Crystal Talk
Text: Peter ZöchPhotos: Miran Kambič, Matevž Paternoster


profile dekleva gregorič arhitekti
kraus schönberg

Prizes such as the International Architecture Award 2009 from the Chicago Athenaeum Museum or the “Europe 40 under 40 Award” for young, upcoming architects are nothing new for dekleva gregoric arhitekti, nor the attention that comes with them. They recently received two other awards: for the metal recycling plant in Pivka, Slovenia and the Pertot bathroom showroom in Trieste. At first sight these projects might have little in common. But they share the same approach and design strategy.”Challenging the obvious” is the motto embraced by Tina Gregoric and Aljoša Dekleva and is applied to object design, buildings and urban planning concepts alike: The space to be designed is dissected, structured and shaped – generally on a model; the context is analyzed, its boundaries explored; imaginary users are devised and materials tested. They themselves often joke about their investigative and systematic, at times pragmatic approach. “Our buildings have to be smart, but naturally we also want them to be attractive.”

Tina Gregoric won competitions and realized her first such projects while she was still studying in Ljubljana. Aljoša Dekleva, a graduate of the same architecture faculty was a partner at Enota, another young, Slovenian architect’s office. Together the couple went to London to the Architectural Association (AA). They completed their studies with a project that attracted international acclaim “Negotiate my boundary!” – a study of individuality, participation and mass production in house construction. Staying in London was a definite option for them. But they both wanted to build and Slovenia offered and still offers good opportunities for young architects to realize their own ideas. In 2003, they decided to establish their own office, and chose the relatively small Ljubljana as their base: Trieste and the Adriatic coast are just an hour away, the Balkan not much farther; Venice, Zurich, Munich and Vienna are within striking distance. A whole wealth of differing cultural influences.

Their office is just a few minutes away from downtown Ljubljana, where the city’s most famous citizen, Jože Plecnik, left his traces amongst other things in the Three Bridges and the covered market halls. Around the corner is the Miklošic Park designed by another famous local architect: Max Fabiani designed the square and model building after the 1895 earthquake.

Tina Gregoric and Aljoša Dekleva do not want their office to expand at all costs, and have kept their team a manageable size. They would rather turn down a job than be obliged to take on a not so interesting project for financial reasons Their very first building, the XXS House not only filled the pages of international architecture magazines, but also demonstrated the architects‘ tenacity in getting their ideas accepted and realizing their plans. The unusual weekend house in the city for a couple from the country is in Krakovo, a listed medieval fishermen’s village in the heart of Ljubljana. The purist design met with opposition from the authorities. The architects had to go to the highest authority, in this case the responsible ministry to get the project accepted. They succeeded.

Some 80 percent of the contracts of dekleva gregoric stem from open competitions. At present they and their seven staffers are working on several of projects at different realization phases. There is the university campus in the coastal town Izola, a residential project with just under 200 apartments in downtown Ljubljana, or the master plan for a onetime tobacco factory. The already completed residential project L in Sezana was also the result of a competition. As project developers they reinterpret the traditional settlement models in a model that sets a counterpoint to an uncontrolled, omnipresent overdevelopment: an ambitious project.