Ena Kukić and Dinko Jelečević ⎥ 21.3.2021
Design for Socializing and Emancipation of Workers
We designed some of our favorite projects for Bihać – so we were delighted at the invitation of Irfan Hošić in late summer 2018 to make a conceptual project for the revitalization of the former workers’ club of Kombiteks in KRAK, Center for Contemporary Culture. The invitation came after we won the first place in the international competition for the transformation of water towers in Hatinac and a similar typology of the facility convinced the Revizor Foundation that we will know how to rebuild the KRAK facility. More than the opportunity for the architectural design, we enjoyed working on a building that served to socialize and emancipate workers in Yugoslavia, a typology almost extinct and unhappily translated into today's corporate team-buildings, office bean bags and other neoliberal illusions of lack of hierarchy. The opportunity for some new spaces of freedom in Bihać was before us!
Like many other participants in this project, we did our part of the work without any compensation. In a country where architectural work is certainly inadequately financially compensated and often perceived as redundant, we were pleased to be paid for our project with incredible positive energy and hope for a better tomorrow, as well as a clearer view of yesterday.
After several months of researching the rich history of the facility, designing and creating project documentation, KRAK got its form and function in digital form. Our approach was based on valorizing and rehabilitating important historical elements and shaping a new architectural identity that emphasizes valuable parts and compliments them with new ones. The Foundation accepted our ideas and arguments, we agreed upon many details, and the conceptual design was completed. Aware of the financial challenges that separated KRAK from full renovation, we tried to present the project to the architectural and urban public of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the region by applying for the annual national Collegium Artisticum award exhibition. An international jury consisting of architects Aljoša Dekleva, Adnan Harambašić and Grozdana Šišović decided to award our KRAK project with the recognition for the best idea, explaining its decision with the words: "As the KRAK project shows us, it is not just about reusing mere physical structures, but also about preserving and inheriting the collective memory of certain buildings, programs, or places. The project is conceptually thorough and aesthetically skilled, but above all it assures us that we can trust interdisciplinary teams of young artists to constantly promote values for a better society.”1
After us, the work on rebuilding of KRAK was taken over by the local company Euroing – we made all the documentation of the preliminary design available to their employees. After a year and a half, KRAK is largely built and functional, and we are very happy to see in it the activities for which we accepted Irfan's invitation two years ago. What saddens us is that the constructed building deviates in many elements from the appearance of our conceptual design. It is a common regressive phenomenon in our country, and it occurs as a result of systematic disrespect for authorship and lack of communication. In the design, the conceptual solution is elaborated and presented in detail and, in accordance with the possibilities of the market, budget and performance, compromises are made – in cooperation with the authors. Unfortunately, this cooperation was not as good as it should have been, which resulted in a hybrid project that degraded the values of the conceptual design recognized not only by investors, but also by the international architectural scene. Respecting the work that Euroing colleagues have invested in this project, we decided to highlight this issue publicly and appeal to the author teams of all future projects not to refrain from practicing the basic ethical principles of our vocation. It is especially ungrateful to criticize Euroing knowing that they also did their part of the project documentation for free, but knowing that with a little more communication and respect for authorship a more successful and ethical result could be achieved, we hope that the practice will change in the future. Recognizing the identity of KRAK as a “critically intoned incubator”2, we use the platform to present this unequivocal critique.
The possibility of creation of progressive and egalitarian spaces is a rare opportunity for architects in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where, unfortunately, the reality of most of our colleagues is the work of decorators and suppliers. For that reason, the previous paragraph is not only a regret for a happier chosen type of window frames or the type and color of wood that makes the interior identity, respect for proportions and spatial harmony and similar details, but a regret for a more fruitful, successful and equal cooperation. Apart from regrets, we are left with sincere joy because of the new function of KRAK, because of which we collaborated on the project, and hope that we will soon visit it and enjoy the space of freedom that – partly – was created by our hand.
Ena Kukić and Dinko Jelečević, view at the reception, visualisation, Graz 2018. (Design: Dinko Jelečević and Ena Kukić)
„CA 2019 nagrada za ideju – Centar za savremenu umjetnost KRAK”, in: Asocijacija arhitekata u Bosni i Hercegovini. https://aabh.ba/ca-2019-nagrada-za-ideju-centar-za-savremenu-umjetnost-krak/ (Last Retrieved: 17.12.2020.).
„KRAK“, in: Fondacija Revizor. http://www.fondacijarevizor.org/sadrzaj/krak/14 (Last Retrieved: 17.12.2020.).