Well, it’s 8 minutes to midnight on December 5th 2022. I’ve spent the last few hours building a podcast, to enable me to share a long essay in audio format… to announce that I’m building a video podcast / TV show with RTL here in Luxembourg.
Christos Floros (left) with his ‘Brother’ Alex (centre) and a make-up artist (right) at a Carnival Party in Weimershof, 1998. / © Floros Family Archive
20 years after convincing myself to become an architect, to contribute to the development of my beloved Luxembourg City, I realised the best use of my skills were not in drawing lines on Autocad.
If you ask me, I still practise architecture every day, but I have a new medium to express my problem solving. For that is what architecture is: Complex, creative, problem solving.
Every design requires analysis, interrogation, problem-solving and proposals, and communicating all of the above efficiently.
(Which is why architects, outside of traditional architecture practice, make excellent business managers and executives.)
Armed with these skills and burdened by the urgent issues that I care deeply about, I felt, like many of you do too, a profound responsibility to work on other, larger, more urgent problems.
Let me tell you why I chose to become an architect, about my acting career, and why after the first Covid lockdown I decided to work on our country’s social and political inclusion, and why now, I’m building a new video podcast to make this effort even more accessible.
For those of you who read my opinion regularly, first of all thank you, and expect something very different today. It’s personal.
Kirchberg circa 1999, birthday party in November, visiting the horses by the farm near the European School. I grew up in a vastly different Kirchberg than the one we live in today. / © Floros Family Archive
Let me start at the beginning.
Sometime between 1998 and 2001, I was sliding down the stairs of a beautiful home in Weimershof with my friend Loucas.
We were being chased by the kindest of all dogs, Scott, who was after our pieces of emmental cheese.
Scott was a working labrador, not in terms of its breed, but in terms of his activity. He was the office dog of Paul Bretz, the renowned Luxembourgish architect. And he was, paradoxically, the catalyst to my decision, early in life, to pursue architecture.
See, I grew up in a flat. My Greek, immigrant parents used that as an excuse to forbid and place out of question the idea of owning a furry friend.
But all I wanted was a dog. And thus, I put 2 and 2 together, and got the magical formula to solve all of my problems.
I wanted to understand Luxembourg. I didn’t until then. It seemed like a new building, a new road and a new everything, was continuously being built, changed or amended, and I had absolutely no say in it (back then Kirchberg was pretty much a long stretch of road with some EU institutions scattered around the place).
I wanted to have a say, and participate in how all of this was happening. I wanted to be involved, and to feel that I belong. I know, it sounds pretty crazy for an 8 year old. But who says we all aren’t a little idealistic when we’re young?
And I wanted a dog. I so badly wanted a dog. But it had become increasingly obvious that it was ‘never’ going to happen.
Paul Bretz had all these things, he was Luxembourgish, involved, he was designing buildings that were being built, on my Kirchberg — and he had a house, not a flat, which meant, according to my parent’s logic, that that allowed him to have a dog.
So I set myself on becoming an architect. 10 years later, I was flying across the atlantic, to attend my first introduction to architecture at Pratt.
My other interests however, were surfacing throughout my teenage years.
I was involved in student politics, and became an activist ever since my first class with Mr Whale, where we discussed ‘global warming’ for the first time.
Sometimes, looking back, knowing what I know today, I wish I had read politics, philosophy and economics.
In fact right after my second semester in Oxford, I spent an incredible few months in Boston reading International Relations with who remains, the most wonderful person to have ever taught me, professor Stacy D. VanDeveer, a charismatic American academic who instilled in me a passion for politics and an appreciation of the complex systems of governance that structure our modern world.
But I don’t regret becoming an architect. Because architecture school coupled all that I was learning, with real-world analysis, real-world restrictions, longtermism and creative problem solving. All of which informed my priorities in life and allowed me to meet brilliant colleagues.
Architecture school graduation. I’m on the bottom left with Ayesha, and Rami / Oxford, UK 2014. / © Floros Family Archive
To make a long story short, the focus of my own architectural research had always been Luxembourg City. I was planning to be the most informed, and the most able person to help move my beloved City forward.
But the more I studied and researched, the more I learnt (and that applies to most things in life) I wasn’t the first to neither look nor seek to do the same.
Leon Krier, another renowned Luxembourgish architect, (whose writings still make me cry) had been a voice of reason throughout Luxembourg’s urban development. Only: very few people were listening.
And that was then, in the 60’s. Since, as a discipline, we have proposed solutions for the urgent ecological transition of our cities, our urban environment, our relationship with nature, our critical need to adapt our way of life.
There was no need for me to keep re-inventing the wheel. I just had to contribute to ensuring we make better choices.
So the question became: how do you make people care, and how do you get them to listen? How do you effectively communicate?
This lead me to exploring other avenues of being able to raise awareness about what I thought were urgent issues.
Thinking, somewhat naively, that many, listen to Hollywood actors, I trained as an actor, for 3 years at a British drama school.
