Estimated reading time: 4 min
Ioannis Bourlakis is an Associate Architect at RMJM Istanbul. He has a Masters Degree in Advanced Architectural Design from Strathclyde in Glasgow and has worked on projects in Europe, Turkey, Africa and the Middle East. He is currently based in Turkey where he specialises in masterplans, high rise and mixed-use projects. We caught up with him to discuss architecture, Istanbul and inspiration.
What made you want to work in architecture?
Growing up, our family home was simple, elegant and bright. As soon as I could I asked my mother who makes homes and she said “architects do.” Ever since – with the exception of a time in primary school when I wanted to be a private detective or international spy – I knew that being an architect was what I wanted to do, creating spaces that make people happy throughout their social, professional and personal lives. This was later reinforced in my childhood when returning home from practice I had an epiphany and released everything around me in the city was designed and placed there by someone.
If you didn’t work in architecture, what would you be doing?
If I didn’t work in architecture I would would most likely have found myself working in advertising. It is a very challenging and competitive sector with huge creativity demands which is something that appeals to me.
What do you most enjoy about your job?
Through focus and hard work, time flies and a design which was once a mere thought is now standing in front of you as a reality. I am always in awe of these moments of realisation and strive to create buildings which honour the time and space they occupy
What influences your work most?
A drive for excellence and timelessness and the thrill of creating something new which respects the need to serve all parties: the user, the city and the developer. A constant thirst for knowledge and a dedicated and hard-working team with common goals greatly influencing the output of every design.
You’ve got friends Istanbul. Where are you taking them?
When friends visit I enjoy being a tourist with them. On the first trip we make sure to visit the historic peninsula (Aghia Sofia, Blue Mosque, Basilica Cistern, Grans Bazaar) and museums. I take them for a hamam, Turkish coffee with kunefe and for dinner at Maiden Tower. Fortunately, most of my friends visit more than once so we get explore more and more local experiences. The cuisine of is an important part of any trip to Istanbul.
What is most important in architecture right now?
The major driver in shaping the urban environment of developing and rapidly urbanising cities today is policy. The appropriate framework and infrastructure needs to be in place so that architects can excel in designing the right buildings for the right location and climate. Personally, I would like to see more architects and urban designers driving policy reform in the built environment to create sustainable, long lasting and beautiful cities that can work and be admired for many years to come.
If you take an urban block in any contemporary city in the world there are usually one or two jewels and four or five that you would deem ‘okay’. The rest are horrible. Architects and developers are trying to stand out with gimmicks and colours and bold moves. The architect, often, has lost the priority to deliver high quality architecture.
Who is someone you admire?
My mother. She has supported me from day one to become an architect and has taught me to work hard and be dedicated to staying on the path I chose.
In terms of architects, I think there are many that we all know who have pushed the envelope. It is now the duty of the next generation to build on this legacy and drive things forward. I do have a favourite when it comes to private home design though – John Lautner.
What experiences are on your bucket list?
I am happy with one: to design a masterpiece sometime in my life.
Which book has had the greatest impact on you?
Homer’s Odyssey. You might get there later than expected, but you will reach your destination.
What’s the most awe-inspiring space you’ve been in?
I am in great admiration of classical architecture but we don’t have enough space for this list. To make this answer contemporary, there are two places I visited recently which I found very inspiring: St Brides Church in East Kilbride in Scotland and the Temppeliaukio Church in Helsinki. I find them both to be genuine masterpieces and they evoke emotions fitting for their purpose.
What does the RMJM Network mean to you?
It means leveraging an international team of the best architects in the world and, without ego, sharing a common mission to shape the future of the environment. As tennis was my sport growing up I used to be a single player. I could never imagine how great it would be to ‘play’ alongside such a creative and diverse team and the combined strength delivered through 27 global studios. I am very excited with the increased reach of the network and I feel that RMJM is the key driving force for positive change in architecture over the following decades.
Define good design…
I will have to bill you for that.