is not about drawings, models and visualizations; it involves relationships, interactions, happy moments and disappointments. It is a tough self-evolving procedure. Creativity is the fuel that feeds the designers thus leading them into conquering new grounds of knowledge.
DI: Which aspects of a design do you focus more during designing?
CY : I believe that the conceptual phase of a project is the most important and the most creative one. In this preliminary phase the design builds its body drawing all intellectual resources from its developer. A rigid conceptual model that takes into account all design aspects, would possibly blossom during the design process.
DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when you design?
CY : Design is not a game. It is a long journey with checkpoints and short-run goals that should be placed accordingly in order to complete successfully a project. Happy and creative moments alternate with frustration, stress and disappointment when deadlines are to be met or when obstacles rise on the course. Challenges boost creativity, while imagination fuels the designer with ideas and design solutions thus creating a vibrant, imaginary world full of inspiration and aspirations.
DI: What kind of emotions do you feel when your designs are realized?
CY : When construction comes into play, everything should be completed and analyzed thoroughly. Construction may reveal unexpected issues that might have not be considered during the planning stage. It is a very suspenseful period, full of responsibilities and intense moments. Pride and relief are the most common feelings along with the anxiety that the final result will finally meet the desires and expectations of the clients. Architects along with the other engineering disciplines and the workers who shape the form of the building with their own hands, consist a team whose members are interconnected and share the same emotions.
DI: What makes a design successful?
CY : I think that time is the most critical factor that defines whether a design will be considered successful or not. Users’ footprint on a building is equally important to its designers’ expectations and desires. The way they behave, act, express themselves and live consist the major part of its post-design life. If they are happy for their new home, office spaces etc. then the architects should feel also proud for their accomplishments. But we should never forget that a designer will be rewarded only by their peers who will judge their work objectively and rigidly.
DI: When judging a design as good or bad, which aspects do you consider first?
CY : Evaluating a design of a building is a complex procedure. Most of the times we are unaware of the critical aspects or design factors that led to certain design solutions. Parameters such as Budgeting limitations, Client’s desires or demands in providing service are key points that form or guide the design options even in the preliminary or conceptual phases. Having these in mind I agree that design criteria such as Function, Aesthetics, Materiality, Reliability, Performance, Interaction, Empowerment, Perfection, Change-as described by A’ Design Awards- are values that a good design should possess. Usually we judge Architecture in terms of formal complexity and this tendency is instinctive. A gifted Architect of course may have the ability to develop complex architectural forms with interconnected spaces and uses or the capacity to handle materiality. All these are values that distinguish an architectural work and its designer. What makes Architecture very special though, is that all these aspects are embodied in a certain land property, with predefined orientation and views, with predefined options for possible entrances or access, with a predefined building program, with a predefined budget and for a certain client. Working with design limitations is part of our job and we should take into consideration all these parameters that usually compete with each other in order to produce an outstanding building.
DI: From your point of view, what are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?
CY : When design focus on social, human and environmental sustainability, there is plenty of room to create a better society for the next generations. 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.
DI: How do you think the "design field" is evolving? What is the future of design?
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.
DI: When was your last exhibition and where was it? And when do you want to hold your next exhibition?
CY : In A’ Design Awards! I am looking forward for this opportunity!
DI: Where does the design inspiration for your works come from? How do you feed your creativity? What are your sources of inspirations?
CY : Technology and the internet have helped tremendously into bringing architecture masterpieces into our mobiles screens. In just a few seconds you may travel virtually from Beijing, to New York, to Paris or Berlin and London and have a chance to visit places and architecture sites. Nothing can replace the experience of an actual visit of a building by travelling abroad to see and feel its scale, its materiality, how it is integrated in its context and its surroundings. Architecture is deeply affected by the local character embodying the local culture and it cannot be fully perceived in a print or visual format alone. Sketching interesting views or elements of a building, contributes into understanding its structure and organization of its form. In a way, this intimate process may help one get in the shoes of its creator and trace the elements that make a building distinct and outstanding.
DI: How would you describe your design style? What made you explore more this style and what are the main characteristics of your style? What's your approach to design?
CY : The design style is for an architect is actually his or her personality, carved meticulously along with their living environment and conditions, cultural context, education, experiences and many more defining factors. Design style cues are apparent even in the early works or in the school years but are rough and yet immature expressions of the deep personal values that each designer shares. It is really hard to express what my style is, because I think that it is more or less a characteristic that is formed and refined dynamically with every project, with every experience I have had. Individual beliefs and merits inherent to each person, both create the basis for this personal expression manner or style. Though, central to my design approach in each project, is the user-centered philosophy; a design that creates environments which respect their users, enables and empowers them.
DI: Where do you live? Do you feel the cultural heritage of your country affects your designs? What are the pros and cons during designing as a result of living in your country?
