Probing modern urban design

Kostas Chatzigiannis is a Shanghai-based architect who is the founder of the design practice KCA (Kostas Chatzigiannis Architecture).
Probing modern urban design
Anne-Sophie Heist / Ti Gong

Kostas Chatzigiannis

Who is he?

Kostas Chatzigiannis is a Shanghai-based architect who is the founder of the design practice KCA (Kostas Chatzigiannis Architecture). In the past 12 years in China, they have completed projects that range from urban scale to the architectural and interior design of buildings. Originally from Greece, Chatzigiannis’ approach to each project is to explore the possibilities of connection and integration to the modern urban context. He is fascinated by the materiality of things whether he oversees the renovation of a heritage building or a modern design with new construction methods.

Tell us about your work and which one makes you proud.

The past 12 years I have completed many works around China, such as Montblanc, Mercedes-Benz, Taylormade and others. I recently completed a bakery DIY store in Anji, a coffee bar in Sparta, Greece and a yoga studio in Shanghai. I feel honored to have had the chance to be featured in some of the best design publications, including the AD 100 this year.

I am most proud of projects that make a significant impact on the city and their users, notably, the Guolong Hospital recently completed in Yinchuan, a facility that caters to the city’s population. My involvement in the Shanghai World Expo 2010, with the Greek Pavilion, was a precious moment in my career, as the Expo signified a radical change in the city. Finally, the Hellas House, a Greek cultural center and event space in the heart of Shanghai, is one of my dearest projects.

In an attempt to design a cultural center that will represent Greece in Shanghai, we examined the fundamental elements of ancient Greek art and architecture, extracted those basic principles, and reconfigured them in a contemporary way.

The challenge was to have these elements express a certain ‘Greekness’ as required by the client and yet remain relevant in the dense Shanghainese urban environment. After six years of planning and construction, I am happy and proud that events such as the European Union celebration, with all EU consulates, take place there, and many politicians and key Shanghai figures visit the space.

What project are you currently working on?

We are currently working on a training center for L’Oréal, a renovation of two old buildings in the city center, and a 500-meter-long facade renovation in Shanghai. At the same time, I am renovating two historic buildings in Athens, on behalf of clients from China. And we are preparing two more newly built apartment buildings together with two Chinese developers.

What’s your design style?

I don’t have one. I consider every project unique in its own context, that requires a unique aesthetic ‘solution.’ I try not to adhere to current styles in trend, although I am aware of what’s happening in the design world. I try to design different typologies, to keep my mind refreshed and learn through my own projects.

Where are you most creative?

On my desk and while I run.

What does your home mean to you?

It’s the place where I relax, quiet down from the city and work fuss and I am able to think in peace.

What do you collect?

Souvenirs from my trips. I enjoy seeing memorabilia at home and be reminded of my trips. I feel lucky to live in Asia and experience all those diverse civilizations.

Where would you like to go most in Shanghai?

I live in the tree-lined center but I always enjoy a walk or a drink on the Bund. It’s a place that reminds me of the dynamism in this city, a place where you can see Shanghai’s past and future in one frame.

What will be the next big design trend?

I believe in the social media image sharing era any style quickly becomes dated. People search for unique characteristics and design ideas that have relevance to the nature of the project and the context in which it exists.

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