From Inside Option Studio Heads Out to Zagreb
Visiting assistant professor of architecture Saša Begović and Visiting Critic Danica Selem traveled to Zagreb, Croatia, this fall with their option studio titled From Inside: Interior Urbanism and Adaptive Reuse. According to Begović and Selem, "A project is a work that begins from the interior of the space — the existing condition makes its own rules and regulations." With this in mind, the faculty and 12 students visited their site — an assembly of vacant state rail buildings situated in the center of the city — where they documented its current condition and drew from what they found there. In total, the group spent seven days exploring Zagreb's architecture, culture, and complex history of urban development.
The 19th-century railway site has only recently opened for public access and is particularly unique for its location between two distinct moments in the history of the city's urban development. Along one edge, the influence of the Central European Austro-Hungarian Empire can be found, while along the opposite boundary there is an entirely different view of Zagreb — one that echoes the recognizable aspirations of late modernism's Functional City. The studio's central interest, one which values historical context, required an itinerary that balanced site visits with a number of tours and lectures so that students could gain a deeper understanding of the cultural life of the city in a relatively short period of time. The class toured parts of Zagreb that were developed in different periods and for different people or purposes, and visited recent projects that demonstrated current approaches to renovation and adaptive reuse, including a few of Begović's own architectural projects.
"The studio emphasizes the importance of using local resources and existing conditions to illuminate possibilities and potential, and to transform the site so that it can become a relevant and important part of Zagreb's developing urban center," commented Begović, who is founding principle of 3LHD, a Zagreb-based architecture firm that is internationally recognized for projects that interact with landscapes, artistic works, and other built forms.
Begović and Selem organized a series of lectures in partnership with Mia Roth, professor and vice dean at the Department of Architecture at the University of Zagreb where Selem studied prior to receiving a master of architecture from The Pratt Institute. Lectures included Professor Karin Šerman's discussion of the history of Croatia's development as it was displayed at the 2014 Venice Biennale of Architecture, a joint lecture by Begović and his colleague Zorana Protić on renovation and reuse practices in Zagreb, and a talk by Nikola Radeljković on the international scope of the Zagreb-based Numen/ForUse design collective's projects, among others. The studio's itinerary also included highlights such as a lecture at the Museum of Contemporary Art by prominent theorist Bruno Latour and a day trip to Rijeka, a port city on the Adriatic, where the group was hosted by architect Idis Turato.
Students who traveled to Zagreb this fall include Christopher Andras (B.Arch. '18), Kiril Bejoulev (B.Arch. '19), Fabiana Berenguer Gil (B.Arch. '19), Alexandra Donovan (B.Arch. '18), Catherine Ely (B.Arch. '18), Justin Foo (B.Arch. '18), Gregory Keller (B.Arch. '19), Chul-Min Lee (M.Arch.II '18), Benjamin Mayne (B.Arch. '18), Sean Steed (B.Arch. '18), Alisa Tiong (B.Arch. '18), and Tianjun Xu (M.Arch.II '18).
Upon their return to Ithaca, students synthesized the contextual information they gathered on the trip with their studio projects. "Our week in Croatia was everything I wanted it to be," said Gil (B.Arch. '19) "The trip inspired me. Meeting such intelligent, kind, and accomplished people like Idis Turato and Karin Šerman made me excited not only to design something for Zagreb but also to become a part of the greater architecture community. The city is really special, and our site has the potential to play a major role in its dynamic."
By Edith Fikes