Designing the world

Neos Kosmos talks to Greek Australian architect Nicholas Karytinos on his New York ventures and his Athenian stylings

A talented architect and an invention seeker, Nicholas Karytinos might be turning heads in New York, but his childhood memories in Melbourne remain at the forefront of his mind.
Nicholas remembers sneaking into the magical world of Bernard’s Magic Shop, located right above his family’s store on Elizabeth Street.
Alongside the magic and mayhem, Nicholas would also be fascinated watching his grandfather and uncle build intricate clocks, including time consuming but impressive grandfather clocks designed for executive’s offices in buildings around the CBD.
“Since then I’ve always been interested in inventions and the aggregation of ideas,” he tells Neos Kosmos.
At a young age, Nicholas moved to Greece with his family. There he was inspired to pursue a career in architecture after witnessing different ways Athenians used their limited space to their advantage.
“What is different about Athens is that there’s a more human scale,” he says.
“You may get a sense of closure but at the same time you feel openness, you have that density, but at the same time you have neighbourhoods.”
After studying abroad and receiving a Bachelor and Master of Architecture in Urban Design from Cornell University, Nicholas went straight back to Athens to take up a landmark building opportunity.
He became a part of the rush to complete Olympic works around the city in 2004. Nicholas was able to put his name on the Olympic tennis stadium while at Potiropoulos D&L architects. The firm was famous for coming second in the Acropolis Museum design competition.
Right after, Nick moved to large-scale real estate projects.
“I worked for a real estate company and did master planning for 1,600 hectares of land in Evia, where we designed hotels and villages,” he says.
“I really enjoyed this project cause that’s when my urban design skills were actually applied.”
For his early work, Nicholas knew that to be noticed, his work must be ahead of its time. Alongside his modern designed island homes, Nicholas made an impact in business ventures. Nicholas was even chosen to refurbish the headquarters of Greece’s largest newspaper, Kathimerini.
He makes a point to tell you just how much he likes the Athenian skyline and its character.
“You cannot see a piece of architecture separately, but only as a whole that actually works,” he says.
“People may complain, but it works.
“Areas like Gyzi, Galatsi, Abelokipoi and so on, are dense but they have balconies, stores nearby and all those things that bring a sense of community.”
It’s that love of making use of a small space that drew him to New York. New Yorkers are known for turning urban jungles into a neighbourhoods. Works like ‘High Line’, an artificial park that’s raised high above the streets on a converted 1920s railroad, open up a gray and desolate part of the city. It stretches for miles and provides neighbours a small area of tranquillity to meet and ponder. For New York, its density shows how important viable structures are that stand the test of time.
“Everything is man-made simply because they have to create space where there is no space,” he argues.
As the founder of tacet creations, Nicholas has become reputable for his design and restoration of unique high-end residential and commercial architecture. He has renovated a two-bay double height second-floor mezzanine apartment in Soho NYC and then gone on to restore a unique building of historical importance in Connecticut and saved it from destruction.
New Canaan House in Connecticut showed Nicholas how important opening up a building to its surroundings was.
“Canaan House draws nature inside with its 12 skylights which bring light in different shades and transform the house into something very clean and intense,” he says.
The homes in New York he has given life to are proof that research must go into creating functional, modern and beautiful spaces.
One of his latest projects is Fresco, a gelataria located in Lower Manhattan with quite unique flavours (think goat’s cheese and pavlova). The Greek brother/sister duo are making their first venture into New York and picked Nicholas to make their fitout fit in with Manhattan’s trendy scene. What eventuated was a beautiful Greek American fusion, combining Greek island chic and American beach boardwalk style.
At the moment Nick is working on a new concept store in Athens. Keeping the details to himself, he reveals he is working alongside branding to make a holistic final result.
“We have taken this project from its very start and are slowly developing every part of it, from branding to construction,” he says.
“Branding is correlated to design today and we’ve taken that part of the process very seriously.”
As an architect, he is well aware of building constraints and budget. He prefers to be constricted in some ways, like in budget or size as the end result is always more impressive.
But, as he goes on to conquer the northern hemisphere, he still has great appreciation for the town that fostered his curious mind.
“I love the urban design and the fact the city offers you many experiences,” he says about Melbourne.
Hopefully, that love will bring him back to put his mark on the CBD skyline.