“We design”, Argyris Chronopoulos and Dionysis Koutsioumaris, ADD Architecture Studio

“We design”, Argyris Chronopoulos and Dionysis Koutsioumaris, ADD Architecture Studio

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We sincerely believe that “design” is an innate quality of human nature. The ability to combine different disciplines, to think out of the box, to produce something originally benefiting. If there is something that our architectural background has taught us is that the best architects never received any kind of official “design” education.  But they lived. And hence, they designed. This is why our motto is just that simple: “We design””, says Founders, Argyris Chronopoulos and Dionysis Koutsioumaris of ADD Architecture Studio

Can you tell us more about your company / design studio?

ADD Architecture Studio was formed by us – Argyris Chronopoulos and Dionysios Koutsioumaris – after our MA graduation from the Faculty of Architecture at the National Technical University of Athens in 2016. Our graduation was marked by our Diploma Project getting awarded an Honorable Mention at the 2016 European Architectural Medal Awards-Best Diploma Projects- and getting nominated for the 2016 EU Mies van der Rohe Young Talent Architecture Awards. We were also selected as representatives of the Technical Chamber of Greece for the UIA 2017 Seoul Congress. Since our graduation, we have continued our collaboration as ADD –a collaboration spanning through all of our University years, and a longer friendship. We already have numerous built projects and publications in architectural and design sites and magazines as well as projects in progress.

What is design for you?

Sometimes people tend to treat “design” as a rather “taboo” word. This happens a lot when designers try to separate themselves as an autonomous community. But for us, this is not the case. We believe that “design” is everywhere and everything. “Design” is both tangible and intangible. “Design” is a drawing, a plan, a sketch, an industrial product but also a piece of music, a way to talk, a way to walk, a way to have sex. Good “design” makes our lives better, bad “design” makes us sad and might also be dangerous. We sincerely believe that “design” is an innate quality of human nature. The ability to combine different disciplines, to think out of the box, to produce something originally benefiting. If there is something that our architectural background has taught us is that the best architects never received any kind of official “design” education.  But they lived. And hence, they designed. This is why our motto is just that simple: “We design”.

What makes a good design a really good design? Why should everyone invest in good design?

A good design is a design which has the power to communicate its purpose without the designers having to argue on its virtues. However the success of a really good design has to do with the Japanese notion of “ikigai”. “Ikigai” is the intersecting point of “what you are good at”, “what the world needs”, “what you love” and “what you can be paid for”. And this does not only applies to human beings –designers- but also on designs. A successful design is a design which is love at the first sight. It is not necessary to be a fully conscious love –you do not have to realise that you love a piece of design-. It is sufficient to say that a design is successful when you can not easily think an alternative to it upon asked, unless the alternative answer is even better. On this case, the successfulness of the original design is the birth of a new idea.

Design shapes the world we live in. It defines the form of our surroundings with all the influences this implies. Good design is not necessarily expensive nor reserved for the wealthy. But it is indispensable. Investing (psychologically, time, money etc) in good design is indicating that we care and respect the world we live in. A good design has a lot to do with environmental sustainability.

What are your favorite designs by other designers; why you like them?

We both adore Villa dall’ Ava by Rem Koolhaas. It is a private-commissioned house in Paris. It is a work that has had a great influence on our work, since it incorporates the seminal theorems to be found on the later work of OMA, which we love. Villa dall’ Ava is a great lesson on themes such as analogies, references to constructivism and surrealism, games of perspective and most of all: how to make a work of art a camouflaged personal expression whilst respecting the design’s mission-a mission surpassing our immediate needs.

Where do you think the design field is headed next?

We believe that the design field is greatly being influenced by the appearance of common-grounds and open-resource programs. Now-a-days the knowledge is easily and more-equally (unfortunately not all-equally) distributed. This means that the basic resources needed to make an idea realization are spreading freely across the globe. So, in a few years –if not already- it might even be futile to name a person a “designer”. This is not a danger for the contemporary designers. It is a promise for the long inherited “designer and not-a-designer” societal gap to disappear once and for all. We expect a great deal of important designs to emerge from people who in another time might not have been given the chance of expression.

Do you think design sets the trends or vice-versa?

Maybe it is a vice-versa kind of relationship. Trends are set by the rhythms of life, essentially by people. So is design.

If you hadn’t become a designer, what would you have done?

Most likely Argyris would have become a Techno music producer and Dionysios would be a screenwriter and cinema director.

What was the first thing you designed for a company?

Our first commission as ADD Architectural Studio was for the interior design of two sibling stores in Arachova, Greece. The former concerned the turning of an abandoned storage space into a boutique-concept store. The latter revolved around offering a new and strong identity to an existing clothing store. The effort was driven by the desire to form a common architectural dictionary shared between the two spaces, thus creating a kind of an open dialogue while satisfying the unique programmatic needs of each space. The proximity of the two stores along Arachova’s central promenade axis favors the aforementioned strategy. Visitors and by-passers conceive the two spaces as consecutive stops along a single walk through the stores of Arachova. The similarity of the design imprint creates the desire to visit both. The design concept of each store is complementary to each other. The use of steel as the key material of the design concept marks the identity shared by the two stores. The similar light patterns create a distinctive atmosphere through the surgical use of LED tapes. Finally, the carefully designed movement routes reveal a dipolic case study: the former store favoring the customers’ linear stroll whilst the latter enclosing the visitor into a nautilus-like wandering. They were both realized with an interval of one year and have been published in architectural design sites. More on the projects can be found in our site.

What is your favorite material / platform / technology?

We try not to treat materials discriminately. However, looking back at our projects-both realized and not- we would surely admit a favoring tendency towards steel, marble and polycarbonate. We also prefer the convenience of LED tapes, but use them surgically and with great caution so as not to disrupt the overall design.

What are the responsibilities of a designer for society and environment?

A designer should not make the mistake to consider him/her self part of an autonomous community. What we design, from the smallest to the largest scale project does affect people’s lives. It seldom mediates interpersonal relationships and can even add to the overall formation of our psychology. A design also affects the environment, having a great impact on natural resources. Being society-caring and environmental-sustainable is not a matter of new-age trend. It really is a responsibility, not just for designers, but for everyone. We have the power to suggest solutions towards social or environmental problems : for example use materials with a small CO2 imprint, imagine and create spaces that promote openness and equality through their design and so on. We don’t have to be loud about it, we just have to incorporate this logic into our everyday design-lives.

What is the future of design?

We believe that the “design field” is greatly being influenced by the appearance of open-resource programs. Nowadays, knowledge and expertise is easily and more-equally (unfortunately not all-equally) distributed. This means that the basic resources needed to produce and distribute are spreading freely across the globe. Thus, in a few years –if not already- it might even be futile to name a person a “designer”. This is not a danger for contemporary designers. It is a promise for the long held “designer/ not-a-designer” societal gap to disappear once and for all. We expect a great deal of groundbreaking designs to emerge from people who, in another time, might not even have the chance to study in that field.

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