“We think that anyone who has started anything on their own is glad when somebody new comes around because we are building a creative scene.”
It has not been long since the famous product design trio Grupa opened its showroom in the neighbourhood — a space encompassing a shop, a gallery and their own studio. The members of Grupa include Filip Despot, Ivana Pavić and Tihana Taraba, younger generation designers who entered the Croatian and regional scene through collaboration with the Bosnian company Artisan. Grupa has been designing and producing wooden and upholstered furniture in cooperation with the Kvadra / Prostoria company since 2011.
When Filip, Ivana and Tihana decided to try producing and distributing their own products, at first lamps and luminaires, they started the GrupaProducts brand, featuring e.g. ILI_ILI, Arigato and Model product systems. The systems represent innovative home lighting models, and in 2016 Grupa presented their first independently produced side table, named Dot. Their products are very popular on the foreign market and have been a success at international fairs, especially the lamps, which for now remain the backbone of their brand. As they say in Grupa: “Even when you are fighting darkness, do it distinctively and with style!” Their space definitely brightens up the street they moved to, but also the whole neighbourhood in which they have been working and creating for years.
Filip: We have actually been here from the very start. Grupa started its work in Križanićeva street and we changed two addresses there, Križanićeva 1 and Križanićeva 11. We have treated the neighbourhood as our own ever since. This year Grupa will mark the tenth anniversary; we have existed since 2006 and worked in this neighbourhood the whole time. As a matter of fact, when we were looking for a new space, even just for the gallery, i.e. the showroom, not yet for the office, our condition was that it had to be located here. The reason is not only the fact that we have already been in this neighbourhood for a long time, but we really love it.
Tihana: It’s good that there are lots of amenities in the neighbourhood that make people gravitate around here, among other things because of what we do, the services we provide and products we offer, as well as because all of those things are interconnected. For example, while we were looking for a new space, we used to hang around Blok Bar a lot, so the owner heard what we were looking for, and other people also offered their suggestions. Eventually we ended up in our present showroom thanks to the fact that we were having coffee in Blok Bar.
— Of course, we were interested in how the opening of the showroom at this precise location influenced the work of Grupa and what kinds of new possibilities and advantages it presented.
Tihana: Apart from being designers, at some point we also became manufacturers. We therefore decided we needed a display space, as well as a place where we could show the audience not only our final products, but also the prototypes. Here we are able to explore first-hand what people like, how they react to the prices, etc. Basically, in the showroom we interact with the audience in a way that was not possible in a closed office.
Filip: Just now when you arrived, Marija said: “Oh look, those are your tables, they’re really cool…” That is just it, we present people with prototypes and follow their reactions. Since we have become manufacturers, that kind of feedback has become especially important because the investments in each new product are considerably large. You cannot get that kind of reactions in any other way, because someone could come in any moment now and take a look at the side tables. It happens.
Tihana: We sometimes don’t go out for days. There are days when the furthest I get ‘towards the city’ is Exchange Square, and there is actually no need to go any further. Everything I need for quality life is only a few steps away. There are health food restaurants, many interesting cafés, a market and a park at the end of the street… It’s an ideal spot, really.
Ivana: I see this neighbourhood as a kind of a microcosm. There are many people I know who circulate around here and I see them almost every day. I make new acquaintances through collaborations, different jobs… Due to a combination of circumstances, we are strategically positioned within the neighbourhood and we relish its friendly atmosphere, especially during the spring months.
Tihana: The surroundings of Martićeva street make an interesting urban zone. According to statistical surveys, the bulk of highly educated Zagreb citizens live here. Many architects of both younger and older generations live or rent their offices here. We once had a visit from two ladies in their seventies who had collaborated with Bernardo Bernardi and they told us stories about their collaboration. You can often hear great stories in the neighbourhood.
Filip: We do have Ibler’s and Vitić’s skyscrapers here, alongside other iconic buildings. They attract people who are closely connected to design and architecture. I think that anyone who has started anything on their own is glad when somebody new comes around because we are building a creative scene.