Interviewed in Pula 25 June 2011
The role of architect in today’s society is totally devalued. I believe that this also results from the prices of design documentation, which amount to several per cent of the total investment. Architects are reduced to mere decorators of defined spatial provisions. With their apolitical feature and due to their lack of interest in the real situation in the community, they are brought to the very margins of society.
The activism of a group of young architects from Pula tells us and teaches us that the profession of architect is a very important component of today’s society. Without it, even the tiniest square metre of a city space and landscape cannot be and should not be observed. Pula, as a ‘military town’ historically, has left us a heritage in the form of thousands of square metres of Austro-Hungarian and Yugoslav Army barracks. Having such unused space in the town itself, the first task of the Pula Group was to figure out how to put it into the service of the citizens. In time, their work extended to the broader area of towns in Croatia, as well as in the Mediterranean.
By establishing the architectural cooperative Practice, they attempt to come to terms with the turbulent times of architectural practice that are before us, with post-transition and always ‘hungry’ liberal capitalism.
ORIS: It is interesting that you chose Katarina as the setting for this interview, the abandoned submarine military base where the Pula Group’s activities first started. Can you describe how it all began and what the project of the Katarina students’ workshop that happened in 2006 was all about?
Pulska Grupa: Here are three witnesses of how it all began. It all started when we were still students; there were only four of us. We were developing an almost identical interest in this area. At the same time, as the army started to leave this area, more or less real interests started to emerge in the political sphere and among investors. Our intention was, instead of mere opposition to these projects and primarily the Brijuni Riviera project, to invite outside experts, collaborators, students and friends to suggest methods of operation for this area. And so, the workshop Katarina 06 was organized and students from three faculties were invited: Zagreb, Venice, and Ljubljana. In May 2006, we carried out this one-week workshop and local architects, planners, experts, citizens and so on participated. Naturally, it was preceded by a poll, which means that we invested quite extensive efforts, primarily on a voluntary basis: we were led by enthusiasm. Eventually, the product was summarized in the book Katarina 06, published by Upi-2m.