Rehearsal shot from Generation Z or Uncertainty of a Scattered Mind. With Dominik Cicak (left) and Claire Wilson (right). London, UK 2017.
Pursuing that, came at a great personal cost. The acting industry really is one of the most emotionally exhausting industries you can work in. With great highs and abusive and exploitative lows.
Plus, in 2016, we all learnt the lesson: it doesn’t matter how many Hollywood stars campaign against you (see Trump). So maybe Hollywood acting after all, wasn’t going to be it.
So back to architecture it was, and now even more practitioners were working on urgent research and proposals — only for it to still be too far removed from daily conversations.
That return to architecture was preceded by the beginning of the pandemic and my return to Luxembourg.
And crucially a period that changed a lot for all of us: the lockdowns.
During the first lockdown I volunteered along with hundreds of others in the ‘Covid trenches’ at Luxexpo. Not being a doctor or a nurse, I helped with the onboarding of patients. Sometimes guiding them through the parking lot towards the reception, sometimes helping people sign in.
It was early pandemic days. People were scared, thousands were losing their lives to this new virus, and Italy was painted dark red on every map and every TV station you’d turn to.
Luxembourg being Luxembourg, back at Luxexpo, you never knew what language to speak, as people came in.
Car after car, they’d roll down the windows, I’d say Moien, and attempt my best to speak Luxembourgish with clearly scared seniors coming in for a test, and spoke mostly French or English with most non-Luxembourgish residents.
We had a wonderful picture from the entire medical and volunteer team on the day we took down the test centre at Luxexpo. But it was a polaroid and I can’t find it, so here’s a selfie of me on ‘Parking’ duty, that I sent to my mother on 4 June 2020.
The same happened inside Luxexpo, with medical staff and volunteers alike.
Some doctors only spoke English. Others only spoke French. None only spoke Luxembourgish. Nurses mostly spoke French. We communicated mostly in French, sometimes acting as translators.
The diversity of the people on the frontlines was striking. And welcome on my part. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride in seeing all these people of different nationalities, most of whom had lived in Luxembourg only for a fraction of the time I’d been here, responding to the call, and volunteering to show up for Luxembourg in this emergency.
I felt hopeful that our extremely diverse society can come together, work together and thrive together.
By then, life, and the internet, had already handed me an important lesson: if you want to change the world, start locally.
Now it had become clear to me what change I had to make. What change I had to contribute to.
On December 27th 2021, I started working on that change publicly.
Since, together with the help of the people who choose to follow me, we have built the most engaging news and politics profile on Instagram in Luxembourg, reaching more people every month than any media organisation in Luxembourg (with a big difference!).
I am not designing buildings, because the fundamental long-term problem in Luxembourg that few are working on is: social and political inclusion.
Whilst the political system continues to protect itself from outside interference while reaping all the rewards of this country’s diversity, the more recent generation of immigrants are being forced to get involved by the more challenging circumstances of settling into Luxembourg today.
A society as diverse as ours, of people who clearly are interested in and invested in Luxembourg, who want to become a bigger part of what this country is, and how it’s run, needs channels to enable this inclusion from occurring.
But whilst Luxembourg City magazine comes in 2 languages: French and English, because it wants to address the population; Whilst Covid letters for vaccination at home came in English, French, Portuguese, German and Luxembourgish: Our politics happens almost exclusively in Luxembourgish.
And if you really think people’s ‘investment’ in Luxembourg is defined only by whether they speak Luxembourgish or not: You clearly misunderstand our complex, multicultural and multiethnic society and our multilingual country.
I chose to learn Luxembourgish, and continue to learn and encourage its learning, but I will never blame or point the finger at anyone who doesn’t speak it.
For every person who chooses to make this country their home, I am thankful, and I respect you for learning any second language to communicate with others in Luxembourg.
I’ve lived as an immigrant my whole life. English is not my first, nor second language. Ορίστε η πρωτη μου γλώσσα, και celle-ci est ma deuxième. You don’t have to explain yourself for not learning a 4th or 5th language to satisfy a minority that is only looking for reasons to not accept you. At least not to me.
And so, to ensure more people are able to at least develop a greater understanding of our politics and social issues, I’ve been designing, and producing a show that will reach your screens and/or headphones soon.
To enable conversations in English, with political leaders, thought leaders and people of public interest in Luxembourg.
It’s a show that aims to include more people in our political decision-making, by giving a platform to the aforementioned people to address critical issues that concern all of us, in a language that more people understand.
Luxembourg does not only owe that to Luxembourgish society, we also owe it to Europe. We are a politically powerful player in European politics, and people outside Luxembourg seldom know our political leaders because of the language barrier.
We have been designing this show for the better part of this year, with limited resources, structuring and building a show that will have as positive an impact, as I hope it can have.
I hope you’ll join us for these Conversations, and I hope you will embrace the show — your engagement will determine whether I get to keep on making it.
Conversations with Christos will air its pilot in the next few weeks.
Archy (the dog) came into my life in 2018. I’ve been a happy Dog Dad ever since.