Waking up at Dawn



Even during my first family-house design project (2nd year at the Faculty of Architecture), when I stood face to face with quite a steep plot of land at the foothills of Medvednica, it was clear to me that the plot had something to “say” and that I would have to “have a talk” with it. It had its own atmosphere, its particular stimmung, and on the brink of my consciousness I had a hunch that one can build a house with that atmosphere. But how?

I didn’t know how, and that kind of thing wasn’t really discussed at the School either, but I felt the irresistible urge to delve into the atmosphere, so I arrived at the plot at dawn to wait for the sun. When it surfaced atop the hill, it shone through a fruit-tree’s late-winter crown as if through a veil. It occurred to me I could come with a tent and spend the night; a dawn is different after having spent the night. But I didn’t have the courage: I was afraid it wasn’t supposed to be done.

The first time I visited Marta’s plot, while she was just a client and not yet a friend, I was already more versed in both “talking” to plots and building atmospheres into houses. Having very slowly walked around the plot, I sat in silence and grasped where it would be nice to sit, to run, to socialise, to sleep, to cook, to eat, to be in silence, to be warm by the fire, to work in the garden, to walk in the forest, and so on. I grasped what one ought to see from these newborn places, for this too was a steep plot and views dictated many a thing. And I felt the outlines of the atmospheres these places should have.

But I hadn’t slept on the plot until a few days ago. It was a cloudy summer evening when I arrived, but a tent wasn’t neccessary because the semi-basement had recently been cast in reinforced concrete. With joy and jitters I climbed the top of the basement, as if it were my first house. The breath-taking view was obstructed by clouds, but its power was nevertheless present. It’s remarkable how eloquent the earth’s topography can be, and to what extent one can sense depth even when the background is cut off by clouds. And so I sat on the imaginary sofa, beside the imaginary wood-stove, in the imaginary window that will be cantilevering into the distant depth.

I was woken by the day. The fresh air, washed by the rain, lured me out of my sleeping bag and out of the basement. I greated the workers when they came, explaining them who I was and what I was doing there. But I was no longer afraid what people might think about me. It’s nice to work with clients who think it’s normal that you sleep on the plot.