Against the Current

AKSL arhitekti, founded in 2000 by Aleš Košak and Špela Leskovic in Ljubljana, and AA Kultura, run by Marko Apollonio and Nina Crljenko in Koper since 2002, belong to the youngest generation of architects in Slovenia. Both agencies, however, are not so much characterized by vogue and exuberance, but more by a serious and critical attitude. About brain washing, identity and superstardom: GAT met Aleš Košak, Špela Leskovic and Marko Apollonio for an interview.

GAT: Dutch architecture critic Roemer van Toorn once observed that perfection plays an essential role in Slovenia. It seems that Slovenes, for instance, wash their cars more often than the average Europeans, and van Toorn has found that also in Slovene architecture there is a general tendency of trendyness and perfection. If I look around in AKSL’s office, everything is extremely clean and tidy. Is AKSL the perfect Slovenian office?
AKSL: Well, we could still be much more perfect. But one thing is true: our parents wash their cars every day. The way we work in our office, however, has more to do with our character than with trends. We like it tidy and well organized.
AA Kultura: For me things are completely different: I have no office. I hate offices. If you are in an office all day, you feel as if you are in prison. I work without any location in a network of different people – just like in a video game. Almost all my office equipment is in my car, because I found that I used to miss things just when I needed them. Now they are always at hand. Moreover, we are just arranging a café in the old town of Koper – with a glazed meeting room. Because usually, we also meet our clients in a café or in a restaurant.

GAT: For you, architecture is something public and hence has to be developed in the public space?
AA Kultura: Architecture is a process. A building is never built as it was designed. If it were, architecture would not be a process and the building would not have a soul, and would only be a part of the architect’s character. I believe that the more people are involved in a process, the better the outcome. Architecture is an interaction of different ideas, of investors, of architects, of the executing construction companies.

GAT: AKSL and AA Kultura belong to the most recent generation of Slovene architecture agencies. Unlike your colleagues who did postgraduate studies at the AA in London or at Rotterdam’s Berlage Institute, you remained for all your studies in Slovenia. Was this a deliberate decision?
AA Kultura: Yes, definitely – also against the mainstream. In architecture we work with space, culture, with the people’s culture. You cannot build for the people unless you work with them directly. Otherwise your buildings will always be satellites of your self, which have nothing to do with the site. For me, this is an interesting idea: if I ever built anywhere other than here, I would move there, in order to change my way of thinking.
AKSL: For us it was always clear that, after university, we would one day work as self-employed architects. We can do that very well without postgraduate studies, all the more so as postgraduate studies are nothing but working on your own. We know that we are interested in new things and that we want to know new things. Our idea is to grow by our common work as architects. Besides, the ideal moment to go abroad never came, since we have continuously been working on projects. What happens if you go abroad? You get to know new things, but you are not present on the Slovene architecture scene any more.

GAT: Are you already that busy?
AKSL: What we are rather trying to do now is to co-operate with other companies abroad via projects, e.g. with companies active in wood technology. Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland: with the Internet, that space has shrunk a great deal.

GAT: Nevertheless, couldn’t staying abroad be an opportunity for a reflection on your own work?
AKSL: This is an important aspect, but the question is: do I really need all these kilometres and the foreign language?
AA Kultura: I can travel around the world – or I can stay at home reading a book and developing my own ideas. I need nobody explain to me ideas, because this would mean indoctrination, brain washing, of which I am a bit afraid. I like to be free-minded.

AKSL: And with a free spirit we can also expect better results in architecture. The architectural output of colleagues who had studied abroad is new, but the projects resemble each other. Whereas if you search in yourself and in the things surrounding you, you will find unique answers and hence unique architectural forms. Not manifestos built in stone, that you heard about and which you reproduce. It is your own expression. This is what we appreciate most.
AA Kultura: Architecture is not a fashion. If you build something it will last a hundred years. If you build a manifesto, you run the risk of people not understanding you after some time, because they do not see the idea behind it any more. I have that problem with architecture: I hate architecture being thought of in a formal way.

GAT: Has your position got anything to do with the question of Slovene identity?
AKSL: Slovenia has always been a part of a greater entity; of Yugoslavia in the past, of the European Union today. Despite that, Slovenia has always existed. Even if its frontiers are open today, there is something that is unique in its way, and this uniqueness should be maintained. Because this uniqueness also makes Europe more interesting.
AA Kultura: The question of identity has always played an important role in Slovenia’s architecture. Plečnik already said: thoughts are international, action is local. Today there are two main architectural currents in Slovenia: the revolutionists, who are very strong and want to be present on the international scene, and the traditionalist, who do not care about such a presence. A third position can be useful in the future.

GAT: So you do not care about the international scene?
AA Kultura: One thing is sure: at the moment I do not think about it. I do not want to be a superstar.
AKSL: It also is of no use for the general public. Because as a superstar you are also a prisoner of capital. I do not say that architects must be poor – everybody must be paid for his work, but you must also be able to say no to an investor – at the risk of losing a job. Our supreme goal must be to communicate architecture, to show the clients new potentials. This would be an architect superstar in my eyes: somebody who is able to convince his client to dedicate his money for building something for the general public.Translation:
[Y'plus] Graz -

Fabian Wallmüller, talk


Mon 20/03/2006
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