We recently visited Proarh in Zagreb, one of Croatia’s leading architectural firms. The firm was founded by Davor Mateković in 1993 and has completed many notable projects. There we spoke for an hour and a half with Vedrana Jančić about their projects and about local architecture. She has been involved in many projects as a project architect for 15 years.
Villa on an island
Davor Mateković, a Croatian architect, gained recognition after designing a unique straw house that captivated the architectural community in Croatia. The Proarh-designed Villa “Issa Megaron” on the island of Vis has also received much international recognition. It is a villa seamlessly embedded in the existing landscape. Remarkably, Mateković integrated regional cultural identities materialized by straw, stone and concrete.
In Proarh’s work, a few contingent concepts can be discerned: continuity, communication and context. You can think of them as a framework for analyzing Mateković’s architecture. Continuity refers to preserving national cultural resistance and protecting identity, which Mateković achieves through his architectural production. Architecture, as a communicative medium, tells its own abstract heritage and describes itself. Mateković’s architecture embodies this narrative character, effectively balancing abstract and figurative elements. His designs transcend lavish trends in architecture that ignore the needs of people and the environment.
Mateković’s architecture demonstrates his ability to assimilate global influences into the local Croatian context. It demonstrates a deep understanding of the site and its cultural significance. Each site has specific characteristics that the architecture should relate to. The landscape, the climate, the culture, the historical context and also the spirit of a place you take into consideration as an architect. And each location requires a unique approach. For example, there is the aforementioned villa on Vis Island that intertwines with the landscape. Then there is another villa on the Dalmatian coast that establishes a relationship with its surroundings by, on the contrary, completely detaching itself from it physically. Two totally different spatial concepts but both appropriate for their own specific location.
Mateković’s opus represents a successful blend of national culture, modernity and openness to the global architectural scene. His work is an authentic representation of Croatian architecture, detached from academic precepts and design clichés. By advocating the culture of a specific community, Mateković’s architecture emphasizes that there is a contemporary, local architecture to pursue in Croatia.