Architect in Profile

After attending South Bank University, completing her Masters at The Bartlett and eventually submitting her PhD, Margot Krasojević went on to work at the offices of Zaha Hadid, NOX, Morphosis and Michael Squire. Fast-forward to 2020, and she has two architecture design studios in London and Beijing. Here, FC&A talks to Margot about her career and finds out what inspired her to take the architectural route.

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Margot Krasojević

is the Founder of Margot Krasojević Architecture

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Upon completion of my education, I ran architecture design studios at The Bartlett, University of Greenwich, University of Washington, Berkley, Austin, University of Western Australia and acted as invited juror and critic worldwide.

However, it was only after I finished my architectural education that I knew what really interested me. This is when I started post-doctoral research on sustainability, digital design (focusing on simulation and animation techniques), digital fabrication, renewable energy and smart materials.

Had you always wanted to pursue a career in architecture?

When I was around 10 years, old my friend’s mother showed us her architectural projects, most were computer-generated – very different to the visualisation and detail simulation graphics we use now – but I found them beautiful. I had no idea what I was looking at; they were like X-rays. After this, I became more aware of architecture – the different styles, types and historical references. Spaces and experiences were never the same again. Patterns and geometry also inspired me. Growing up, there were always mathematics and physics books lying around – equations and their formal representations. The transition between letters and numbers to spatial representations, I found fascinating.

Who has been your greatest influence and source of inspiration?

I think Mies van der Rohe, NOX, Claude Parent and Zaha Hadid have inspired me all for very different reasons. The one thing they had in common is the determination to realise every project in the manner in which it was conceived. I think it takes great courage to have this vision, believe in it and not be influenced by other’s interpretation or criticism of your work. Everyone has an opinion and is entitled to this, but it is rare to defend an approach at the risk of losing it – I respect this. Also, Professor Lebbeus Woods, who was a great mentor to me and believed in my work, publishing and editing two of my books, `Spatial Pathology, Floating Realities’ and Dynamics & Derealisation’.

When I started teaching, I was hugely inspired by Jan Kaplicky and Future Systems, Lars Spruyboek, Diller and Scofidio. The way they investigated haptic surfaces, smart materials, digital concepts and interactive space. 20 years later, their projects and publications are still relevant; technology has caught up with even dictating the possibilities they wrote and first designed in the 1990s. They were ground-breaking visionaries; forerunners of the built environment and an extreme and needed shift from the exhausted and overexposed architects like Rem Koolhaas. Personally, I find current new frontiers in architectural design lacking in this kind of innovation.

What has been your most notable project to date?

The Eco-Crematorium. I find this brief the most interesting as the site integrates this programme within a lively and dynamic context whereby one is the antithesis of the other. I find it extraordinary that there is a greater demand for recycling leftover metals after cremation – from stainless steel and copper to precious metals that are reused in aircraft, construction and the automobile industry; to name a few.

The evolution of crematoria is currently using clean solar energy, partly avoiding the 400 kilos of carbon dioxide and other pollutants caused by gases during one cremation. This, for me, has been the most interesting commission as it deals not only with renewable energy within an urban coastal context but embraces recycling at the most fundamental level. The very idea that people are accepting this as a source for recycling, with bereaved families embracing the concept, I find a strong indication of how important and aware people are of recycling, and it’s connotations – a visionary societal shift.

Another project is the Hydroelectric Turbine house, which focused on a symbiotic relationship between powerplants and homes. It was a turning point for me in addressing the use of turbines and marine engineering in my designs. The importance for me is typologies which enable sustainability like a home generating energy to sustain it and possibly feed back into the grid.

How do you approach your projects?

I focus on integrating renewable energy as part of a design criteria. I also question how this programme and design addresses sustainability without negatively affecting the building’s infrastructure, for it to be either carbon-negative/-neutral, energy-positive and sustainable. All building programmes can adapt to harness renewable energy; we have an obligation to strive for sustainable, self-sufficient architecture.

Society has changed, and with more people embracing recycling, sustainability, eco-friendly biodegradable materials – both marine and land pollutants – and environmental nurturing, this awareness should be a part of every architectural design criteria. Industries responsible for water, environmental pollution, metal contamination and un-recyclable by-products should at least financially compensate or invest in environmental energy through architecture and the built environment. The majority of my clients wish to give back to the environment; attempting to balance the damage already caused. A conscientious effort for the responsibility for our environment is important.

What do you think is the greatest challenge for designing in sustainability?

I believe this to be redefining typologies, too many obsolete typologies give the impression that they are still needed, as they do not address renewable energy, energy convertors or sustainability – these redundant programmes are forced into relevance by developers. They are; however, money-making urban investments, so it is difficult to get into a sustainable mindset. For example, when faced with a client who wants to be associated with the idea of sustainability but is committed to it as a trend, rather than an environmental responsibility that should be part of the design process from the beginning. Clients responsible for some of the biggest known environmental pollutions want to be associated with this approach, but very few want to invest in sustainability as an architectural language. The cost of smart materials, digital fabrication and cross-disciplinary knowledge are also challenging to assimilate as it alters building approaches. This can be overwhelming and daunting, leading to a fear that some building programmes would be left useless – this troubles the construction industry from a financial standpoint.

I believe the manner in which materials, methods of construction and research that have been applied to marine, aviation and renewable engineering industries should be applied to the built environment. Corrosion, material life expectancy and replacement (through stereolithography and other fabrication methods makes it easier for on-site construction and renewing parts of the building). Even using air-cured Hempcrete – a sustainable material which, when treated with lime, can be stronger than concrete yet has zero-carbon output. Change stifles outdated approaches but also takes a while to become the norm. Integrating typologies will define new more relevant ones, I believe that all architectural designs should harness renewable energy, in a way making most programmes behave like small powerplants.

What is your favourite building?

My favourite building is NOX’s FreshWater Pavilion in Holland, an interactive digital art space. This was a forerunner for what is happening now; only they built it in the late ‘90s. The idea that a fully immersive, simulated and interactive building dictates the way in which it should be experienced through these environmental simulations was overwhelming for me to experience. I had just started acting as lead tutor running an architectural undergraduate programme and design studio at Greenwich University and The Bartlett and took all my students to visit. I think this building greatly influenced how I regard architecture as a dynamic space; animating the public by showing us how to perceive it.

Another favourite of mine is Diller + Scofidio’s ‘Blur’ building for the 2002 Swiss Expo. What I value is their use of technology to simulate and redefine the public experience of space, even the brain-coat to enhance the shared experience of a mist-infused building which disappears and reappears. These buildings have a very different programme to more permanent structures; their deceptive playfulness is a protagonist in experimental design; however, the structural and technological aspects can be applied to more static programmes.

I think these two buildings were ground-breaking and have changed the way I regard architecture. It is still a very subservient discipline, and I find that disheartening; commercial practices and developers have made it so. As a result, we are progressing very slowly even though society and the environment are changing at a fast pace around us. We are out of synch, and this is all thanks to financial gain.

What can we expect to see from Margot Krasojević Architects in the future?

Working with more hemp and projects in India, mining companies and factories in South Korea. These companies want to work in a more eco-friendly manner and are investing in new builds and the regeneration of redundant mines; which will take a great effort to deal with existing ground and river pollution, ground excavation, metal and mine/factory contamination.

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