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 ("CY") interviewed on Wednesday, 30 September.
CY : I am an Architect Engineer (NTUA, 2011) and a Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineer (University of Patras, 2003). I first joined the Yanniotis & Associates Architectural Bureau in 2003 right after my graduation from Patras University where I earned the Specialty of Aeronautical Engineer. In 2015 I was promoted as Yanniotis & Associates Head Architect. I have more than 10 years of personal research in the field of Universal Design, Inclusive Design and Living-in-Place concept, and I have earned Certifications after having taking part in courses offered by the IDEA Center for Universal Design & Environmental Access of the School of Architecture and Planning at the NY State University at Buffalo. IDEA Center Universal Design is pioneer in Research & Development with regards to Universal Design. I am honored to be one of the first CLIPP graduates in Europe, after the successful completion of the Certified Living In Place Professional™ class. This class, approved for continuing education by International Interior Design Association, National Kitchen & Bath Association, American Occupational Therapy Association, American Society of Home Inspectors, and others, creates interprofessional networks of experts working to make all homes safer and more convenient to live in. Our flagship project INTERelationships, designed in 2019, has been developed in order to propose a Sustainable Dwelling Model by redefining the Sustainability terms. This proposal of a Sustainable Residential Complex with Public Usages, upgrades Sustainability, to include the User-centered Lifetime Design and the Operational Management with regards to the available resources (both spatial and human) and Waste Management, along with Energy Efficiency Design of the Building Shell.
CY : Being the 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 of myself, as an infant, crawling around and I enjoying the “messy” moments; I am not sure whether my parents enjoyed that 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 moment of creative inspiration, 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.
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. Lifetime 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 : Each project opens up a whole new world to me. Coming across with new challenges, new people and new knowledge fields provides me with a strong motivation. Each new design shares a piece of my heart and spirit as I am totally devoted to it. 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. On the other hand 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. Finally, when construction comes into play, everything should be completed and analyzed thoroughly. 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.
CY : I live in Athens, a multi-cultural city with long history and rich heritage. The cultural context in which we live has a great impact, thus affecting the designers profoundly. The 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. Furthermore, my studies as a Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineer, 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. Last but not least, I would like 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. All these people are my design legends I draw inspiration from.
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 a project is INTERelationships. I am also interested in spreading the concept of Lifetime design, a field with which I am passionate with and I have been studying since 2010. 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 Lifetime Private Residences that are energy efficient, have reduced environmental footprint in terms of CO2 emissions and waste management. Concerning my dream project…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 : One great problem right after the completion of architecture studies, are the unlimited options. Option selection leads to evolution. Start working in a local 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 tools that feed or boost creativity. 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 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.
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.
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 drive to my office in Mets, a picturesque and old Athenian neighborhood located behind the old marble Olympic stadium of Kallimarmaron. There, I take my morning coffee with my father in a local bistro discussing with him 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 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.
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 : 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. 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 : Deciding when a project is completed is never easy. There are always elements that could be reviewed and formed differently, in order to enhance morphology and functionality. A solid and good design concept, gives birth to new ideas that are integrated in the overall synthesis. Usually the designer feels and knows well if a project has reached to its completion. The post occupancy period though is very important for an Architect to evaluate the success of building project.
CY : My favorite design actually is INTERelationships. It was a project that arose from my inner need to propose a completely new concept of a sustainable dwelling model. A model that defines sustainability in terms of the User, the Infrastructure and the Operation Management.
CY : That is a really tough question. 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 work 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 : 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. Bureau and the rest is history…I have been thus cultivated with the ideal that Architecture needs to respect 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? There is no secret or a magic recipe in order to achieve one’s goals. 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 improve as individuals and professionals. 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 taken my Architecture masters teachings. I would have never followed the path of Lifetime Design, had I not met Ms. Margarita Fili, the person who introduced me to Disability. 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 I have lived lifelong experiences that enhanced the soft skills of my professional entity.
CY : What I appreciate most in every project, is the team spirit and harmonic cooperation between all stakeholders of a project. Design is not only 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. Concerning the Design process, I always follow more or less the same procedure. I insist a lot 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 in 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 for 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 phases.
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. We walk hand in hand with our clients who have to share the same vision. The adventures that we have experienced (climate change, economic and pandemic crises) during the recent years up to present, has showed that Sustainability should be the long-term goal. That is why INTERelationships has been created at first place; to propose a Sustainable Dwelling Model and vibrant cell in the contemporary Mega Cities.
CY : Having earned an award or recognition represents a whole period of strong efforts, focus in a goal and devotion to a project. Submitting INTERelationships project to A’ Design Awards, helped me understanding the values it reflects and to reevaluate its potential. It is imperative to pass through these inward-looking, self-awareness procedures, before communicating and exposing a project to the public. Each project reflects its creator’s insights, considerations as well as their design and artistic capacity and prospective, as it may be considered an extension of their personality. The experience of attending A’ Design Award, is great so far. Having the opportunity of getting published and exhibited internationally is invaluable. There is a whole staff dedicated to promoting both the project and our brand. We are extremely honored and proud of being part of this community and we look forward to enhancing this relationship in the future.Constantinos Yanniotis Profile
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