“We thought about the neighbourhood environment and the position of our future cafe a lot, and since the space is within a block itself, we chose the ambiguous name Blok bar. We combined it all in a thought context.”
Blok bar at the corner of Tomašićeva and Lopašićeva streets makes such a strong impression on everybody that practically nobody remembers the establishment that had previously occupied the location. The owners of the bar, married couple Aleksandra Vranić-Lužaić and Željko Lužaić, knew from the beginning that they wanted to transform the shabby space of the former cafe into something entirely different — a dynamic location that would unite the tiny interior and the wide albeit forgotten exterior. They accomplished that by hiring the architects Penezić and Rogina and Fiktiv studio to design the entire Blok bar brand, from spacial decoration to visual identity, which complement each other and are harmoniously intertwined. The bar containing a tap and other features is “pulled” outwards, towards the streets and their corner, and placed in a glass block. The hexagonal raster imbuing the glass cube, which resembles a honeycomb, gives it airiness and warmth, and also invites us to come and look what is hiding inside. The openess of the interior has enriched the immediate urban surroundings of Blok bar and brought to life the charming spring/summer terrace, which has become one of the oases of casual life in the neighbourhood. We heard all about it from Mr. and Mrs. Lužaić themselves.
Aleksandra Vranić-Lužaić: We have told the story about Blok bar many times before, but it is interesting, so it’s worth repeating. We live in the building which houses Mak na konac cake shop and Grupa’s showroom on its ground floor. We had been in the hospitality business before, but we had a pause of approximately five years before opening Blok bar. The lady who owned the space of the cafe offered us to rent or buy it, so we decided to buy it. We thought about who we could hire to design the interior and exterior, and eventually chose our neighbours, the architects Vinko Penezić and Krešimir Rogina.
Željko Lužaić: We realized that there were many architects living or working in the neighbourhood and concluded that they could (also) be potential guests at the cafe. We wanted to have a space in which anybody with a sensibility for good architecture would feel comfortable. We didn’t want standard interior decoration, but something that would satisfy us and other people with an affinity for the visual, and people who work in that profession. We thought about the neighbourhood environment and the position of our future cafe a lot, and since the space is within a block itself, we chose the name Blok bar, which is ambiguous — it can be a single block, a house as a block or a block of buildings. We combined it all in a thought context.
— As one of the creators of new content in the surroundings of Martićeva, the Lužaićs themselves have noticed that the neighbourhood is changing in multiple ways, with a tendency to accept and accommodate cultural and creative activities, which they see as logically connected to hospitality and craft work. They were also partial to Martićeva before their final move to the neighbourhood.
Ž.L.: While I lived in Dubrava, this neighbourhood was a sort of a role model in the sense of living space because I went to school here and spent a lot of time hanging out with my friends here. There used to be many shops here that mostly closed down after the war because their owners from other former-Yugoslav countries moved away. Many spaces became empty. Now the neighbourhood is undergoing a gradual change in content, it is quite dynamic, with some people selling apartments, and others buying them. I would say that everybody is attracted to the obvious urban, civil character of the neighbourhood. Some neighbours think that Blok bar is a place where people get drunk, but we have tried explaining to them that we offer the content that people need. You see, there are many who don’t see architecture and design as important industries, but I think that designers and architects have to try to get closer to people, because they are often not aware how much it could enrich and simplify their life. We have the ideas and capacity to make Blok bar more than just a hospitality object, but also to enable it to offer content that can’t be found elsewhere, e.g. our own little coffee roasting plant.
— On the other hand, foreign tourists mostly react very well to the cluster of contents at their disposal, while the word of mouth is often the best advertisement for the neighbourhood and Zagreb in general.
Ž.L.: During the Street Day in Tomašićeva last autumn, an Irishman came by, if I’m correct, who works as a tourist guide in Dublin, and he asked me to recommend a place to have coffee, sit and relax. I suggested Booksa, but he didn’t like it for some reason, but he came to us later because he heard the music, and he was delighted. He was actually surprised to find such varied content at such a short stretch. We talked for a while and stayed in touch, and that is also a good way to spread the word about the neighbourhood.
— But the question is how intensive and widespread the changes really are.
Ž.L.: You cannot know exactly to what extent and in what way the structure of the neighbourhood’s residents changes without statistical data, but we have the impression that it is gradually changing in the direction we talked about. I can see a big difference between living in this part of the city and living, for example, in the suburbs. Although I am emotionally attached to Dubrava, I don’t see myself there any more.
A.V.L.: Many neighbours have moved in or out just in our building in the past few years. It seems that older people are starting to give the space away to younger people who feel good here. It is possible that the older population is leaving the neighbourhood for one reason or another, while new people are coming, maybe just because of the existing story in formation.