In the year 2012, AplusM – architecture plus mechanical engineering was established by three partners Nikolas Plastiras, Iro Raptaki and George Klepkos in Thessaloníki, Greece. Nikolas and Iro are experienced qualified architects, while George is a qualified mechanical engineer. The multiple award-winning firm has created a name for themselves with amazing works in the last one decade.
In the year 2002, Nikolas Plastiras graduated with from the Kingston University of London with an architecture degree. He went onto get his Professional Diploma in Architecture with Merit from the University of Westminster in the year 2005. Apart from being an architect, Nikolas was the Editor of a monthly architectural magazine ‘Innovators’. For three years, he has taught at the Akmi Metropolitan College architecture and digital photography.
Nikolas Plastiras talks to Johnny D about his architectural journey and the magnificent ‘Platanakia Natura’ project.
When you look back at your childhood ambition, did you always wanted to be an architect?
When I was really young, I was interested in painting and drawing. Growing up, I realized architecture was my field. Through architecture, I could continue drawing, experience colors and light qualities, and practice all of those techniques in order to create an actual space, where people feel happy.
When the client states the brief to you in the first meeting, what really goes in your mind?
Each project is a unique project for us. Every time, we start from the scratch. We let the costumers speak, express themselves and we try to extract stories, learn as much as possible about their fundamental needs, so that we can respond to them in the best possible way. We feel responsible to create the space that the client dreamt of.
What was the brief of the ‘Platanakia Natura’ project?
‘Platanakia Natura’ is a restaurant based in a privileged site, 15 minutes out of the city, yet inside the forest. The brief was to renovate the place, refresh it and create a space that would be in a direct dialogue with the natural environment. The space is supposed to host family events and daily school trips, so it should be kids- friendly as well.
As the head of the firm, what do you expect from your team members during the planning stage?
When we start a project, we spend some time with brainstorming and ideas presentations. For me, it is the most important stage of the project. It is the stage when the team connects and the foundation of the final design. I expect everyone to come up with their ideas and thoughts, discuss anything they think of and continue working as a team without unresolved issues.
What were the challenges you foresaw from the planning stage to the execution of the project on the real grounds?
The most difficult part of the project – concerning the construction process – was the children’s playground. From the first moment and while designing, we realized we were close to the artificial lake and we had water underneath the ground. In order to be safe and secure, the playground had to be made secured and all the installations stable. Concrete foundations had been constructed and waterproof materials had been used as a foundation between the playground and the terrain was formed.
Describe the ‘Elegance of Design’ of the project from an interior architect’s perspective?
It is a dialogue between ‘Nature’ and the manmade, at the same time, the creation of a traditional Greek square in a modern way was achieved to create the wonderful ambiance. Being in a site inside the forest, we had to pay extra attention to the materials. The combination of natural wood, cement and iron created solid interior setting, yet refers to the exterior natural materials.
The interior hall acts as the Greek Taverna and the central pavilion in the exterior refers to the traditional Greek pavilion. The bulbs lightening the exterior square refer to the Greek squares of the villages and the islands. We wanted the place to act as an experience, so as to make one feel as if one is in a traditional Greek fest and not to act just as a restaurant.
Please mention 5 major ‘Sustainability’ features you incorporated in the project and its significant impact on the project.
We use sustainable features in all our projects as much as possible and in various ways. As far as environmental sustainability is concerned, we tried to reduce the energy consumption by using natural elements. Being inside the forest, we were lucky to have low temperatures, because of the planting during the summer.
Big sliding windows around the structure allow the fresh and cool air to pass through the building and make air conditioning units unnecessary. We provided more kiosks around the building, in order to help with natural shading. Of course, this also concerns sustainability in an economic way. During the winter, we collected wood from the trees that need to be cut and used the big fireplace of the space to heat the place, without the need of electricity or usage of diesel.
We also chose to use natural materials with less processing. More than that we tried to be sure that the materials come from businesses around the site and workers (blacksmiths, carpenters etc.) have their labs nearby. This way, we worked with the local community and reduced the expense of the construction.
What is the total area of the project, estimated cost and time period of the project design-to-finish?
The total area of the project was about 250 sq. m of interior and about 2.000 sq. m of exterior space. The time period was about 6 months, design-to-finish. The total cost was about € 150,000.000.
What is the most significant piece of advice you would impart to the younger generation while designing an interior space? Please elucidate.
Spend time at the first stages. Visit the site few times and experience it before you draw. Measure the space correctly, as it is the starting point for a solid project. Pay attention to the details. In an interior space, the quest will look and experience everything closely. Pay attention to the design of your finishes, the details of the furniture, the materials and the way they mix and match. The space must work as an experience at the end of the day.
What are the latest innovative tool(s) your firm is using to facilitate the smooth process of construction of various projects?
We do use BIM programs when designing. The benefit is that by changing things through the process of the construction, we can easily provide workers with 3D drawings for them to understand easier, and how they should continue working every day without any delay.
Briefly explain the conscientious efforts of the civil / structural engineers in this project?
Generally, we work together with engineers through the process of design. This way, we make sure that what we design will actually be build the way we imagine. In this project, we had a great help while designing the bridges over the artificial lakes. The place is visited by lot of children every day and we had to be sure about the quality of the construction.
How would you describe the uniqueness and difference between the Greek Architecture from the Western Architecture?
Greece has a Mediterranean climate. While designing, it is very important to take the Sun’s movement under consideration. All these in-between spaces, the thresholds that will be designed are the ones that make a Greek building unique. The semi-outdoor spaces are spaces you would love to experience, when being in Greece.
What are the various projects ‘AplusM’ is currently busy with, in various cities and countries?
At the moment, we are mostly dealing with renovations of office spaces in Thessaloniki and Athens, in Greece. We are also working on projects regarding houses and city apartments.
How would you describe Nikolas Plastiras as a leader and a person?
I would prefer someone else to speak about me. I would like to believe though that I act more as a leader than a boss. As a person, I am a passionate, energetic and sometimes strict with myself and the choices I make (smiles).
Describe the emotions of winning an award.
In order to win an award, many hours of hard teamwork have been spent. The first thing that comes in mind is relief! I feel, the work the team has done has been appreciated and the solution we have proposed has been accepted and liked. I feel ready to make the world just a bit better.
State five recent awards won.
2021 – BigSEE Interior Design Awards – Koolmetrix offices renovation, Athens, Greece;
2019 – Competition for AIMS Airlines Software Headquarters renovation in Athens, Greece;
2017 – Competition for the main restaurant of the Music Hall in Thessaloniki, Greece;
2012 – DOMES – Architectural Magazine awards – Participation in international inspection architecture “ΔΟΜΕΣ 2012”, where Bernard Tschumi, as a judge of the Awards included our proposal for the nationwide architectural competition for the ‘Water Bus Service of Thessaloniki’ as the ‘9th Best Studies’, each of which occupies the first position by equal in rank and classify it as “the most extravagantly minimal”;
2012 – 7th Biennale of Greek Young Architects – Shortlisted
Image Courtesy: AplusM
Photographer: Koin Powell