In Conversation | Architects Dimitris and Konstantinos Karampatakis
Athens-based architecture and design practice K-STUDIO co-founders and brothers Dimitris and Konstantinos Karampatakis impart their knowledge of cities, landscapes and building processes in an exclusive interview with est.
Architects Dimitris and Konstantinos Karampatakis founded K-STUDIO in 2004 and have since become renowned for their progressive, highly contextual approach to architecture and design. Each of their projects – be it a restaurant, hotel, airport lounge, beach club, shop or private residence – convey a formidable understanding of Greek history, buildings and landscapes, as well as a deep respect for Mediterranean craftsmanship. Their iconic Villa Mandra has become a hallmark of Greek residential design, while projects like Villa Vora and Kálesma are paving the way for boutique hospitality spaces. Leaders, innovators and makers; here’s Dimitris and Konstantinos in conversation with est, revealing what it takes to run one of the most celebrated architecture and design studios in Greece.
It’s not every day you meet a design duo that are brothers. What’s the best part of running an architecture firm together?
Dimitris Karampatakis: As brothers, we have this intrinsic connection and unconditional trust, which allows us to agree, even when we disagree.
Konstantinos Karampatakis: We have very different personalities, but they complement each other very well. We can have different perspectives on the same topic but find a tangent where the best solution normally lies. It’s these complementary qualities that we admire most about each other.
Can you tell us a bit about your childhood and what inspired you to become architects?
Konstantinos Karampatakis: Our father is an architect; he exposed us to construction sites from a young age and infused us with the seed of ‘building’. Our interest and love for the process of making stems from him, as he taught us various construction techniques and piqued our interest in the concept of materiality. Those experiences we had as children took us down the path of studying architecture so we could learn how to decide what to build and how to build it.
You are based in the world’s oldest city; how does Athen’s rich architectural history influence the way you design?
Konstantinos Karampatakis: We cannot avoid valuing the rich heritage of our built environment and feeling a responsibility to design in a way that reflects it both physically and culturally. In this way, our context provides a very rigid starting point for any design process.
And while you honour the past, what are you doing to protect the future?
Dimitris Karampatakis: Looking back, in order to look forward; learning from our own mistakes and not getting too carried away with temporary solutions (especially when it comes to technology); is a principle we rely on. We seek to implement low-tech solutions for high-tech problems – after all, there is a wealth of knowledge out there from generations of designers. How to take advantage of spatial qualities, create self-sufficient buildings (particularly temperature-regulating buildings), and use local, easy to access materials to reduce our carbon footprint – are just some of the lessons that have been handed down to us.
“Studying in London and working abroad for a while made us appreciate the beauty of Greek architecture – its intuitive shapes and the fluent manner in which interiors transition to exteriors; that goes not just for the classical world-known buildings but also the anonymous ones.”
You are known here at est for your beautiful boutique hotels and holiday homes across the Greek Islands. How have you designed projects like Villa Mandra and Villa Vora to coincide with the islands’ terrain?
Dimitris Karampatakis: We try to root our designs into their physical and cultural context so they feel both implicit and timeless. We learn from and are inspired by local knowledge of materials, techniques, and other daily living practices; the lessons one can find in a local vernacular are of utmost value. We are also always looking for creative and forward-thinking ways to fulfil current needs.
Konstantinos Karampatakis: To reflect the rhythm and realm of place, Villa Mandra emulates the humble Cycladic volumes existent within the rocky landscape of the Greek islands. Villa Vora responds to the extraordinary caldera and the dramatic burnt earth, translating that calligraphy into an architectural statement.
What about K-STUDIO and its design approach stands out compared to other Greek architecture studios?
Konstantinos Karampatakis: Studying in London and working abroad for a while made us appreciate the beauty of Greek architecture – its intuitive shapes and the fluent manner in which interiors transition to exteriors; that goes not just for the classical world-known buildings but also the anonymous ones.
DimitrisKarampatakis: We also celebrate the ‘in-betweenness’ of space, designing ‘unfolded’ buildings where the line between inside and out is blurred. Effectively, we design blurry buildings.
What can we look forward to from K-STUDIO in 2022?
Konstantinos Karampatakis: We’ve collaborated with Greek liquor brand Metaxa to design an experience-centric museum that celebrates their unique heritage and locus, which will be opening to the public in the coming weeks. We’ve embraced Metaxa’s origins by situating the museum in a 100-year-old vineyard on the island of Samos. We are also reviving an old sanatorium in the middle of the Arcadian pine forests within the framework of the ambitious vision of our client, Stratis Batayas, to turn it into a modern sanctuary.
Dimitris Karampatakis: Also, and already in full function, are the two brand-new business lounges of Aegean Airlines in Athens and Thessaloniki terminals, aligned with their renewed brand identity. This venture has been an exercise in balancing the traditional curvilinear volumes of Aegean and Cycladic architecture and the high-tech aesthetics of aviation.