Interviewed in Zagreb 16 December 2010
Studio UP burst onto the Croatian and international scenes like a comet. The first built work, the High School and Sports Hall in Koprivnica, the outcome of their having won an open competition, launched them into the orbit of the global investigative orientation in architecture. This was confirmed by the Mies van der Rohe Award for the best emerging European architects. All the projects by Studio UP that followed have manifested the same level of freshness, innovativeness, and sincerity, which is certainly influenced by the working policy of the office. For although Studio UP is the project of Lea Pelivan and Tomo Pleić, their commitment to employing and engaging exclusively the youngest generations of Croatian architects makes this practice an especially credible representative of the current capacity of the Croatian local architectural scene. If we want to talk about “the new Croatian architecture,” then Studio UP is the leader here and perhaps the only representative with any more extensive practice, combining, in an intellectual sense, the experiences of the local modern tradition and developments in the international arena.
ORIS: Your careers are to some extent atypical: while still very young architects you won the competition for the High School and the sports hall in Koprivnica. You realized this project and won the Mies van der Rohe Award for the best emerging architects. Just how important a moment was that in your work?
Pelivan: It was important. At that time, Croatia was not even in the circle of countries going in for the award, and we were youthfully ambitious, unburdened; we did not count on it, and were shocked at the invitation from our friend Diana Gray, a coordinator of the award, it had not even occurred to us. When we entered the selection of works from 40 countries, we did not register it much. It was a great recognition to us, but again, even after receiving such a recognition, one is supposed to continue as freshly as before. Perhaps we are calmer and perhaps we have obtained additional self-confidence. We are glad to have the honour of being the first from Croatia; we hope we will not be the last.