Interviewed in Zagreb, March 18th 2005
Nikola Popić was born in Opuzen on 21 January 1952. He studied at the Faculty of Architecture of the University of Zagreb, where he was influenced by Neven Šegvić and Josip Vaništa. After graduating in 1981, he worked first in Zagreb and then in Split, where he founded Architectural Workshop 213 in 2000. His notable works are set in Mediterranean landscapes, combining simple materials, geometrically terse forms, and a feeling for an austere, almost archaic kind of architecture. His constructions are both contextual and contemporary, self-effacing and convincing, always authentic.
ORIS: Your Brač projects seem to indicate a specific kind of context. At first glance, your projects look radical, since you use raw concrete and clean geometric shapes, and they seem outside the “spirit of the place”, as postmodernists would say. On second viewing, however, one sees the opposite: they are in harmony with their surroundings and nature. As if there were an organic link between the materials you use and the essence of the given space and context.
Popić: As a young architect, I always wondered how to make tradition-based modern architecture and not just talk about it. It seemed possible, but how? I spent a long time learning about traditional architecture to understand it completely and move on. A house entwined with nature - this is close to my heart, this is what I was striving for. When you look at the Dimov house from the sea, the colour of raw concrete reminds you of weathered stones, and both materials make for a fine compact volume. My approach was influenced by Ivo Radić, my favourite architect from Split. We get together occasionally, and he has a very simple and clear way of explaining his architecture. His works are always very rational, maybe because of his Brač roots. Quite some time ago, he started covering façades with flat asbestos cement sheets, another material that has a similar colour as naturally weathered stones.