Novedge: Tell us a bit about who you are and
what you do
Apollo Spiliotis: I’m a Project Architect at
SubenDougherty Partnership in New York City, specializing in Building
Information Modeling and 3D visualization. I’m also an avid
technology enthusiast and writer, information-sharing addict, and
passionate problem solver. I’m also the creator of archiCADmonkey,
a blog where I share exciting news, tutorials and interviews of
luminaries from the design & tech world.
I’m Greek (you probably got that from
the name), born in the US, I grew up in Greece, studied in the UK,
and now live in Manhattan. I try to fit archiCADmonkey in my spare
time as much as possible, while in parallel enjoying the fruits of
the urban jungle. I’m also an eager world traveler, keen foodie,
“four-hour work week” dreamer and a pretty good basketball
Novedge: Your archiCADmonkey blog is very popular: how did it all start?
Apollo Spiliotis: I’ve tried my best to make the blog
recognized over the years, I’m proud that in some circles it is
fairly well known. It started out as a small tutorial site and
video-podcast to help architecture students, back when I was in my
final year at university. Today, the blog is where I share some
noteworthy design concepts and viewpoints, as well as interesting
technology/design news and interviews. Facebook and Twitter is
where I like to share daily links and stories I find notable. I love
sharing knowledge, and I guess some people seem to enjoy it.
The idea arose while studying
Architecture at the University of Manchester (UK). I hated drawing by
hand – I was never really good at it – but was quite comfortable
on my computer, so I took a few quick classes on 3D modeling and
started with Autocad & 3D Studio Max, as did most, though I was sorely
disappointed with the complexity of the lessons and lack of online
step-by-step tutorials aimed towards beginners and especially
archi-students. After weeks of research, practice and toil, I was
able to get the hang of some key programs, right about the time I
came across ArchiCAD; I found it more intuitive than what I’d been
using, though the problem of tutorials arose again. I was quick to
learn it nevertheless. I appeared to be able to assimilate design
software’s workflow quite quickly, and even found myself helping my
other coursemates to troubleshoot their CAD issues. This led to
giving private lessons to other students of architecture and interior
design, and eventually teaching as an external tutor for the
In parallel, I was also fascinated with
web design and dreamt of having a successful website, so when I saw a
niche in the market, I jumped on it. Good quality, step-by-step, free
video tutorials were not easily accessible online at the time. There
were a few video packages aimed at professionals that required a
fairly high premium, but students obviously can’t typically afford
these kinds of products. I wanted my video tutorials to be free.
So, the blog really began after
overhearing the term CADmonkey from a colleague that had just
finished a 14-hour marathon CAD session, as nearly all architecture
students have experienced, and I realized we were all
archi-CADmonkeys. Many still believe the blog is only about ArchiCAD,
as the name might suggest, but it’s really about trying to bring
together design knowledge and experience from many different
programs. Depending on the project, there have been times I had to
jump from Sketchup, to Autocad, to Photoshop, while rendering in
Artlantis and modeling in 3Ds Max, etc. I found most architecture
students quickly become brilliant at cross-software multi-tasking
(mostly out of necessity), finding what each program can offer them
and then merging the information into stunning presentations.
Novedge: What are the rewards and challenges of running a successful blog?
Apollo Spiliotis: It’s been really great over the years
having fun with content creation, receiving praise from inspiring
people and being recognized by other companies, and having the chance
to interview some great artists and developers in the field. It was
also very fun to have the chance to write a few articles for “ArchiMAG” magazine, I hope to write for some other mags in the
future. Generally helping people with their problems is another thing
I enjoy, as well as receiving appreciative emails from users
worldwide, and getting to connect with and occasionally even meet
great people from different fields.
The challenges in the beginning were
developing the website and trying to generate content consistently,
which is especially time consuming for the video production, and even
more while studying in parallel. I didn’t want something simple and
quick, but was aiming to start a whole genre of video
tutorials/shows. I was and still am inspired by some great
podcasters, such as Don McAllister from “ScreenCastsOnline” and
Leo Laporte from “This Week In Tech (TWIT)”, two tech veterans
with amazing shows.
Getting people to notice the site was
difficult at first, but quickly gained traction after I put some
videos on YouTube. I’ve run everything by myself essentially from
the beginning, from designing the blog, creating/editing the video
tutorials, writing, publishing and marketing the content. Though I
enjoy every part of it to a certain extent, it requires a lot of time
and effort. The blog at the moment is temporarily on the back burner,
partly due to my day job in NY taking up most of my time, as you’d
imagine. I’ve been working over the past few months on redesigning
the site from scratch, bringing the blog to the next level. I’m
planning of relaunching very soon.
Novedge: What is a recent project that you worked on?
Apollo Spiliotis: I’ve been with SubenDougherty for
just over a year, it’s a great place to work and you couldn’t ask
for better colleagues. We’re a small firm, and we harness the full
power of BIM to handle multiple major projects. I have been fortunate
to be involved mainly in healthcare and corporate office projects
around the city, and most recently around the World Trace Center
area. The views from the upper floors of the building are stunning,
as you would imagine, and we’re doing our best to complement the
majestic New York skyline.
Novedge: What software do you use?
Apollo Spiliotis: I predominantly use ArchiCAD, along
with SketchUp, Artlantis, Maxwell Render and my trusty Photoshop. I
like to experiment with other programs, and forever love to learn new
tricks, so I’m getting comfortable with some fascinating parametric
design programs, like Rhino, Grasshopper and Maya. Personally I
prefer the interface and workflow of ArchiCAD over Revit, though I
can appreciate some of Revit’s impressive features. There’s quite
an extensive discussion (or BIM Battle if you will) over on Linkedin
about them, though I find each has its own weaknesses and strengths
over the other, but it really depends on which one is most
comfortable with. I’m a Mac & iPhone fanatic, use them
personally and professionally, though as a general techie I try to be
as platform-agnostic as possible, and highly value software that
Novedge: What matters most to you in design?
Apollo Spiliotis:I am a bit torn in my design beliefs.
To speak in geek terms, I love the idealistic elegance of the Star
Trek Enterprise, but appreciate the brutal beauty of the Battlestar
Galactica. I like natural simplicity in general, though it is mostly
quite difficult to achieve. I also like seemingly complicated design
that has a simple concept at its core, which is the best of both
worlds. I appreciate the qualities of the Parthenon as well as the
decoratively complex Gothic churches, along with “Mad Men”-style
modernism and contemporary playful organic structures. From
innovative websites & apps to the minimalist iPod, design reaches
greatness when the user’s child-like curiosity is sparked. I relish
designs that surprise me and also appear so effortless they make me
stare in admiration.
Novedge: How do you measure success?
Apollo Spiliotis: Success comes in many shapes and forms,
it’s difficult to know when you’ve achieved it. I believe I have
accomplished some of my goals for my career as well as the blog,
though there is always much room for improvement. The success of
archiCADmonkey has helped me gain recognition in the field, and even
land a job in New York, so I think I count that as great success on
I ultimately consider it to be a state
when some type of fulfillment and happiness is realized. Some may
perceive this as power, market share, acknowledgment, but I mostly
believe it to be beyond business, more about reaching a good
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