Studio UP was formed in 2003, quickly garnering an international reputation for their 2003 competition winning scheme for a hybrid high school and sports hall building in Koprivnica, Croatia. That project was also acknowledged in Croatia, at the 2003 Zagreb Salon, curated by Stefano Boeri, and finally at the 2007 Mies van der Rohe Award for European Architecture with the Emerging Architect Special Mention award. I have had the opportunity to follow the development of this unique design practice for the last two decades, through a series of articles and interviews analysing their developing design methodology. In a recent interview for the Journal of Architectural Education, part of a special issue on the topic of the Built which will be published in early 2021, Studio UP further elaborated on their own understanding of how they organize their own work. Despite of a growing portfolio of built projects and the deep skill set they evoked, Studio UP articulated their desire to approach each project anew, as if they were still those recent graduates from 2001 who dared to approach the Koprivnica competition with no fear and fresh eyes. While they discussed numerous strategies for practicing this blackout mode of design, one of the most intriguing was their conscious collaboration with other disciplines, particularly artists, as a way of challenging their own presumptions during the project as well as being exposed to a different way of seeing and creating. This broader discussion encouraged us to present a series of recent Studio UP projects through a discussion with one of their frequent collaborators, artist Silvio Vujičić.
Ivan Rupnik: You have collaborated with a number of artists and designers over the last two decades. In order to better understand your evolving design methodology and the context within which you work, it seems interesting to focus on a series of projects you have worked on with Silvio Vujičić. What drew you to this collaboration in the first place? What were some of the highlights?
Studio UP: We enjoy collaborating with others, we often work with Damir Gamulin, and we have also worked with inmates, our former teachers, students, artists, designers and ambitious clients. Contemporary briefs often transcend the possibilities of a renaissance man; Bruce Mau calls it the Renaissance Team. We like changing positions, breaking the silence. For instance, we collaborated with political prisoners on the retroactive master plan of Goli otok, based on the collective memory mental map of the survivors, and with Silvio, we did a master plan for a futuristic city inspired by fictional scenes. A continuous dialog with Silvio began a long time ago, in the summer of 2004. We met literally on the floor, in Venice, on the occasion of the opening ceremony of Frameworks, a pulsating, glass, thirty-ton passage machine (see Oris no. 30). We liked Silvio’s singular way of thinking. We started spending time together, our studios were located at the same address for a while, and so we spontaneously started collaborating. So far, in our collaboration with Silvio, we tackled various projects such as master plans, photo-shooting performances and the User’s Manual publication.