The GEN Z Series travels from the western hemisphere of California in the United States of America to the Mediterranean nation Greece to meet the young and talented multiple award winning architect Foteini Kallikouni. In the year 2020, she graduated with a Masters in Architecture degree from the University of Patras, Greece. January 2022 saw the ambitious individual establishing her own studio ‘Foteini Kallikouni Architect’ in Kalamata, Greece.
At a young age, Foteini Kallikouni has had the distinction of collaborating with architectural offices in Milan and Athens to receive distinctions in international architectural competitions. At the ‘Young Talent Architecture Award 2020’ – Foteini Kallikouni was one of the finalists. In the year 2021, she participated at the Biennale of Architecture in Venice.
Johnny D talks to Foteini Kallikouni about her exploration, quest in the architecture world and her award winning project ‘Summer Retreat in Verga’.
Your childhood ambition, did you always wanted to become an architect?
From an early age, I was keen on painting, sketching, ceramics, dancing, playing music and crafting things with my hands. I was constantly curious to explore many aspects of the creative world. Art and Design, in any form, was my refugee. Now, after all this years, I can say with certainty that the choice of architecture as a profession was a natural consequence of my love of arts.
Briefly describe your project.
The project is conceived as a summer retreat in a remote village. Its design is built upon the dynamic contrast between the ruins of a 100 years old stone house versus a ‘light’ structure of indoor and outdoor spaces. The project acts as a subtle threshold that provides not only the access to the decaying house, but also an interesting accommodation for the visitors.
The ruins enclose comfortable and view-protected areas for lounging, swimming and showering, dining and food preparation ensuring an all-day outdoor living. An attempt is made to reconsider the degree of ‘privacy’ of each space for summer vacations. Therefore, an inversion of the existing typology of the yard is considered necessary in order to follow the current extrovert lifestyle of modern visitor(s).
One canopy and one deck are installed to define two types of spaces. The bedroom and the open-air kitchen are accommodated in the former courtyard of the old house facing south to the village and taking advantage of the sea view. The pool and the lounging area are circumscribed by the ruins of the main house, while maintaining the old overgrown walls. At the edge of the new structure, sliding panels are installed as a filter to provide sun protection during afternoons.
What does ‘architecture’ means to you?
‘Architecture’ bears different meaning and evolves its significance and purpose to me year by year, project by project. However, what I certainly believe is that ‘architecture’ has the power to suggest a way of living, support public realm and bring social change and architects has the duty to unleash that power.
How has it influenced your life as an architecture student?
Architecture studies have completely transformed the way I think and respond to socio-cultural matters. In a way, they have shaped the way I perceive the built and natural environment. From the first semester in architecture school, the intensity of the project’s pace and the process of design had become part of my lifestyle. Field trips and architectural journeys, in the context of the school program or independently have also played a vital role to my growth as an architect and introduced me early on to architectural masterpieces (smiles).
Which National or International architect has inspired you? Please specify as to why?
The Italian architect Carlo Scarpa has really shifted my emphasis in materiality and detailing. His instinctive approach to materials and textures, his persistence to hide symbolism in details and his ability to combine craftsmanship with modern manufacturing processes are the reasons why I keep visiting his projects and study his architecture. In my opinion, he is one of the most talented and underappreciated architects of the 20th Century.
Briefly write about your University and Course.
I studied architecture at the University of Patras. The design workshops, the seminars, the research papers and activities that the 5-year undergraduate program included, were conducted in relation to practice and in reference to the unique Mediterranean landscape. During my undergraduate studies, I also decided to take a semester at Politecnico di Milano in Italy, which was a significant experience for me.
After graduating, I continued my academic research with the MAUD – Master of Architecture and Urban Design at the same university. The research framework of the masters’ program ‘Mediterranean Futures’ was focusing on the diversity of urban centers and coastal landscapes of the Mediterranean and the multidimensional impacts of the tourist phenomenon, in order to design new strategies for the natural and constructed landscapes of the region.
How would you characterize Greek Architecture as compared to Western and Asian Architectures?
Greek vernacular architecture could be characterized in three words: simple, ground-earthed and climate-based. I think that Modern Greek Architecture should also follow the same principles.
How can or will architects of the present times overcome the ‘Climatic Catastrophes’ to safeguard the community at large for the safe future of the generations to come?
The key to a sustainable future lies to climate-based design, use of local materials in order to avoid carbon emission, reuse or recycle building materials, if possible, and integration of renewable energy in any building project. If architects of the present decided to design more with a sense of modesty, perception of scale and respect of nature, then they would set a good example for generations to come.
Which significant aspects of the global platform www.zerobeyond.com did you liked the most, and why?
The sustainable orientation of the majority of the articles and the choice of the Editor-in-Chief to give young architects the opportunity to showcase their work are two aspects that differentiate ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ from other online platforms with architecture content.
Please state honours and awards related to architecture.
In 2020, I was a finalist for the ‘Young Talent Architecture Award’ for my diploma thesis. A year later, I participated at the 17th International Exhibition of Biennale of Architecture in Venice presented by architect Hashim Sarkis. In the context of my Masters’ Program, a group project was exhibited in the Greek Pavilion about the historical, cultural and social transformation of Aristotelous Axis in Thessaloniki.
This year, I received the ‘Best Project Award’and ‘Peers Award’ for ‘Best Project’ as part of the Greek Architecture Awards 2022 for the project ‘Summer Retreat in Verga’.
Image Courtesy: Foteini Kallikouni