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Greeks Gone West: Meet John James Toya, the Greek-American architect with his own studio in the heart of San Francisco

18 December 2015

John James Toya is the founder of TOYAstudio, an architectural firm in San Francisco that specializes in homes inspired by the landscape and traditional materials. John has been a partner of the award-winning architecture firm Ike Kligerman Barkley. After 13 years in New York, he opened the company's office in San Francisco in 2008 and was responsible for all of their projects on the west coast. In 2014, John opened the TOYAstudio, which offered him more autonomy to explore his art. Currently, he is working on projects in Hawaii, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area.

John developed his love for architecture in Chicago, where he grew up, and often visited sights with his father, who is also an architect, and mother, who loved art. Due to his trips as a child to Greece, he developed pride in its heritage and saw his love for architecture grow.

He enjoys cycling and participates in the AIDS Lifecycle, a 45-mile race, which takes place every year and raises funds for HIV groups in California. When at home, he enjoys listening to vinyl records, and has a collection of them that is growing constantly.

In his own words...

On how he became an architect:
"I thought it is a very difficult profession that is not paid well enough. Even my parents advised not to follow it. But when I was a student and was contemplating on becoming a successful businessman like my uncle, I didn't like the classes. I began to attend art classes, which I liked a lot but could not find enough sense in them. I wanted something that more directly involved with society and culture. I came to realize how much I love architecture."

On his work:
"I am head of TOYAstudio, which is an architectural office of high standards, specializing in designing residences. Their common feature is that they are perfectly tailored to customer needs. I like natural materials and their traditional use. We also like to work with artisans and people who use traditional techniques and we listen to their opinions and incorporate their expertise."

On the challenges of the job:
"There are egos, which you must harness to ensure the smooth progress of the work. This alone may require a full days work. Something I especially love about my job is the time when a house is delivered to the owners and you ultimately see them inside the space you had been talking about forever. It's great to see how people live in a space."

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