Christ J. Kamages, AIA builds faith. Architecture is spiritual work for him. This began at 14 years of age. The deep Christian Orthodox traditions of the Kamages family led Christ to consider a career in the priesthood. But an apprenticeship with Christopher Kantianis, AIA in Boston in the 1960’s exposed him to architecture, design, and Byzantine theories and styles. An MIT science fair award for Byzantine Architecture, where he elegantly demonstrated how to place a round dome on a square base, permanently sealed his career and life mission.
Kamages became immersed in the Rationalist School of the 1960’s with undergraduate work at the Boston Architectural Center where he was exposed to the design methods and process architecture of Walter Kroner.
Community work in architecture arose from Master’s studies at the State University of New York at Buffalo, where he was deeply involved with the Buffalo Organization for Social and Technological Innovation, begun by John Paul Eberhard, FAIA and Michael Brill, and Building Science Incorporated, another brainchild of Eberhard. The “Buffalo Experiments”, as they were known, created a visionary design methods group which held architects responsible to serve civilization by concentrating on user needs and hands-on work with clients. Christ Kamages went on to teach at SUNY-Buffalo in the 1970’s.
He has since become a guiding force as principal in a series of architecture firms. First of all at Cannon Design, Inc. Grand Island NY & Boston MA, where he further developed the strong relationship between traditional practice, applied process, and community participation. The 1980’s saw Kamages move to San Francisco, where his tenure at The Ehrenkrantz Group in San Francisco reinforced the process and methods foundation for design and also expanded the community focus with successful civic projects, like the Pasadena Police Department Building, designed with Robert A Stern, FAIA and Ezra Ehrenkrantz, FAIA, which won an AIA Architecture in Justice Award for 2002. Kamages acquired the firm and changed the name to EKONA Architecture and Planning, and expanded his work to church projects. The firm has today become CJK Design Group, with multi-million dollar projects throughout the US.
Christ Kamages has truly advanced the profession of architecture by achieving that synthesis between the rational/analytical aspects of building design and the emotional/ cultural forces of community interaction in the design and construction process. This has led to overwhelming success in working with hundreds of Orthodox communities to inspire them with his passion for a rebirth of the true Eastern spirit where traditional church sacred space is essential and vital to community life. He collaborated with the late V. Rev. Leonidas Contas on the publication of Ecclesia, A Facilities and Artifacts Handbook, a guide to church communities to help them better understand the planning and design process. For Kamages, “Architecture is a verb, not a noun,” aimed at involving people in transformative space. “What’s lacking in society is a sense of community, faith, and spirituality. All the great buildings manifest some kind of community purpose.” Kamages goal is “holistic architecture” which combines creativity, strategic thinking and research to create individual buildings and special spaces of memory and distinction which make a difference to the users and also the casual observer.
Christ Kamages has gone on to develop unique church temple designs such as the Axios, an expandable prototype for growing mission parishes, and the copyrighted Triad design, which uses the beautiful Byzantine principles while optimizing the seating capacity, sight lines, and programmatic functions of an Orthodox church.
In a moving ceremony in Constantinople in 2000, Patriarch Bartholomew inducted Kamages as an Archon Architekton, the first in history to bear this title, as recognition of his efforts in Ecclesiastical architecture, a befitting title for a person who has been designing churches for almost 40 years. His church projects have become landmarks and have consistently garnered awards and extensive press coverage.