Exclusive Interview with Memos Filippidis
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Memos Filippidis (1967, Athens) is an architect (diploma of Architecture from the National Tech-nical University of Athens, Master in Architecture Yale University). Together with Μarita Nikoloutsou (1969, Athens, diploma of Architecture from the National Technical University of Athens) they founded the office MPLUSM in 2001. Their work distills international influences while investigating the individual character of each project and its anchoring to local sensitivities.
Memos Filippidis has been contributing articles on architecture and design for the Greek newspaper To Vima. He has been co-organizer of the architectural lectures of the cultural initiative entitled “Megaron Plus” at the Athens Megaron, a series that has already included lectures by Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Steven Holl, Roman Delugan, Thom Mayne, Kengo Kuma, SANAA, Massimiliano Fuksas, Alberto Campo Baeza, Wolf Prix, Gwenael Nicolas and Eduardo Souto de Moura. Curator of the international architectural exhibition “Big Brother: Architecture and Surveillance” at the National Museum of Contemporary Art, Athens (2002). Curator of the architectural exhibition “+-40: Athens Now” (2003) on the work of 22 leading Greek architects, an exhibition held at RIBA, London. Curator of the architectural exhibition “Invisible Hotel” (www.invisiblehotel.com, Athens, Salonica, New York, 2005-2006). Curator for exhibition "The Education of an Architect" (2006, Gallery Kappatos, Athens). In 2006 he was the guest curator, invited by chief curators Rena Sakellaridou and Morfo Papanikolaou, for the first national participation of Cyprus entitled “Porous Borders” (www.porousborders.org) for the 10th Architectural Biennale in Venice.
What is design for your life? What does design mean for you?
We used to say that something is beautiful –we still do, especially for an impressive person or a landscape. Nowadays design has managed to become the “beauty tag” in everything artificial, man made. Design schools have become factories of beauty –its alumni aspire to convey poetic value in the mass produced objects of everyday life, when uniqueness and scarcity are unable to convey symbolic value.
Which designers/ architects have influenced your work the most?
Nicos Valsamakis, Richard Meier, RCR, Kengo Kuma, Zaha Hadid, Gwenael Nicolas, Delugan Meissl, Jean Nouvel, Herzog & de Meuron, Athanasios Spanomaridis.
What’s your perception about architecture and design magazines nowadays?
Against the dominance of blogs as the main distributors of information, magazines are faced with a role they have avoided skillfully till now: to judge buildings and designs in a complex and analytical manner instead of just choosing them. That would signify the move away from the magazine/collector to the magazine/translator/critic.
When beginning a project, do you usually sketch your ideas on paper or do you use your P.C. from start to finish?
In the beginning of each project, I sketch in small diagrams and perspectives. I used to sketch much more, but now I refrain from extensive explorations in sketches and acknowledge that the next translator will be the P.C. I have exchanged the artistic value of the ambiguous sketch by the author with the collection of digitally fabricated alternatives for buildings. In the best cases, the artistic value of the sketch is reintroduced in the digital imagery.
Do you believe that architecture style must find ways in which to integrate itself into its environment, or do you believe that this is not always essential?
It really depends on the environment: It might be a neutral environment that has lost its character, its history –just as a modern interior makes sure that all traces of personal history are erased: here generic modern architecture feels at home… Or it might be an environment with richness, history, tradition, textures: these may offer multiple anchoring points for our design. The impulse to be alien or indifferent has ceased to convince as the trademark of avant-garde architecture.
In your opinion, could a modern building become a tourist attraction?
Today’s touristic attractions were yesterday’s modern buildings, so we have no reason to exclude contemporary modern architecture from attracting crowds of visitors. That is unless we are in Greece… Public buildings built by esteemed modern architects here are deemed as hostile and indifferent to the scale of the city. At the same time we managed to develop a rhetoric against the very notion of star architects specializing in XL buildings, a propaganda against the very notion of hierarchy within architects –but hierarchy was and will be unavoidable since media, monographs and clients are involved in the profession.
How do you perceive the future of the design world?
I want to avoid listing what design should be –I want to denounce the role of the architect that senses what things will be, according to his own predilections. Because our own personal interests are contemporary, bound to our epoch, to our culture, to our technology -any forecast over the next five or ten years means we should be able to predict those complex parameters as well. Thus the future of design develops as a blind spot in our vision: we perceive new designs with amazement and enthusiasm precisely because we have accepted their potential for authentic links, for the truly new, beyond our predilections.