Architect Grigoria Oikonomou believes in designing a space which is in perfect equilibrium with its natural surroundings and infuses elements of latest innovation and culture
Going by the famous saying–‘Follow our passion and it will lead to your purpose’, Grigoria Oikonomou discovered her deep passion for architecture at a young age of 10 years. Interestingly, she not only loved drawing spaces, but would also envision how people would live within these spaces. After completing her studies, her love for exploring new places and culture brought her to India, where she found her life’s purpose. She believes that she has a past life connection with India and feels that she belongs to this country. In the year 2009, Grigoria established her studio Helios Design Concept in Delhi, which marked the beginning of her career. At present, the studio is engaged in number of projects which includes exclusive farmhouses, contemporary, minimalist and luxurious homes.
Explain your journey to the design world and what compelled you to enter this field?
Though, I belong to a family with no architectural background, I was drawn towards habitable places since the age of 10 and would draw spaces on paper. The vernacular surroundings, nature, architecture and farmhouses fascinated me and I would reflect on the wondrous architectural feats and the ticking minds behind the scenes designing and executing them. I took these inspirations drawn as a sign of God’s will. At the opportune time, I enrolled myself in a five year degree course in architecture at the prestigious Institut d’ Architecture des Beaux d’Arts de Wallonie in Belgium. This was followed by another three years in learning Interior Design and two years spent studying restoration of old monuments.
What is your design philosophy?
My D s to create a theatrical stage for articulating different spaces and materials, fluid transition between indoor and outdoor, open plan and big openings, without being pre-defined. I love to create homogeneous reconciliation of architecture and lighting ambience where rationality, technology and innovations of the western world flow with the religious spirit and history of the eastern world.
Tell us about any aspect or element which you always put into your design?
My architecture and I want to create a very quiet piece in perfect equilibrium with natural surroundings of the project. I don’t want to create disturbance.
What inspired you to practice architecture in India?
Destiny gave me an opportunity to travel and explore new cultures. One such move brought me to India. I explored, lived and breathed everything Indian. I just fell in love with the country. I feel, I have a past life connection and I belong to this country. I always wanted to introduce and integrate international standards into the local spectrum by widening people’s vision about how to have living spaces which will give a lot of happiness and positive energy, further fueling my drive.
You strongly believe that emotion is the most important tool of architecture. Please comment?
Emotion is one of the most important tools in architecture. You have to feel what you are doing, and not to be so rational that you don’t solve the problems.
Tell us about your experience in adopting Indian culture and architecture?
It has been an exhilarating learning journey for both, my client and me. Smooth flow of minimalist and contemporary ideas but in the same moment rooted in the local culture.
Explain in detail why do you prefer sketching designs over any high tech architectural software?
I feel digital use does not think for you and just ‘kills the emotions and sentiments’. There has to be an emotional connection between the proposed project and me in order to deliver my best.
Any designer or architect whose work you look up to?
Steve Holl, the much-acclaimed, New York based American architect, is my mentor. I am greatly influenced by his phenomenological approach, so to say, with a concern for a man’s existentialist, bodily engagement with his surroundings.
Please elaborate about any aspect which many architects today are missing in their design?
At times, in the race to finish first, they lose their passionate approach to produce a detailed and homogenous transition between architectural or interior concept and lighting, which many-a-times show up as abrupt breaks and eye-sores.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I love travelling to exotic places whenever I can spare a few days, which is often difficult, given my tight schedules and deadlines. I also tend to grab any opportunity to visit art galleries and learn more about Indian culture.
Any design mistake which you would avoid?
I would go to any lengths to avoid repetitive implementation of thoughts, ideas and end up being a ‘me too’. Wearing my thinking cap and stirring my creative juices gives me a high.
Any dream project you wish to design?
A project with unlimited budget! What a dream that would be.
Which project was very challenging for you so far?
My first project here in India. It was a daunting task to bring to the table my international contemporary and minimalistic approach blended with local cultural ethos and have them accepted and executed with the existing beliefs and set parameters. The final applause was rewarding and highly encouraging, though.
Any notable change you would like to bring in Indian architecture?
Widen the horizons with minimalistic and contemporary approach which should always be attached to their culture.
Comment on any barrier which affects architect’s vision for his/her design?
Reaching out to easier ways like using digital search engines rather than being original and creative.
According to you, what’s the importance of Vastu in any design?
It’s top-priority in any project. It forms the quintessential basis of all areas designed to exude positive energy and happiness all around.
If not an architect, then you would have been…
A psychologist may be…I feel an architect is a psychologist first. It again stems from my obsessive love for architecture. In Belgium, studying psychology was part of my five year degree. It strengthened my power to understand the psyche of my client and deliver as per the sentimental and psychological requirement of the client.
Any message or piece of advice to the budding designer/ architects?
Be passionate and creative. Rest will fall in place!