CY : I live in Athens, a multi-cultural city with great history and heritage. The cultural context in which we live has a great impact affecting the designers profoundly. These relationships that have been constructed solidly piece by piece since their childhood, may be traced in a designer’s work through subtle or intensive gestures, stemming from their background. The recent experience of the economic crisis has affected not only the society as a whole but also each individual and particularly architects and designers. We have entered in an existential quest, doubting even the need for our services and reviewing all our values that formed us as personalities and professionals. This process is tough, insular and has impinged on the survival terms of the construction disciplines link that interconnects all these professions. Now, we are phasing the Covid-19 contagion, a global pandemic that threatens to change the life habits and style once and for all.
DI: How do you work with companies?
CY : Working with companies differs a lot from working for private clients. The procedures are different, usually because the decision maker is not a single person but a board, consisting of members that take into account aspects that may be even irrelevant to the project itself. Legal commitments, strict deadlines and contracts come into play and interpersonal relationships may be underrated. But architecture involves interaction, needs social approval and mutual commitment of all stakeholders to endure all the difficulties until the completion of a project. I therefore struggle to maintain this interpersonal team spirit and mutual understanding, in order to meet the expectations of all stakeholders.
DI: What are your suggestions to companies for working with a designer? How can companies select a good designer?
CY : I think that apart from the CV and the experience of a designer, an additional factor is that the profile of the designer should match the profile of the company profile. Both the architect and the company should share the same goals, agree with the basic stepping towards the completion of the project and find a common ground for understanding one another and respect each other’s priorities. I believe that these elements can create the perfect foundations for a successful project.
DI: Can you talk a little about your design process?
CY : I always follow more or less the same design procedure. I insist in the preliminary and conceptual design phase being the most important step of a project. 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. This phase involves 3d models and visualizations, plan/sections/elevation basic design and cost estimations. Once we come up to a fundamental agreement with the client we may further proceed to the next design phaces.
DI: What are 5 of your favorite design items at home?
CY : I am great fan of industrial design as it was first expressed and evolved during the Bauhaus movement. I love my old time classic metal stovetop espresso pot and my vintage metallic alarm clock. In my office I have a vintage wooden articulated doll bought by my parents during their studies in Geneva along with my mother’s student Bauhaus style armchair set and of course a vintage articulated desk lamp designed and produced in 1960. All these are everyday fixtures and utensils and great pieces of industrial design that were manufactured during or right after the closure of Bauhaus School in Berlin and Dessau.
DI: Can you describe a day in your life?
CY : A typical day in my life usually begins rather powerfully, as it involves playing with my 3 year-old daughter who wakes up too early in the morning. At about 8 o’ clock I take the public bus and head to my office in Mets, a picturesque and old Athenian neighborhood located behind the old marble Olympic stadium of Kallimarmaron. There, I take my breakfast and morning coffee with my father in a local bistro discussing about the current projects and reading the news. At about 9 o’ clock we return to the office to begin our work. I try to keep track the technology advances in sustainable design and inclusive design and I take online courses of the AIA Continuing Education programs. What I also love is that twice a week, I teach architectural drawing to future design students who are preparing for the Panhellenic university entrance exams. These teaching hours involves interaction with young students, an experience which is really refreshing and creative.
DI: Could you please share some pearls of wisdom for young designers? What are your suggestions to young, up and coming designers?
CY : One great problem right after the completion of architecture studies, are the unlimited options. Option selection leads to evolution. Start working in a design studio? Work abroad, to famous architecture firms? Set up your own studio? Collaborate with your friends and fellow students as professionals? Continue with a postgraduate level of studies? Participate in architecture contests and competitions? Take a year off? Travel? Unlimited options, unlimited career paths. But still, even before graduation there are options and opportunities for self-improvement. The great difference between the two states is safety and comfort. The main duty of a student is to follow the demanding program of architecture studies. Participating to design competitions, summer practice or internships are valuable decisions that a student may consider adopting. Our life experiences are our tool that feed or boost creativity. To me, experience comes by trying different things, other than design. By meeting different people and cultures, by travelling, by playing music, dancing, or through sports and leisure. Theater, Beaux arts, cinema are all art forms that share similar design rules and creation methods. Reading, having fun, going for a walk, falling in love…living and enjoying life. Each of these activities offer valuable lessons, cultivate different skills, carve one’s personality and character, feed creativity and imagination providing people with unlimited resources to draw from. So what I would recommend to a young designer is to take advantage of his youth, energy and thirst for life and knowledge. Go out to the real world and observe, experience and live. Feel all the emotions and reflect. Transform all these invaluable personal experiences to universal forms, places and environments. This never ending process will lead to clearer career decisions and determined efforts towards meeting reasonable goal settings.
