It is an honour for us to announce that professor Hrvoje Njiriç has already confirmed his participation at MCH 2018, leading one of the international workshops.
Born in Zagreb in 1960 and graduated from the Architectural Faculty of the University of Zagreb (1986), Hrvoje Njiriç went tetween 1979 and 1986 into a partnership with Helena Njiric in Zagreb and Graz. He has been Visiting Professor at the TU Graz, Austria, the AF Ljubljana, the Facolta di Architettura, Ferrara, Italy and at the ETSAM Madrid. He also was professor and head of the Institute for Architectural Typologies and Housing at the TU Graz (successor of Guenther Domenig).
If you want to read more about his way of understanding collective housing, we invite you to read this interview, that Nieves Mestre, her assistant professor during MCH 2017, had with him during his last stay in Madrid.
NM: Could you briefly introduce yourself and tell us why did you decide to join this MCH adventure?
HN: Thank you very much for your warm welcome. My name is Hrvoje Njiriç, I’m an architect in Croatia and professor in Split (it’s my regular job there), I do quite a number of workshops all over the place in the last years. So being a part of this MCH family is a special honour for me. I do it for almost 7 years now, or maybe even more, and I always regarded it to be a kind of very special seminar with, on the one hand side, very gifted students, on the other hand side, the possibility to tackle the themes which are not always coming in such workshops. So, generally speaking, it is always a kind of a challenge, not only for the students, but I think also for the professors, to have this sort of interaction and exchange of ideas and thoughts, and achievements in architecture.
NM: You proposed our students to reflect on 1950’ Disney “urbanism” applied to the historic site of IV Century Diocletian Palace at Split. What kind of debate do you expect to provoke within the field of collective housing tradition?
HN: Well, you know, I already have a lot of experience dealing with MCH students, and I know that there is a number of professors who are dealing with other themes, so specially in this moment, where our workshop is the last one, I somehow dare to put a theme which is more complex that normally for our students here, which already accomplished these basics of architecture, these ones in housing, so I thought that maybe we can learn a bit more. A bit more about the discourse, a bit more about the context, a bit more about contemporaneity of architecture as such, so this is why I decided to add this extra flavour. On the one hand side, by choosing the Diocletian Palace as a historic monument from the third century, to be a kind of a very demanding context for students to fit in with their houses and at the same time, to see how the city of Split withstands the inevitable process of Disneyfication and how much we can derive out of this Disney phenomenon, how many issues can we translate into a kind of architectural agenda, which can become a kind of a discourse for the students. That is to say, not only to deal with housing as such, but to add this extra added value that would somehow complement these basics and lead the students to a bit more comprehensive, a bit more complex idea of architecture in general.
NM: I belong to a generation of architects that profoundly admire your astonishing works before 2000’, being at a time a novel pragmatism and also as you defined it, a metabalcanic folk. How would you describe Njiric evolution after the century shift?
HN: Well, you know, as in every office, or by every person, the time changes. In the 90’s there was a lot of idealism, there were a lot of competitions of international level, such as Europan and some others, which somehow justified themselves in stimulating new ideas and concepts. At the beginning of this century or millennium, the situation in Croatia became much more favourable in terms of construction, so we were shifting from this idealistic view into a more pragmatic building actions in the beginning of 2000’s, but due to the crisis, we had to switch to some other issues, which of course had to be reflected also within the times that we are operating, such as sustainability. So this became a kind of an extra interest of us and we pursued these things since let’s say 2010, to see how buildings perform and how we as architects can contribute in lowering the carbon footprint and all other things related to ecology and sustainability as such.
NM: How is the ecological imperative challenging your work?
HN: It is challenging our work quite significantly. We did a number of competitions with sustainability in mind and I would like also to offer a kind of interpretation: that sustainability is not only about energy, it is not only about ecology, it is also about social issues, cultural issues, economical issues… so we should somehow as architects accomplish the responsibility to deal on all these levels and to see how our works perform on all these criteria, that we find important nowadays. The special feature that we are trying to pursue is in urban planning. There are not so many architects or urban planners around the world who tackle the issues of sustainability on that greater level, so we think that there is a big chance just by understanding that the territory is much bigger that the house itself. All these criteria, all these techniques that we apply, might have much more impact on a bigger territory. So this became a kind of a special issue in our work and approach to sustainability, to see how they perform in an urban environment.
NM: What does Collective Housing mean in your work?
HN: Collective Housing is very important. We did a lot of projects, built a bit less houses, but still for every architect I think that housing represents a big percentage of his own work. So I think that deepening the knowledge in that domain makes sense for everyone. The previous editions of MCH have shown that the participants were able to go back home and to exercise these things learnt here, to the benefit of their own and of their country. So I think it is an unique master which offers those basics on a very high level, no doubt that people interested in enrolling the program somehow will get the full benefit out of it.
NM: How can you help MCH participants to improve their skills in this field?
HN: Everyone of the professors invited has his own agenda. The nice thing about that is that we are all so different, specially this newest development introducing ETH as a partner, offered this sort of dichotomy between, I would say, the pragmatism and the ways that leads to a building, with more let’s say poetic, conceptual views, offered by some other professors who are not belonging to this Swiss tradition. So I think that this dualism between the two offers a nice spectrum of ideas, challenges, motives, approaches… to this special field of sustainable and residential architecture. Students now have a much better scope of the whole process.
NM: In your opinion, what makes MCH special?
HN: I think that it really is a special program. One the one hand side it has a superb organization and superb possibilities for development. On the other hand side, the list of professors and the change of the professors during the time also offers always a kind of a top notch approach in the field. It is very motivating for students to have the chance to speak directly, not ex-catedra, but directly to all these people who are really advantageous in this profession, and as far as I know, everyone who comes here is motivated to show their best in this very compressed week. I hope that the students feel that, that they see the energy and passion and they somehow respond to that with their nice projects.