In the year 2009, two talented individuals from two different cultural backgrounds joined hands to established EKKY Studio Architects in Nicosia, Cyprus. Cypriot architect Elina Kritikou and Japanese-French architect Kenzo Yamashita used to work for the renowned Spanish architect Carlos Ferrater’s OAB – Office of Architecture in Barcelona, Spain. Their common passion saw them working in Europe in various firms till 2008. The bonding strengthened over the years and they decided it was time to launch their own studio.
Elina Kritikou graduated as an architect from University of Patras. Interestingly, she has a Fine Arts and Design background. She believes, “Each project should be responsive to its users and the environment.” Together with Kenzo Yamashita, the studio has widened their horizon in France, Tunisia, Greece and obviously Cyprus with some of the outstanding projects in their portfolio. Elina specializes in residential, commercial and hospitality projects. She enthused, “Having established EKKY Studio, we have accomplished our vision of practicing high quality and innovative architecture with the philosophy of serving people and community at large.”
EKKY Studio Architects’ Co-founder Elina Kritikou shares her journey into architecture and talks about their magnificent project ‘MAP Hotel’ in the exclusive interview with Johnny D.
When you look back at your childhood ambition, did you always wanted to be an architect? How has been your journey so far to make a name in the world of architecture?
I never thought what I wanted to be. It was something that just came naturally. I was always into art and design. As far as I remember, I always wanted to be an architect or an artist. The journey in architecture has been a pleasant and exciting rollercoaster. It is a very demanding profession with its ups and downs, but at the end when you are satisfied with the results, it is a huge moment of pleasure that makes every effort worth it (smiles).
Throw us some light as to how Kenzo Yamashita and you got together to establish EKKY Studio Architects?
Kenzo and I met in Barcelona, while working at a very well-known Spanish office. Architecture was our common passion. After Spain, we worked in different countries in Europe. In 2009, we established our office EKKY Studio Architects in Nicosia, Cyprus.
What was the brief of ‘Map Hotel’ project? What really goes in your mind during the ‘brief’ meeting with the client(s)?
Map Hotel was an extension and renovation of an existing project that has been built in different phases through the years. The building used to be a very well-known gathering spot of the city. Our aim was to create a landmark building with a unified façade that provides a new identity and experience for the MAP Boutique Hotel in Nicosia.
When we have a ‘brief’ meeting with the client, we try to understand the needs, the expectations and various parameters of each project, in order to be able to provide a proposal that we believe will be the most suitable for the project.
What do you demand from the team members during the designing and planning stage?
We are extremely lucky to have an amazing team and collaborators in all our projects. The architects here at EKKY Studio are all creative individuals with excellent designing skills and we all share our passion for architecture. From our team members, we expect them to be professional, efficient and give 100% of their effort into each project.
What were the major challenges you foresee from the planning stage to the execution of the project on the real grounds?
In this specific project, we faced a lot of challenges during the construction, since it was a renovation / extension project. We discovered a lot of discrepancies with the existing drawings at the stage of the demolition.
How did you overcome them creatively?
Every project has its challenges and part of our job is to find solutions when a challenge arises during the construction, giving the best possible solution or converting the problem into an advantage for the design.
How would you describe the ‘Elegance of Design’ of the ‘Map Hotel’ project from an architect’s perspective?
MAP Hotel is a boutique city hotel for business and leisure. We believe that the architecture and the design of this project correspond to its use and characteristics.
Please mention 5 major ‘Sustainability’ features you incorporated in the project.
In terms of sustainability, we included the required specifications for wall insulation and roof insulation. The building has an extra ventilated façade with aluminum cladding and a double façade at the balconies with a shading system of vertical elements. High-quality ‘Thermal Aluminum’ profiles for all doors and windows with energy low-glaze were incorporated. We also adopted renewable technologies – Solar panels and photovoltaic cells on the roof.
The hotel has also adopted a smart automation system that helps with the energy efficiency of the users. Whenever we design a building, we always give a lot of attention to the orientation of the project to help the building’s sustainability. However, this project already existed and this is the reason we suggested different alternatives to achieve the best possible results.
What is the total area and the ‘design-to-construction’ time period of the project?
The total indoor area of this project is 2,300 sq. m. The project’s timeframe from the initiation of the design until the completion was approximately two years.
Please elucidate the use of BIM in the project. Briefly highlight the advantages BIM has brought to architecture in the recent times.
BIM is a tool, if used properly helps all the participants in a project, to collaborate with efficiency. We educated all the architects in our team to be able to use it. However, it is much more efficient when all the participants of the project are using it. In this specific project that was not the case.
How would you describe the role and significance of the conscientious efforts of the civil / structural engineers in this project?
The civil engineer was a key consultant in this project, as his work was complicated due to the existing condition of the building. G. Kountouris Civil Engineers L.L.C has done an excellent job with extensive research on the existing structure, giving the appropriate solutions for the reinforcement of the existing building. At the same time, they managed to design and proposed a new metal structure for all the extensions, cantilevers and façade details with the result that meet our expectations, in terms of architectural design.
Climatic catastrophes are destructing major smart cities and countries alike, including desert cities around the world in the recent times. What are the necessary and mandatory changes ‘Architects of the World’ should implement while designing and executing a project?
In each project architects take into consideration all the relevant parameters of the area and the location. For each project, those different parameters are part of the architects’ brief before the initiation of the design stage, in order to propose the most suitable solution for each project. These climatic catastrophes could be a problem that can trigger someone’s creativity and help provide an interesting and efficient architectural solution.
How has the pandemic changed the process of working in the field of architecture?
The pandemic completely changed the way in which people were functioning in the buildings and in the society. This had a huge impact on architectural design. We now question the way we were designing, as we need to adjust to the new reality.
What are the various projects EKKY Studio Architects are currently busy with, in various cities or countries?
We have a variety of projects in Cyprus, France, Greece and Tunisia of different scales and uses – such as Hospitality projects, Industrial buildings, Office buildings, high-end residences and residential developments, Master plans, commercial buildings and interior design projects.
Describe the emotions when your project wins an international award.
It is always a great pleasure, when one of our projects wins an award. We feel very proud for our team and of course, a lot of satisfaction when our work is recognized.
How would you describe Elina Kritikou and Kenzo Yamashita as a leader and a person?
Kenzo is a great leader, a passionate architect with excellent design, management and motivation skills. I handle the clients very well. I am the kind of person that you can always talk to (smiles). We are both involved in the design stage and we divide the projects that each one manages accordingly. However, we have an excellent team with talented and motivated architects. The projects of EKKY Studio are 100% a great teamwork effort!
Please state 5 recent awards.
– 2022 BIG SEE Interior Design Awards;
– Cyprus Architecture, Property and Interior Design Award 2021 – “Inspiration Project of New Generation” for projects ‘WELL58’ and ‘MAP Hotel’;
– ’40 Under 40 Awards 2020’ – The most ‘Influential Young Architects in Europe’ for the year 2020;
– 2020 Luxury Lifestyle Awards;
– 2019 BIG SEE Awards Winner;
Image Courtesy: EKKY Studio Architects