“The neighbourhood has always been very optimistic. We are referring to the pure energy of the place; we feel more comfortable here than we do in the rest of Zagreb and even in the rest of Croatia.”
Kuna Zlatica is a distinctive designer duo comprised of Ana Kunej and Zlatka Salopek. Their work stands out on the national scene thanks to its witty solutions, imaginative artistic vocabulary and sophisticated overall approach to projects. It can be said without exaggeration that they have an instantly recognizable style and their design is of durable quality. They have worked together since 2006, during which time they have produced memorable posters, visual identities and other works for diverse clients, including the Theatre of the Blind, University of Zagreb, Centre for Peace Studies, C’est Is the Best and Animafest festivals and many others. They have displayed their works at two individual and a dozen collective exhibitions (Zgraf 10, Dan D, Biennial Exhibitions of Croatian Design, etc.).
The works of Kuna Zlatica have been published in some fifteen professional publications, including the prestigious book Best of Cover Design by the British publisher Rockport. Since Ana and Zlatka have been in the neighbourhood for a long time, we visited them at their workplace, a space they share with the architectural bureau Matrica arhitektura, founded by Zlatka’s sister Zora Salopek Baletić. We discussed a number of topics related to the neighbourhood and we found out a lot about its daily life.
Zlatka: We have been located in Vlaška for a year and worked in the neighbourhood for… How long, four years?
Ana: Our studio used to be located diagonally from here, in Martićeva.
Zlatka: This has always been a very optimistic neighbourhood. I am referring to the pure energy of the place; I feel more comfortable here than I do in the rest of Zagreb and even in the rest of Croatia. Maybe that energy is the very reason why the facades here are decorated better than elsewhere, and maybe that energy is also what spurred the multiplication of local stores and shops with a soul. Let us say that the recent development of the neighbourhood has gone through three distinct phases: the first phase was marked by the closing of the old shops, while the second phase witnessed a wave of continuous openings and closings of the new ones, and in the present, third phase, the new places have found their residents and the residents have found their places.
As far as we are concerned, the immediate surroundings of Martićeva street are the ideal spot for the way our studio functions.
Ana: Yes, it is really ideal. We come to the office in the morning, read and discuss our e-mails, hold our heads in our hands for a while, then soon it’s time for lunch. We have a look at what’s on the menu at Vagabundo and at Šime’s… OK, we know what’s on the menu because we used to eat there all the time, for years, more or less successfully, but often more than not.
Zlatka: Everybody eats more or less successfully at Šime’s. We’ve even designed their menus.
Ana: You can see at first glance that the layout of the menus has been designed by a professional, but they are still somehow unusual. I don’t even know why we don’t go to Šime’s that often any more, like it’s too far away… Nowadays we go to Vagabundo more frequently.
Zlatka: That place is also a real institution. A family restaurant, the mom cooks…
Ana: There is always some soft jazz playing at Vagabundo, which is crazy, because this place doesn’t look that way. We like restaurants where you can get a lot of good food for a small amount of money.
— Aside from Zlatka and Ana’s usual rituals in the neighbourhood, we were also interested in how they see the continuous changes in neighbourhood space, and what developments they consider necessary.
Zlatka: I don’t think there is anything that requires special attention in the neighbourhood, it is developing quite well organically. My only issue is with the Badel-Gorica factory complex. It is the only stain on the neighbourhood’s soul. Although there has been a request for tenders for the adaptation of the complex, nothing substantial has happened yet. It’s a shame, I remember how factories were revived ten years ago, that was great (when the civil associations network Clubture organized the ten-day manifestation Operation:city in 2005, AN). For instance, that was the first time we ever heard about Siniša Labrović, who turned a part of the yard into a pen and set up a reality show featuring sheep, called Flock.org. Nothing similar has happened there since, we have just been watching the complex deteriorate.
Ana: Come to think of it, we are missing a good place for lunch, like a pub that would look more like a nightclub. Our friend NIkola Hagenauer, aka Hagi, one of the local legends, has bought the former space of the old Diona shop next to the Health Centre in Martićeva, and he’s been decorating it for two years. Now, the question is what exactly is going to be located there, although we think it’s already open. Nevertheless, we are going to call it Zdravljak because it is next to the Health Centre, and those used to be the kind of places where you could get a good home-cooked meal. We are in a dire need of soups and stews around here.
— It’s hard not to agree on that one, because another choice of a good meal is always a plus, and the neighbourhood already has strong foundations for developing in that direction. Once again the old saying that good design goes hand in hand with good food has proven to be true. When we look at the way the neighbourhood is developing, it is clear that a pleasant symbiosis is inevitable.
 Zdravljak is a traditional pub or restaurant, and the word has the same root as the Croatian word for health, zdravlje.