Affordable housing occupies a significant place in the portfolio of Ofis Arhitekti; one of the reasons for this is that with the support of a special state agency in Slovenia, this area is developing very actively. On the basis of standard projects, the Roca Oman bureau, staying within a tight budget (sometimes the cost is less than 700 euros per 1 m2), designs environmentally friendly, comfortable and attractive buildings that suit both developers and residents. The residential complex "Apartments on the Beach" even became a finalist of the European Union's architectural award, the Mies van der Rohe Prize, but the apartment building "Tetris" or the "social cottage" Backbone Village are no less interesting. Also among the works of Ofis Arhitekti are villas and expensive residential complexes, religious and sports facilities.
Archi.ru: You are well known in Russia as the author of social housing projects, but you also have buildings for wealthy people. What's the difference for you between working on a minimal budget and more financial freedom?
Rock Oman: In fact, it is more or less the same: you start from the beginning, go from the task to the main idea. You have to develop this idea and then follow step by step to complete the project. I think every new project has its own story, every time it is a journey into the unknown.
RO: Adventure (laughs). I think you can write a whole book about each project. It is difficult to generalize buildings with a small budget as not easy, since there are also problems with more "expensive" projects. Everywhere has its pros and cons.
Archi.ru: Isn't the return greater when you work for young families with little funds?
RO There can be no doubt that this is the main task of the architect. You feel useful, not as if you are just a functional tool for fulfilling someone's desires. There is much more human in this [work for socially unprotected segments of the population]: responsibility, ethics. “Less aesthetics, more ethics” - this slogan and “social” in general has become especially relevant in the current period of recession.
Archi.ru: Judging by your work, there is a fairly large area of social housing in Slovenia. Is this the legacy of socialism or something else?
RO: This is an interesting question. Social security and health care immediately come to mind: if you compare, say, the American and Slovenian systems, the Slovenian one turns out to be much more humane …
Archi.ru: Like any European …
RO: Perhaps it is even more "social" … After independence, everything [in the former socialist camp] was the same: different stories with the privatization of state-owned companies, money gradually took a key place, the socialist slogan of universal equality lost its attractiveness, but then there was economic stratification and even instability in society, and people began to recall the past with nostalgia, when they "had everything." But now is a completely different era, requiring a different approach.
Archi.ru: As far as I know, you are now completing a project in Paris, and this is also a project with a small budget …
R. O.: Compared to Slovenia, not so small, but for France, of course, it is: this
housing for students, and there are no large budgets for this.
Archi.ru: Is there a big difference between working in Slovenia and Western Europe?
RO: Yes, and especially now. In Slovenia, construction companies have recently existed in a very unstable atmosphere, this whole sphere has completely collapsed, almost every week another construction company declares itself bankrupt. There is a "domino effect", this affects the wages of workers, the fees for the development of projects. And in France there are no difficulties at all. Fees, deadlines - everything is very precise and clear. Especially for a government project, everything works perfectly when compared with Slovenia.
Archi.ru: Are these student apartments a state project?
RO: Yes, but after implementation the building will be leased out on a long-term basis, so this is more a kind of public-private partnership.
Archi.ru: You also work with architectural monuments, remember your reconstruction of the Ljubljana City Museum and the Baroque Court Apartments residential complex. How difficult is it to work with historical buildings in Slovenia?
RO: I think it's difficult everywhere. When you start a renovation project, this is one of the most difficult tasks for an architect, because you never know what will be discovered [in the course of research], it takes a long time, and it takes a lot of effort to preserve the historical structure.
Archi.ru: Is the legislation in this area strict and how clearly is it observed? In Moscow, for example, there are good laws, but they are not always implemented …
RO: Yes, I have heard about the Moscow situation. In Slovenia, heritage governance is very independent and capable of promoting its own opinion, often very tough. On the other hand, they have something to criticize: if in the center of Ljubljana everything is preserved according to high standards, archaeological research is required, etc., then on the outskirts and, especially, in the countryside, historical buildings are slowly being destroyed. Instructions come from the center, but the owners of the monuments are not interested in history, and the state, in this case, does not have many instruments of influence.