We continue with our series “Tip from the Expert” where we will meet you with inspiring specialists in architecture and interior design. Our next guest is Anton Antonov, architect at studio Stephen George International. We talked in detail about client relations, ecology in architecture and how to create suitable living conditions. The result is at hand.
Introduce yourself in your own words.
I am Anton Antonov, 28 years old. Originally from Burgas, but I have been living in Sofia since I was a student. I graduated from the Residential Buildings specialty at UASG and currently am an architect at Stephen George International. My main focus are residential buildings, but I design a lot of offices as well. I work with small teams of people and sometimes join such teams myself.
I would not say that as a company we have focused our attention on a certain group of buildings. We strive to be broad in design. We help a lot of colleagues in the English office, and some of the members of the team here are very busy. As a design, we do a lot of things abroad and try to put ourselves on the Bulgarian market. Both as a name and as a standard.
You mentioned that you don’t limit yourself to certain type of projects. But you still must have some filter to put them through. How do you know which client is your client?
Very nice question. Unfortunately, the market now does not allow us to select our customers. There is a boom in construction that has changed the recent crisis. And somehow the architects – especially the young ones – have been tempted to design and prove themselves.
Currently, the project does not return. It has not happened to say, “With this client we will not work.” Every client can work. Each has its own principles, standards; each is different in nature and requires different things. But our task is to find the right balance between good architecture and customer wishes. In the given budget, of course.
In this direction of thinking, we have not been allowed to select clients until now. We have not yet reached the level of larger, world-class architects who can afford the luxury of not working with a person. At the moment we are growing in a straightforward market. Whatever project arrives, we take it and do our best to provide the client with good architecture.
Do you find it hard to find a balance between the client’s wishes and what you perceive to be practical and useful to the people living in the future building?
As I mentioned earlier, the most difficult thing in our profession is to achieve a balance. Do a good architecture with your assigned budget. Naturally, there is no client to come and tell us: “I want you to make me an ugly house.” But this brings with it the whole weight of the budget that we are going through. Everyone starts with the idea of doing something as beautiful as possible, but when they see the final figure, the situation starts to change. Again, here is our task to take the best possible solution – both as a vision and as a function of the building – so that we can get into the client’s budget and remain satisfied with the ultimate aesthetics.
There are also clients who are not entirely led by the budget, but have their own views on architecture. Unfortunately, it is quite common (especially for Bulgarians) to understand everything. And when you come to such a client is very difficult to communicate with him. But, ultimately, we must be able to deal with everyone.
There are clients with whom the conversation goes easy. They trust the architect and everything is ok. We must deserve that trust. It’s basically business, but when you’re building, you get closer with your client at a time. You need to be able to understand what the other person is, so you can do the best for him.
Of course, it’s much easier to design an office building. Then the client thinks only about aesthetics and how to then give it away. He will not be the one who will inhabit the space. Decisions in cases like this are taken much easier and far less emotional. While you’re doing a private house or interior, things get a whole lot different. You have to make the final product so that one feels comfortable and has little or nothing to be involved in the project enough to feel it as his own.
Is it the same when designing an office building, but for a specific company?
Yes, maybe. Especially if we were assigned the interior of the company. It is he who creates the comfort of the people who will inhabit the space afterwards. We often create interiors for different companies that rent a whole building or floor, and then we just take into account the space inside. But we do so to follow the company’s requirements.
I will give examples of companies whose interiors we have made – Booking and Sky Scanner. They recently opened offices in Sofia and we were fortunate and fortunate to become our customers. They have very strict principles and desires. Quite a lot of jobs, starting from the colors of the company, from what people will accommodate them, how the different zones are bound…
Here is the time to mention that in such areas it is very helpful to use Escreo because people like to scratch back and forth, love to record. Instead of having any moving boards. Even now I would be super comfortable as I sit and start scratching at the table. Things are really interesting.
So it’s very similar to doing a private interior. The people who run it accept it as something that is theirs, because one spends 8-12 hours of their daily work, and the conscious companies that keep their workers are betting that people feel good at the office. Make them comfortable, enjoy them, have their relaxation zones – so much space is left for the latter. Wherever one can stay alone for a while. Because there is nothing to be fooled – especially for young people, everyday life is terribly laden and we need to ease this tension. We need to create the environment so that it works soothingly to one person rather than going to work to create even more stress.
Your site often talks about the ecological design element. What are you most often trying to integrate in a building from an environmental point of view?
We work closely with BREEAM and many of our buildings are certified under it. This brings with it the corresponding burdens, as the certificate refers to a significant burden on the construction sector. In a building, many different methods and methods can be introduced to make it environment-friendly. It can be started right from the beginning with the extraction of the materials, their transportation, the delivery, the surplus. From here we go to the façade, the device …
Most people think that if we put solar panels on the roof, a rainwater tank, some other green wall, and it all ends. But it depends on how this building will be operated by the end customer. We may be a beginner in this type of architecture, but people are also beginning to build a proper attitude towards the place they live in.