Interview with Sotiris Tsoulos, RMJM Istanbul’s Managing Partner

RMJM Istanbul has been responsible for the design of projects such as Varyap Meridian. Sotiris Tsoulos‘ experience includes working in Dubai, Kuala Lumpur, Vienna, Glasgow and Athens and the projects he completed range from family housing and castle restoration to office buildings, mixed-use projects and 6-star hotels. More recently he was the Design Principal for an ATC project that gained wide exposure online.

RMJM’s Airport Traffic Control Tower In Istanbul, Turkey
RMJM’s Airport Traffic Control Tower In Istanbul, Turkey
  1. Which of your projects has been the most rewarding and why?

Our most rewarding project design-wise was the Air Traffic Control Tower of the New Istanbul Airport. We managed to get shortlisted and compete with some amazing architects that I used to look up in awe as a student such as Massimiliano Fuksas and Zaha Hadid.

  1. How do you think design will change in the next 50 years?

Design changes according to the needs of the users. I can only imagine that sustainability will soon become an essential part of the buildings that surround us. I am almost certain that prefabrication will become a part of small scale design and that on-site building will slowly disappear. You can already see magnificent little pieces of architecture being sold like the MUJI house or the IKEA flat pack house for relief agencies. Architects need to accept this so to influence the prefabrication industry. Only this way can we make sure that design does not become a cheap off-the-shelf commodity but remains a creative force adjusted to site, dream, and need.

  1. What changes would you like to see in the design profession?

I would really love to see some changes on the general architects’ education. I constantly see young architects that cannot design a toilet or a staircase. Universities are competing with each other on which one is going to produce the most mind-blowing, completely incomprehensible, pornographic piece of graphic design with the use of crazy programs while forgetting to teach their students how to sketch. There are only a few basic values in architecture. It’s worth spending at least 1 of the 5 years’ course duration to learn them deeply.

  1. Do you think that design tends to be trendy today?

Design has always followed trends much like like clothing fashion does. I think that we are living through a period in which architects are freer than ever. A minimalist creation stands as well as a brutalist or purely modernistic one. It is the first time in history in which designers can express themselves in whatever way they wish.

  1. What would students learn from reviewing the body of projects you have completed? Do you have any advice for incoming students?

I can’t answer this question before I finish my career and I am not planning to do so before 2050 so let’s talk again on this issue then.

  1. What aspect of design do you find most important? What is fundamental to your practice and your design process?

Planning is always my first concern. To plan is the most amazing and important step in any design.

Few things beat the feeling of having my pencil on a tracing paper with a map underneath…

  1. What inspired you to become involved in design? What inspires you now?

There’s a book I read when I was 10 in which the brother of the main character disappeared for days without anyone knowing where he was. When she finds him she discovers that this 15-year-old lad had created a model of clay of his entire city in the laundry room of an old house. I guess that was the moment it first struck me as being a good idea.

I don’t ever get inspired these days, or at least I don’t think I do. It seems that all the required information is locked inside my “mind palace” like Sherlock Holmes, or to put it in a more democratic way, my “mind parliament”. Once I get a project I try to fit it in every possible conversation, political debate, cartoon, fishing expedition or Game of Thrones episode I watch, and then the results come to me.

  1. What is your favorite time of the day, and why?

My favorite time of the day is around 11 pm when things cool down. The phone stops ringing, the children are asleep, the dogs have no more needs and I am able to concentrate on whatever I wish.

  1. What would be your ultimate design project? (assume you have unlimited funds for the project)

I really want to design an incredibly flexible, minimal, prefabricated house. I would certainly love that.

  1. What are you doing at the moment?

I am preparing to fly to another country after having revised 5th-grade physics with my daughter and watched an episode of Wicked Tuna.

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