THIRTEEN recently spoke with Building Stories producer and publisher of The Real Deal, Amir Korangy, who explains architect Costas Kondylis’ impact on the New York City skyline and how he earned the reputation of being the “developer’s architect.”
Treasures of New York: Building Stories premieres Wednesday, May 2 at 7 p.m. on WLIW21 and Sunday, May 6 at 7 p.m. on THIRTEEN.
How did New York City influence Costas Kondylis’ work in terms of factors like limited space and the grid layout?
Every building that you see built today is a result of a thousand compromises. Developers need approval from customers, city and community boards, and the best designs are not necessarily the ones that get approved. There is little room for experimentation, but creative architects try to express themselves in the details. The way the building is angled and how the light comes in to the space and how the rooms are connected, etc. Those limitations also happen to define the architect.
How much do you think Kondylis’ career and designs were a product of the time he was working in? Would his designs be different were he starting out today?
Would Picasso’s paintings be different if he were working today? Hard to say, but probably. Costas’ designs have evolved over the years as has the discipline around him. If you see a range of his work, you can identify every style within that spectrum. Costas’ designs from 20 years ago are selling today, with very little modifications, in China, South America and Europe. In the movie Larry Silverstein says, “Costas is capable of creating any design that the development calls for.” That’s a sign of a disciplined and skillful architect.
How did you decide on the format of the film – to feature reenactments with actors and voiceover, and to incorporate Donald Trump and Kondylis himself?
We were exceptionally lucky in that all the major players – Donald Trump, Larry Silverstein, Joseph Rose and of course Kondylis – in our story still happened to be alive and in New York. They were never interviewed together, yet they recalled the stories as though they were reading a script in the same room. It worked out perfectly. The director Toni Comas believed that the reenactments would only add to the dramatic arc, and clearly, he was right.
Kondylis is known as the “developer’s architect” because he utilized space so efficiently in his designs. How do you think Kondylis and his work evolved over his career? Do you think he took charge of his designs to a greater degree later in his career?
Developers hired Costas because he has seen more buildings go up than the most seasoned ones. He was responsible for 65 high-rises in New York City in the 2000s alone. That’s more than Rosario Candela’s entire career. That’s a testament to his ability to be able to work and design in the toughest city in the world. His developers trusted him as Trump did with the Trump World Tower, which also happened to be the largest residential tower in the world at the time it went up.
What do you think Kondylis will be most remembered for?
Trump World Tower for it’s design and engineering accomplishment and the Riverside West development, for it’s sheer size and impact on the skyline, for better or worse.