Novedge: Tell us a little bit about OPA. Laertis-Antonios Ando Vassiliou: The acronym OPA stands for Open Platform for Architecture. The name is also conceived as an architectural inner joke: "OPA" in Dutch means grandfather, while (Rem Koolhaas') "OMA" means grandmother. In Greek, "OPA" is a very commonly used exclamation word, especially when in a festive mood (often followed by clapping of hands). One word, three ways of reading it. Name aside, OPA is a lifetime dream for both Pantelis Kampouropoulos and myself, founding partners of the platform. We enjoy every working moment together, since we have known each other well from age 5. Pantelis and I communicate efficiently and we have the same goals: live (design) life to the max, without compromising.
Novedge: Who makes the rest of the OPA team, and how did you get together.
Laertis: Pantelis and I form the inner core of the team. The next layer consists of the less permanent Xanthippi (my wife), who works on our texts and press-releases, and LOOM Design's Terpsichori and Haris, who are our rendering team (also Architects and great Artists). Without them, the images of Casa Brutale wouldn't have been so communicative. Apart from these people, the rest is a professional network of Architects and Designers that varies depending on the project we are working on. We collaborate with Interior Designers, Landscape Architects, Urban-Planners and Automotive Designers. We do encourage people outside our network to send us their portfoflios and eventually work with us on a future project.
Novedge: Your conceptual project "Casa Brutale" is brilliant. Can you talk about it?
Laertis: Thank you! Casa Brutale was an idea and a Design obsession that combined many interesting features together, resulting in a strong, provocative package, able to provoke many strong emotions to everyone who can imagine being/living in it. We wanted it to become viral and eventually to find an investor; what happened after we shared it with the world was beyond any expectation. It is our brainchild, but also a result of years of Architecture studies, expressed through our personal aesthetic preferences. If this project gets built, it might change Architecture forever. Not just because of its spatial features, but also for the reverse procedure of promoting it as a product. Novedge: "Casa Brutale" blends into the landscape. Should Architecture in general do that?
Laertis: Yes it should always respect the context, and get inspiration by it. But not totally. Architecture is a human-related art/science, always expressed with a build gesture within nature. Trying to hide this or blend it too much, is pretentious. Besides that, Casa Brutale has a minimal visual impact in the landscape but it still is a concrete block with huge glazed facades and a pool on top. If we wanted it camouflaged, we would clad it with stone/rock and cover it with grass to claim extra sustainability. We did not, and this is why it is brutal. Novedge: Your Design is truly innovative, what new technologies do you embrace?
Laertis: We are quite conservative with the new technologies. We consider Casa Brutale a ground-breaking idea itself, therefore it should include only the necessary highlights. It is always a matter of balance not to overload an idea with numerous features that will result into a terribly complicate package. Then users get confused and cannot focus on the spatial qualities or the breathtaking views, they keep on playing with the house gadgets. We did examine though the scenario to have Casa Brutale as completely cut-off the grid, therefore self-sustainable. With all the necessary assets and technical features that this requires. It is a challenging scenario.
Novedge: What are some of the favorite materials you work with?
Laertis: We love concrete, even if it's not a "new" material. We consider concrete poetic. It is an artificial stone, that starts by blending sand, grit and water. It takes custom shapes and becomes hard as rock, but also brittle and fragile under specific circumstances. And we like to combine it with steel, wood and glass. Actually, material-wise we are quite modernists/brutalists and we think that we'll suffer in a futuristic 3D printed world. Another favorite material to work with is Jack Daniel! Novedge: What can we learn form Vernacular Architecture?
Laertis: Vernacular Architecture can teach us many things. Just like history, it draws the lines and principals for making new stuff. Yet, no matter how much we should respect it, we should always add some new feature in it, twist it according to contemporary technologies, trends and aesthetic values.
Novedge: Where do you find inspiration?
Laertis: Reading and observing is very important to us. Innovation too; whenever we have a new idea we spend some time, browsing through the internet to see if there's something like that on the net or in the market already. If not, we proceed. We do have our Architecture/Design role models: Tandao Ando, Tom Kunding, Peter Zumthor, Alberto Baeza, David Chipperfield are few of the inspiring persons for us. Literature too. Both me and Pantelis read a lot of books and scribble too. Our ultimate goal is to become successful novelists!
Novedge: What's next for OPA?
Laertis: Many, many things: first of all we are working on a walk-through animation for Casa Brutale. In parallel we are meeting with Arup for the engineering solution of it and keep on searching for an investor/developer who will want to realize this project. Apart from Casa Brutale we are working on the third project of the subterranean buidlings and it is a breathtaking Cliff-Chapel! We formed a team for an Architectural competition and from October on we will start working on a innovative cargo-bicycle, to crowd-source and eventually mass-produce for the Dutch and the global market.
And just like that, OPA leaves us with a cliffhanger in more than one way.........