15 minutes past 2pm and he enters the front door of the cafe with a bit of excuse and happiness on his face. That is when I knew he was doing something right and powerful for his native country and all those minutes were worth waiting. Constantinos Kyprianou aka Cotsios O Pikatillis is a famous DJ, architect, event producer, TEDx speaker and all in all he is an amazingly inspiring person.
I’m so sorry for being late, Alexandra, just having a lot going on right now with Anticancer programm. I’m in the team of supportters and we are in the middle of the event these days.
Constantinos, tell me more about the anticancer campaign since you have already mentioned it.
Have you noticed volunteers in yellow t-shirt on the roads? These are the members of the campaign who raise money for cancer research. The main organiser is the Bank of Cyprus and they asked my to take part in it. Organisation that I run is collaborating with the BoC in the educational and innovative fields and they are also AfroBanana Republic festival’s sponsor, so we always try to support them and all we do should be for a good purpose.
You had a project with the BoC within the walls of their Oncology Center.
Yes, we introduced the Wall Gallery in 2018. The outer space of the Bank of Cyprus Oncology Center in Nicosia was transformed into an art gallery. Our aim was to make patients’ stay more . The collection consists of various art works that were presented by Cypriot artists. This is how the artists’ community express the social solidarity and their support to cancer patients.
What was it like to work in the winning team for the London Olympics shooting range buildings?
We were only four people in the Magma Architecture team. It was a closed competition and we spent so much time on the conception part. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to be there on the completion of the building and, frankly speaking, I haven’t seen this complex in real life too (laughing). I was a student in Germany at that time and was not allowed to travel to the UK. Working with that team gave me a lot of experience as they worked with temporary structures and lines. At that time I was never going to admit I was influenced by them, but now seeing my works I admit I took a lot.
By the way, do you like the Library and research center that was designed by Jean Nouvel for the University of Cyprus?
I still didn’t have much time to look at it thoroughly but I like it. All those shapes and curves are actually my favourite architectural passion. I’m a nonconventional architect myself and I’m very intrigued by this project.
Do you think architecture should inspire people or it is just a decoration for megapolises?
I think there are two types of architecture — intellectual architecture and architecture that is based on investment. Nowadays we see a lot of investment one. Actually my organisation has a new theory: all the architecture is conventional, the way we build spaces is very simple and predictable and we should start thinking about people moving space. So in all our projects we try to mix disciplines together to create innovation. For example, this year we took choreography and architecture together. Choreographers are specialists on the body movements and we invited them to collaborate with architects — specialists in space. This dialogue will be continued till we reduce the massive gap between these parties. I adore architecture that is more relevant to art.
When and why did you decide to return to Cyprus and settle in here?
It was right after the crisis hit Cyprus back in 2013. My family struggled for the family business and I had to step in and support them in all possible ways. I’m not a businessman myself, I have a different type of brain but I was always there for them. I came to Cyprus for 1 year after I got my bachelor degree in architecture at the University of Brighton and then went to Berlin to get my master degree in Frankfurt.
How did you switch to event production and come up with the idea of founding Afro Banana Republic festival?
My boss in the Magma Architecture Martin Ostermann always teased me: Why don’t you design a festival or a club? You like music and architecture. I was so offended by this idea at that time because I wanted something bigger. Later I opened my mind for this idea and look what we have now (smiles).
Was it an investment project?
No, not at all. It is a community type of festival and was always organised by a non-profit organisation. This event has been produced to cover the needs of the society and it has not been making till this day. We created festival for those who are in to music, design, experience. For me it was an amazing thing to create my own world.
Music festival is a common thing for many European countries. How did Cyprus welcomed the first Afro Banana republic? Was it a success?
Pretty much. The main thing is that it was first non-commercial festival of that size. We had about 3500 visitors and that is a big achievement for an event that plays world music. We brought people from Africa and Japan, people who played only violin or electronic music, we mixed all the genres.
We did come close to creating an innovative cultural village which is rather unusual for Cyprus but so common for the rest of Europe. But all the bureaucracy we met on the way was killing all the creativity. So now we are trying to achieve this goal with other partner organisation.
What about your experience as a DJ? Is it your hobby?
I studied DJ-ing when I was living in Europe and I can’t say it’s my hobby. It’s one of my biggest passions in life.
Still are you an architecture, a musician or a producer?
Depends on a day 😉 When somebody asks me that question I usually answer that I am a dancer (laughs). Frankly speaking, I am an experiential designer. This term covers it all and it does really exist, you know.
What are your plans for this year? Should we wait for another festival or you winning a huge European award for your architecture design?
Just yesterday I got a confirmation on the project I have been working on for 6 months. I will be making the underground dance music in Cyprus. Already have a lot of plans for that including bringing the Boiler Room (a global online music broadcasting platform commissioning and streaming live music sessions around the world) to the island.
Also this year we are doing AfroBanana Republic Festival for five days. We will collaborate with other festivals, people and venues and introduce a whole new programm to the audience. The theatre festival is coming with us, the animation festival, a huge innovative catering company will also join us. This summer our cultural event will take place after the city of Pomos in the village called Yaya.
Constantinos, what is your main advice to the young who live in Cyprus and who now choose their own path?
Go outside your island mentality. The best thing you could do right now is to go to Europe and live 1 or 2 years there to learn the culture, the possibilities, the society, get challenged, be influenced. You can see that there are a lot of great Cypriot innovators abroad but they all gained the experience outside Cyprus. And then, after you come back, you will be a better person with another mentality and you will see opportunities coming down to you.
Constantinos Kyprianou won Stelios Bi-Communal Award in 2016 for his duet with Barçın Gökbörü and their performance Music Unites The World. He is the founder of the innovative research program ABR IN LAB since 2015.
Photo by Bella Kotak