Mr. Zambikos could you please talk to me about various things in general?
– It was a large apartment and in the living room we had a painting -by Yiannakopoulos I think- of a dying soldier holding a letter in his hands and at the opposite wall was another huge painting that was very dirty because no-one had ever cleaned it -a copy of some faintly Renaissance tableau- with a gypsy woman reading the palm of a shepherd, whatever that means to you. Every year, they used to take the painting with the soldier, for about a month, for an exhibition held at the Zappion Hall regarding the military prowess of the Greeks.
The wall in my bedroom was a bit burnt because I used to play that game with the matches, you know, where you place a match upright on the matchbox and then launch it with a flick of your finger and the match lights and flies through the air, you know. I grew up in this house on Skoufa Street, in an old building, a pre-war building. They’ve demolished all the post-war buildings built by Zenetos and they only care about saving the neoclassical buildings, the terracotta antefixes, the little 80 x 124 balconies, the Uncle Tom’s cabins.
I don’t like buildings. I try not to like buildings because that’s very dangerous for an architect. My father died without visiting the Acropolis Museum. I will die having seen the antiquities in the Acropolis Museum. The difference between these two dead men is colossal. I mean at some point even the building of the Museum itself loses its importance. I live in Plaka now. Plaka seems dead to me now. Can you understand? Please take a look at the buildings along the coastal road. If you’ll take a look at them you’ll realise that they’re clashing with one other not to be different, in order to look like the buildings behind that have no view at the sea. The buildings along the coastal road overlook the sea but they act like they don’t see it and that’s tragic, you should know that.
My school years were the worst years of my life, I realised that many of my fellow pupils were almost enjoying themselves and for twelve years I couldn’t talk to anyone about how indifferent I was to this compulsory process and so I can’t say that I look back on anything with nostalgia. I attended the Athens College, and alright, I still have some friends from that time, but no, I can’t really say they’re my friends; a friend is someone who lives in Minnesota or New York and you know that you may never see him again, while in a small town like Agrinio or Athens or Syracuse we name people our friends out of habit because they’re right in front of us and we’re forced to see them all the time and that’s so unfair on them because, under other circumstances, under real circumstances, they could all be our real friends. Alright it’s not as simple as that, but you know what I mean, testing people it’s not an easy thing to do in a small town like Athens.
I was an average student, I took the entrance exams twice, I applied for a university in England and in Canada and because England was cheaper I went there. But everything I’m telling you about happened so long ago that when you leave I’ll remember that they didn’t happen exactly as I have described now but somehow else because that’s what usually happens when you talk about something that happened a long time ago.
In architecture there is an internal code of practice. I can’t promise that I’ll never design a prison or that I’ll never use a gold picture frame, you know, that’s not how it goes. In Greece an old woman living in a mountain village might mention phrases like “ministerial decisions” and “19-millimetre MDF” to you. The phrase “19-millimetre MDF” coming from an old woman, is a very serious problem for architecture. You constantly need to concoct arguments that will sound right to the ears of your semi-informed clients and then you propose things that you would never have proposed even to yourself and then you censor yourself but not because someone is asking you to do so, no, that would be too dramatic: “do as I say right now or you will lose your job”, no, no, you censor yourself because you want the other person to like you and this person is expecting something very specific from you and that is what you must do. We must never forget that a bit of a wanker, a wanker, and a total wanker are at the end of the day all wankers, all three are the same. Perhaps an architect should really only design one house in his life, only one apartment, only one office e.t.c., meaning that a person only has one vision of how a house should be. That’s why I take my hat off to all of those who always build houses that look alike, that are almost the same, those who design while whispering to themselves “This is how I believe a house should be and this is how I’ll make houses my whole life”. I prefer that because it seems to me the most honest thing in the world.
There are three categories of architects. Architects, architect architects, and client architects. Architects are the architects, architect architects are the ones who scream in every chance that they are architects and that everything they do in their lives is “architectural”, and client architects are the ones who do whatever their clients tell them to do for their whole life. In all three categories there are talented and untalented people. I fear that everything I’ve been telling you all this time is so very cliché. When someone asks you for a three-bedroom apartment with a bathroom and a living room you must not give him “the interrelationship between the texture of metropolitan urbanity with the canvas of history and the precipitate of this link in its third stratum”. No, you must simply give this person a three-bedroom apartment and you must bleed and spend money you don’t have and find time you don’t have to figure out how the hell will you make this fucking three-bedroom apartment.
I have a slight problem with what they call sophisticated Greek music, those artsy little songs, the ones with the crafted lyrics, music with a sprinkling of oud. I don’t like it at all.
I am prone to involuntary reactions, I mean in the way I behave, and later when I think of how I reacted I would prefer to have a different reaction. If I had to describe an unpleasant person with a single word I would choose the word “unwashed” and with hair growing in random places. Unwashed not in the sense of not bathing, not unwashed like a homeless person, but unwashed in the sense of a sweaty person who has just had a bath, someone clammy, a person whose insides and outside are very close to one another. I don’t know how to explain it or if you understand what I mean. That is why I like Americans. Americans usually smell (pause) soap and I really love the smell of soap. I never eat cauliflower au gratin. I don’t know if you’ve noticed but beautiful clothes come out only in black. Asphalt is the cleanest thing in the world. I could walk barefoot on an asphalt road for hours. I could make it all the way to the Piraeus. You know? But I can’t stand the smell of rotting things and that’s why I don’t like the smell of cauliflower au gratin. When I have a plate of food in front of me I always leave the part I like best for last, for example well-fried chips that are crispier than the rest of the chips on the plate.
Mr. Zambikos, I also save the crispiest chips on the plate for last.
If you are doing it too, watch out. Stop doing it. Sometimes you don’t have enough time to eat the good part and as the years go by, you run out of time and you don’t eat the good part at all and if it’s just chips we’re talking about, then that’s okay but when it happens with people then that’s tragic, tragic.
Aris Zambikos is 18 years old. When he had his still life exam he was asked to draw a black jacket covered in blood, left on the desk of the doorman of a building on the coastal road where the water on the stairs had not yet dried and so you had to be careful not to slip. He never studied sculpture. He never schedules any meeting on Saturdays or Sundays because he likes to watch architects wearing boots from 1981 jumping off the little 80 x 124 balconies of tall buildings. His office is on the top two floors of a tall building.
This post was written by sherlockth