The poetry of the everyday
For Yorgo Lykouria rethinking the everyday objects we unconsciously use is a challenge that has produced some original and thought provoking contemporary design products. Born in Canada he is both an architect and industrial designer. Lykouria is the author of the Washbasin Series for Alape a counter-intuitive take on the traditional wash hand basin that provides fresh thinking on archetypal products.
Lykouria worked for renowned architect Helmut Jahn (State of Illinois Centre, Deutsche Post) for several years in Chicago, Bonn and Berlin before establishing his own office in London where he is now based. He still regularly collaborates with Jahn with whom he worked as both architect and industrial designer on the recently completed Joe and Rika Mansueto Library at the University College of Chicago. Lykouria designed the interior, a synthesis of his ability to control space and produce crafted bespoke furniture. The fluid open plan glazed reading room which is located over a subterranean mechanical book storage depository is enhanced by the low profile solid oak reading desks with integrated lighting designed by Lykouria who also designed and manufactured the library’s steel and oak chairs. Other industrial design clients include Montblanc, Moroso, Dornbracht, FSB (ironmongery) and Vitra.
University of Chicago Library, 2011
Nomad Air Terminal Seating (Girona, Cologne/Bonn, Bangkok and Rotterdam airports) AKABA
Lykouria’s design language is un-apologetically contemporary and incorporates emerging materials like techno-gel (used for the Naiad stool – see photo) as well as glass and especially steel. Rather than being influenced by his peers one gets the impression however that Lykouria grapples with the essence of each commission from first principles, even as a student he would avoid precedent preferring to struggle with each challenge from a tabula rasa starting point. Lykouria recounts as a young architect touring around Europe visiting the then recently built and very fashionable de-constructivist projects by Coop-Himmenlblau’s and Parc de la Villete in Paris, “ they were not nearly as exciting as they looked on paper, essentially they were dead and then I went to the Institut du Monde Arabe (Jean Nouvel) and that was like a modern cathedral, especially the stairwell space with pinpoints of light coming through, the layers of glass and the material and that was ground-breaking a turning point in my life as an architect.” His obsession with the basics is exemplified by a choreographic video performance he commissioned examining the relationship of space (the architect’s most precious raw material) and the human body through the medium of dance. He in fact cites cinema as one of his primary sources of inspiration, specifically science fiction because of its setting within the realm of fantasy which challenges notions of our world and about how we live.
'Ulysees' chair, 'Naiad' chair - Berlin residence
Lykouria’s relation with Alape dates back to the design of the sanitary fittings for the iconic all-glass Deutsche Post project in the late 90s. Unhappy with anything he could find on the market he explains “I came up with this idea for a wash hand basin which was basically a long trough, a flat plane that disappeared into a joint in stainless steel with a Dornbracht faucet.” After a gestation period of almost five years the collaboration eventually led to the first of the washbasin series characterised by the avoidance of the traditional bowl in favour of a flat surface where water is in continual flow that now includes the Crystalline and Tangens series of basins. Lykouria also designed the innovative All-In-One Wall System for Alape (see B-Guided #48) a range of sanitary fittings for the contract market consisting of a range of elements and accessories that can be combined in a myriad of ways that offers architects the opportunity to design bespoke solutions using mass produced products. The relationship with Lykouria marks a before and after for the German sanitary ware firm.
E-Tech (H20ne), faucet for Dornbracht
The difference between product and architectural design for Lykouria is the possibilities for achieving perfection through endless prototyping for the industrial designer while the architect needs to get it right first time. Lykouria aims for quality rather than quantity, searching for a connection with the designed object. “I think that people don’t know what’s good anymore, simply because there’s too much of everything. You see something that’s brilliant, done perfectly and then you see something that looks the same but not done quite as well and then another and another. There aren’t that many new ideas out there, by a new idea I don’t just mean formally I mean something like the cantilevered chair of the modernist era, that opens the door and then you can do a thousand variations on the cantilevered chair.”
Crystalline WHB series for Alape