DI: From your perspective, what would you say are some positives and negatives of being a designer?
CY : As every creative occupation, architecture demands absolute devotion. It is a time consuming and intense profession that absorbs all intellectual and spiritual resources in order to reach to a high design status. Creativity, imagination, contemplation, reflection, focus to the ultimate goal are some of the skills that a designer should master. The feeling of fulfilment that follows the completion of a project or even after the discovery of the tiniest detail is invaluable and rewarding.
DI: What is your "golden rule" in design?
CY : Never rush, take your time to focus and reflect
DI: What skills are most important for a designer?
CY : I think that the most valuable skills a designer should have is patience and drive. Social skills, communicational skills and empathy are also imperative in order to associate and interact with partners, clients, contractors and workers and accommodate or address their competitive demands and desires. Presentation and pitching skills are foundational in order to convince all stakeholders for the value of a design solution and why it should be adopted as is. Having the courage to admit a possible mistake or inadvertence, listening carefully to others’ objections and opinions, being loyal to your own values while respecting others’, being honest, frank and straightforward are personality qualities that are well appreciated. Last but not least defending and respecting your partners helps building a trustful and powerful team.
DI: Which tools do you use during design? What is inside your toolbox? Such as software, application, hardware, books, sources of inspiration etc.?
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. I always refer to building or local codes and inclusive design regulations and literature when designing.
DI: Designing can sometimes be a really time consuming task, how do you manage your time?
CY : When we are close to deadlines, usually the work load is increasing significantly. I always pre-organize the schedule with the tasks to be delivered estimating the time needed to complete each task. At the beginning of a project and especially the conceptual phase though, time calculation is hard to estimate. The preliminary design phase involves considering almost all aspects of a project and has to be conducted consistently and intently. Going back and forth in architecture is the standard for this profession, as well as anticipating unforeseen twists and turns due to the complex nature of design.
DI: How long does it take to design an object from beginning to end?
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.
DI: What is the most frequently asked question to you, as a designer?
CY : Apart from the cost of design service which is always a serious concern for all clients, they are also interested into understanding the Inclusive Design concept and how it can be employed in buildings and environments. The initial doubts or possible objections usually transform to either surprise or admiration. Common sense, sensibility, scientific arguments and knowledge are our powerful tools to support solidly a design concept.
DI: What was your most important job experience?
CY : My most important job experience was the renovation of a massive exhibition center in Athens of a total surface of 32.000 sqm. This project involved upgrading the old, industrial, metal framed warehouse building shell into a modern and attractive exhibition space. All planning and design phases were completed and the construction permit was issued. Unfortunately the project did not qualified for construction for budgeting reasons. This was my first experience as a project architect right after graduation from Architecture school.
DI: Who are some of your clients?
CY : Most of our clients come from the private sector, including both private individuals and companies. In its long-lasting activity, the Bureau has completed a significant number of projects – of both small and large scale – in various fields of building design and urban planning (residential buildings, office spaces, industrial buildings, tourist facilities, golf resorts & sports centres, culture, restoration and reformation of listed historical buildings, urban planning, decorating, special designs etc).
DI: What type of design work do you enjoy the most and why?
CY : As I mentioned before, I do not have a particular preference because every project has its own, special challenges that should be addressed. If though, I had to select a category of architectural projects that I favor, that would be Residences because of the complexity of human activities conducted within their body. It also involves inclusive design in the sense of lifetime housing, interior design and customized design solutions. Each project is a unique case study widening our design prospects and capacities.
DI: What are your future plans? What is next for you?
CY : Apart from the client oriented projects, I love deepening my research horizons in design by developing conceptual projects that may lead to universal solutions. Such project is INTERelationships. I am also interested in spreading the concept of inclusive design, a field with which I am passionate and I have been studying since 2010. All these activities have come up and have been refined during the economic crisis which has stimulated and directed creativity in new, unprecedented fields. Following this pattern of work, our 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.
DI: Do you work as a team, or do you develop your designs yourself?
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.
DI: Do you have any works-in-progress being designed that you would like to talk about?
CY : The global pandemic unfortunately has violently affected the natural continuity and evolution of the creative business too. A cataclysmic pause has embarked and this fact will have a deep impact to all aspects of life and to our projects consequently. It is a chance for all to retrospect and evaluate the past and to reflect about the new future that is rising. I wait for this process to bear fruits and I am looking forward to better and much more solidary societies and leaderships.
DI: How can people contact you?
CY : They may visit our homepage where they will get our contact details and send us email to get in touch.
DI: Any other things you would like to cover that have not been covered in these questions?
CY : This interview has covered a wide range of fields and aspects. It exceeded my expectations and demanded time and deepening into concepts and terms that I have never had the chance to reflect so intensely and extensively. I hope that you will enjoy my answers as I did. Stay safe and healthy!