Atmosphere Above Form

architect Smiljan Radić
interviewed by Vera Grimmer


Interviewed in London on 25 March 2015


The world of Smiljan Radić is based on the duality of its parts. In a consistently realised art concept he combines elements that do not naturally go together, elements which come from different areas and different times. This results in the new flow of time and new, completely authentic
forms. One of his main goals is creating atmosphere by using characteristics of the materials, such as weight, density and fragility, as well as immaterial means based on the psychological effects of all factors which are built into his architecture and installations. He sometimes wants to facilitate retreat to a peaceful shelter and at other times he uses architectural means to intensify movements and contacts. Radić’s activities have characteristics of research. With time, his numerous art installations are transposed to realised buildings.


ORIS: We could begin our conversation in a chronological order, but I would like to do it the other way around and begin with your new work – the Yungay Centre for the Performing Arts. I think that we can find some characteristics of your older works there. There is the important issue of
how to maintain the poetics and the personal strategies from the early work later on in a career of an architect when he gets to work in a bigger scale. Today it is hard to imagine that the architect of Villa dall’Ava or the Maison Bordeaux is now building the Seattle Library or the cctv Headquarters in Beijing. But with you it is different; for example, in Yungay we can find the idea of a circus tent, which is in fact one of your early interests.


Smiljan Radić: I don’t think it is too difficult to maintain ideas because you always have just one artistic concept, you can’t have too many – or I can’t. For example, Yungay is really expressive because the tent is real; it is a circus tent that we bought, that was hand-crafted. It
is a popular circus that you can find along the coast in Chile. They normally travel between September and April each year. During the winter, they stop and do other activities. What is more important than the circus is that at the base of the building we made a real and stable room for performance, happenings, dance, etc. – a new space for that kind of activities, and we placed this element that is popular and hand-crafted on the top. This is a contraposition, more or less the same as the stones in other projects; it is the same idea. Through contraposition you can get a part of the history of architecture that we don’t have in Chile; you can get a sense of time. It works in Yungay because we were not allowed to build at the top of the building; we could have just done something ephemeral there and for that we chose this tent. More than a real conceptual way of thinking about things, we need something that is easy to understand.