Maruša Zorec: I'm always looking for assistants simply because I can't manage to do everything by myself. With my additional work at the faculty [Faculty of Architecture in Ljubljana – ed.], there are just too many tasks to complete. You need somebody to help you think things over, to talk to about them. Someone who will have doubts about your ideas and won't be shy of voicing them. So it would be almost impossible for me to work alone. Still, I am the one saddled with the burden of making the final decisions and it took me quite a while to get used to that.
The faculty and the office are in different locations. I start at the office in the morning, spend a couple of hours meeting people, etc. Then I move to the faculty and return to the office later in the afternoon unless I have to visit a site. It feels like a privilege to spend the whole day in the same spot. If you're looking for a good idea, you can't keep running around all the time. I believe good ideas come from behind a desk. They can pop up quickly but you still need to work on them in your head to get them going.
Maja Vardjan: It seems you are attracted by projects with a powerful physical context. Is this a deliberate decision or just a matter of intuition?
MZ: It's more of a coincidence, I would say. Perhaps it is a consequence of my previous work in Vojteh Ravnikar's office where context was the alpha and omega. Nowadays it comes naturally. I still believe in context, well, to a certain extent. By coincidence, I became involved in projects for objects with significant historical or contextual meaning. In such cases you need to consider your ideas and actions even more carefully. This is the kind of challenge I enjoy. I don't go looking for tenders with 'context', rather a particular context will attract me. If I'm free, I'll try to do it.
MV: Do you have a specific working method?
MZ: Sketches and models. A model of the object has to be made very early on or not at all. Obviously, you also need to get as much information as possible, but I couldn't say I have a particular system. The parameters that are important to me require a lot of knowledge about the subject before they can be processed on the computer.
MV: What are those parameters?
MZ: Space and light. This is where a model is so useful. You can light it and see whether the effect is right or not.
When working with an old structure, the key is to identify the logic of its creation, the concept of the house as it was meant to be. Once you read it correctly, you are in a position to add a new concept based on modernist parameters. A fluid space, open space, transparent glass surfaces, the interconnection of interior and exterior space. In my architectural perception there are no boundaries between outside and inside. The old, on the other hand, is like a closed core disconnected from its surroundings. These are the two opposite poles. It is important to understand them both and explore the possibility of establishing a link between them. You need to create a clear concept that can represent the object as a new entity.
MV: You are in favour of dematerialization of architecture.
MZ: For me, this dematerialization process began in Ravne. We didn't erect new buildings, we stripped the existing ones. It was an inverse process. Things are even more complex in Maribor. We are not even digging, we are reconstructing space. I am more interested in this space than the final look of the building.
[Nature] is wonderful. It has all these structures and power rarely matched in architecture. It does not happen very often that I am touched by architecture in the same way I am touched by nature. Of course, I can feel overwhelmed by urban views, too. However, nature does it with such ease.
MV: In contemporary work, nature is often used as decor.
MZ: Yes. But it doesn't always feel right; it can be quite forced and unnatural sometimes. If a scene is urban, leave it that way. What is so fascinating about nature is its endless dimensions and self-evidence. It just is the way it is, you mustn't take its freedom away. It is the same with architecture. You can't lose yourself in fragments. Even a place without any greenery can breathe if the concept is right. Architecture can allow you freedom in the same way nature can.
Mostly we draw and complete things ourselves. I am not into over-aestheticizing the details. There are too many details in contemporary architecture today. Architects want a really simple result yet this is also very demanding. This is why the 1960s are so important to me. It was a period when a house would be built without hiding anything. It was honest, open. We seem to have forgotten how to work like that.
Architecture is photographed too much these days. It's like going to the studio and having your portrait taken in front of a backdrop. I prefer candid photos. You don't need to know your picture is being taken for the photo to be excellent. The same goes for buildings. I wanted the pictures of the Ravne library to be taken with people inside it. I wanted to tell a real story about this place, not just take some glamorous shots of it from extravagant angles.
MV: What is your position within the Slovenian architects' circle?
MZ: My position? I have never tried to achieve one and I don't think I have one. I need to feel right and to believe in what I do. I want to trust my intuition; I want to enjoy myself in certain surroundings. I get along well with my colleagues. The atmosphere here in Slovenia is very constructive at the moment. I hope this will result in good ideas and projects.