The go-to guy for New York's biggest developers, Kondylis is the exceedingly prolific architect responsible for some of New York's tallest—and, some argue, dullest—buildings.
A native of the Greek island of Samos, Kondylis spent his childhood in the Belgian Congo before moving back to Greece with his parents as a teen. Following college in Switzerland—and after briefly contemplating becoming an automotive designer—he relocated to New York to study urban design at Columbia. For much of the '80s, Kondylis worked as an architect at Philip Birnbaum & Associates, heading out on his own to launch Costas Kondylis Architects in 1989. Since then he's designed over 75 buildings—the majority of which are located in New York—and today employs some 150 people at his Flatiron-based firm.
Kondylis's practical but boring designs have earned him a rep as a "developer's architect": His journeyman work doesn't exactly wow critics, but he gets the job done—on budget and on time—which is what his mega-wealthy clients care about. Over the past decade, virtually every major New York developer has tapped Kondylis to design at least one building, including Larry Silverstein, Shaya Boymelgreen, David Picket, Mort Zuckerman, Richard LeFrak, Daniel Brodsky, Bruce Ratner, Steve Ross, Burton Resnick, Aby Rosen, Steve Roth, Henry Elghanayan, and Matthew Adell. Kondylis' most frequent client in recent years, though, has been Donald Trump, who hired him to design the International Hotel and Tower at Columbus Circle, several of the towers at Trump Place, and, most famously, the Trump World Tower. The tallest residential building in Manhattan, the 90-story edifice created a stir when it was proposed in the 1990s; area residents decried it as egregiously out of scale for the neighborhood, and newsman Walter Cronkite spearheaded a well-publicized (albeit futile) crusade against the building.
More recently, Kondylis planned Elad Properties' much-discussed renovation of the Plaza. And there's plenty of work in the pipeline, including an Upper East Side condo building for Izak Senbahar called the Laurel, a 180,000-square-foot mixed-use complex in Moscow, and a W Hotel in South Beach.
Kondylis's wife, Lori, passed away in 1997 from breast cancer. The couple had two daughters together, Katherine and Alexia; the latter runs his firm's interior design practice, Kondylis Design.
While he might design sky-high contemporary glass towers, Kondylis himself lives in a pre-war building on East 81st Street. He also owns a renovated potato barn in Southampton, which is where you'll also find his collection of sports cars.
For the record
Not surprisingly, Trump had originally wanted the Trump World Tower to be gold. Kondylis managed to persuade him to go with a slightly less ostentatious bronze.