From Athens to Berlin – and back again. The story of our first employee Maya Karouzou shows how borders can be overcome by a modern office culture – and how oow’s special spirit brings people together.
I have a long history with oow – at the time it was still called designyougo. In 2011, I was Sebastian and Mathis’ first employee. Those were exciting times. We had a cool storefront space in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg neighbourhood and it was exactly how you would imagine working in a small, up-and-coming Berlin architecture firm: No two days were alike. At lunchtime we all cooked in the office kitchen or went to one of the many restaurants around the corner – and of course there were legendary parties when we landed another big contract.
I kept in touch with Sebastian and Mathis after moving though. At the time, we also considered whether I would be able to continue working for them from Athens, but somehow we didn’t have the guts. Although the two of them have always embraced digital, at the time it was simply utopian to work across several borders.
It felt like the whole world took off and worked from home. Then suddenly Sebastian called. Wouldn’t we like to try and have me rejoin them? I had a job at a Greek architecture firm at the time, which I didn’t actually intend to give up ...
That’s right, Sebastian successfully persuaded me. (laughs) But I also quickly realised that I wanted to be part of the team again. I always had a brilliant time working at oow and it was a great opportunity to get back on board.
It is a mix of craziness and perfectionism.
There is a lot of emphasis on free and out-of the-box thinking. That makes for brilliant ideas! And even in everyday working life, things are different. For example, we once built a champagne tower with the whole team. That was a bit nuts and super funny. At the same time, every detail has to be right, down to perfection, that’s probably where the proverbial Swabians in Sebastian and Mathis shine through. (laughs) I have also always been fascinated by the fact that the office is so multicultural. The team is from Egypt, Finland, Italy, Ecuador, Korea, from all over the world really. Not only is working so much fun, but I am absolutely certain that an international team also produces better results. You can tell that everyone engages in their very own way and that all over the world there are different ways of solving problems for a building. It’s incredibly enriching.
It’s astonishing what digitisation makes possible. Thanks to the cloud, we can access all files in real time and work on them simultaneously. Everyone can see all the corrections and mark-ups immediately, and with the video functionality in Teams, it feels as if we really are sitting at a desk together. It makes no difference at all that I am in Athens. The project I am currently involved in is a construction project in Tutzing and the engineers are based in Austria. In the past, people would have met on site, but it would have been a big effort. This way, we see each other all the time in video conferences and the exchange is much closer.
Sure, the weather is often better in Athens, although that’s not always the case. When there is snow for example, Berlin is much more beautiful. Really hard to say! Both cities are unique and above all rich in history, but in very different ways. Berlin is Berlin and Athens is Athens.