Costantza Sbokou-Constantakopoulou – Designing Pauses That More Than Refresh
December 14, 2020
Costantza Sbokou-Constantakopoulou has a unique perspective on a Post-COVID world. As Co-CEO of Phāea Resorts and Senior Architect for TEMES SA, a leading investor, developer and operator in the high-end tourism and real estate in Greece with Costa Navarino as its flagship development, she was engaged in envisioning her industry’s future in a way that has broader implications for people’s lives even before COVID struck.
“COVID has made us focus and accelerate things that were already being thought about” Costantza says, such as the stress rhythms our hectic lives had assumed that leave little private and thinking time. “COVID has made it possible to do a ‘pause’ and to rethink how we want to lead our lives.”
People have discovered the value of such ‘pauses’ and Costantza can help make it happen in a healthy and enjoyable way since this kind of thinking has been an integral part of the philosophy of Phāea Resorts because of their sensitivity to helping guests alter the rhythm of their lives during vacations. That is something that will have heightened significance in the Post-COVID world which may have dramatically altered rhythms.
“It will take a while for the tourism industry to recover from the shock of COVID-19. But even in the post- COVID era, I feel nothing will be exactly the same as before. Habits will change, our manner of work will change. When people travel they will have a greater appreciation of private space; they will stay longer at a destination not only because they want to connect with the places and their communities, but also because remote working has been widely applied in all sectors because of COVID”. “
In the future, vacations at resorts like Phāea’s Blue Palace, a luxury collection Resort & SPA and Cretan Malia Park,
a member of Design Hotels™, can be vehicles for such pauses, “where in a substantial way people can address their values and their lives, can find purpose in their travelling and reconnect with themselves through a different slow paced living,” Costantza says. And resorts that are such receptacles for both recreation and introspection, combining spiritual and aesthetic experiences, will draw many people. That will be part of the point of getting away from the everyday – not just taking photos of as many places as possible but taking a snapshot of our states of being.
Costantza’s path to the future of her industry began with in her family’s business. Her family does not merely construct buildings, they create experiences, an ethos clearly shaped by growing up on the magical island of Crete. “Crete influenced me in many ways.” She noted especially her confidence that what one wants to do is always possible and “we must find the way to do it. The island gives you a self-confidence, pride, extraversion.”
Her father was a mechanical and electrical engineer, but he took an early interest in tourism, building his first hotel in 1978. Her mother was trained as a lawyer but became involved in other things, including writing fiction books. Clearly, creativity and management are in their genes.
Costantza lived in Athens for the first time as an architecture student at the National (Metsovian) Technical University of Athens and continued her studies at Harvard GSD in construction management. Her sister Agapi – they are co-CEOs of Phāea Resorts – studied law and holds an MBA. “We are one year apart and we have complementary competences – things happen more quickly since each one trusts the other.”
By high school she knew she wanted to pursue architecture. Looking back, she sees that she was inspired by Crete’s rich architecture and layers of history, from the Minoan to the Venetian and Ottoman influences, but while that is not what causes students to choose a career in architecture, it has an impact on the architect. “The elements of those civilizations created the built environment of the island that constitutes an inspiration for all of us … later during the working process, memories and references generate within us elements that we connect with our new works,” the creative process naturally blending the old with the new.
She is focused on construction management, the subject of her graduate work at Harvard – her design work is limited to private projects. As head of TEMES’s architecture and procurement department, she pays attention to securing the proper architectural finishes, and in her role as owners representative she ensures the best aesthetic result and smooth progress in construction.
As much as her professional life absorbs time and energy and focus, she also values and is dedicated to her role with NGOs and foundations which she also undertakes on a daily basis. She is Chairman of Endeavor Greece, an international non-profit organization, which selects and supports the most promising entrepreneurs and companies from around the world.
She is also a member of the Board of the beloved Benaki Museum. “I believe at this moment it is one of the most significant museums and foundations in Greece, with seven operating museums, covering the chronological period of Greek art, culture and history from prehistoric time until today. The Museum also houses important collections about other civilizations and cultures like Chinese and Islamic.” Costantza is also a member of the Board of Directors of the ELIAMEP foreign policy think tank, and of the Board of the Captain Vassilis and Carmen Constantakopoulos Foundation.
Enjoying a variety of activities, like reading books on history and travelling, playing tennis, the hobby she most values is learning foreign languages, most recently Turkish. “That is important because when you learn a language you are drawn closer to a people and when that nation has a relationship with your own” – here one could add the words ‘important’ and ‘troubled’ – “there is a special interest in speaking their language.”
She learned about THI though her husband, Achilles Constantakopoulos, who is a Board Member, but she came into personal contact with THI when Professor Giorgos Lazopoulos of the University Hospital of Heraklion asked for her help to help support the Cardio-Thoracic Surgery Department in 2013, which was at a turning point, lacking the necessary funds to operate. Private sector fundraising was undertaken on the island and Achilles proposed she make a presentation to THI. That happened at a THI event in Athens where Costantza became very impressed with the Board Members. “They paid great attention to my presentation. They were very receptive and immediately understood the need.” After an “exceptional, substantial, and important donation from THI”- that saved the clinic from closing, which would have left all of Crete without a cardiac surgery clinic – Costantza fell in love with THI.