After the period characterised by the boom of construction and architectural competitions, which was ended by the economic crisis in the early 2010s, a generation of architects has matured in Croatia that started their practises at the peak of the recession. Their activity reflects the uncertainty of realisation, focus on small-scale projects, economical solutions and horizontally organised team work. This generation, increasingly visible in the contemporary architectural production, includes SODAA architectural studio, initiated in Zagreb in 2010 under the name SODAarchitects. The team of ten members has realised a series of regionally recognised projects in the recent years. We discussed their development through the ARCHIsquad organisation, important competitions, realisations and the current projects with their founder Vedran Jukić.
ORIS: Your activities in the public sphere began back in 2005 when, in collaboration with Ana Dana Beroš, Ana Boljar and Mirna Horvat, you founded ARCHIsquad, an organization of young architects whose work focused on social engagement in architecture. What were the motives for this type of architectural activity?
VEDRAN JUKIĆ: In 2005, as a student, I spent three weeks in Tanzania. There I met a missionary who communicated to me the need to build a small hospital near the Ngorongoro Conservation Area. Upon our return, we started working on this project and founded ARCHIsquad – The Guerrilla Team for Committed Architecture. We found social commitment in architecture very interesting and tried to use our knowledge and skills to help those in need. We did a few more projects, including the Youth Social Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, for which we received special recognition at the 2007 AMD Open Architecture Challenge, a large international design competition. In the coming years, we fell into the trap of fund raising. Although we managed to connect with the German Architects Without Borders and secure financing for our construction in Tanzania, we were pretty exhausted and concluded that our contribution to that cause was negligible. We then decided to shift our focus to Croatian soil and education. In 2007 and 2008, during the construction hyper production of that time, we recognized the need for organising a cycle of lectures (Out of Focus: Architecture of Giving) that would present the work of architects who contemplated architecture in a manner that was close to our own practice. We brought some very inspiring people to the Faculty of Architecture in Zagreb, such as Diébédo Francis Kéré, Jean-Philippe Vassal, and Jason Coomes of Rural Studio. As we wanted to continue with practical work as well, we focused on the local community and launched the Emergency Architecture project where we provided people with pro bono help in the functional organization of their homes.