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ZORA SALOPEK BALETIĆ: The word ‘neighbour’ has its true meaning here

 

“It turns out that all we do here is eat, drink and fool around, but that is actually not true; we mostly talk about architecture and design, of course!”

One of the people who have been living and working around Martićeva Street for years is the renowned architect Zora Salopek Baletić. Although she has lived at several addresses in the neighbourhood, she has found her real home in the Wooden Skyscraper, where she lives with her family in a spacious and airy apartment full of light.

Zora Salopek Baletić was born in Sisak in 1970, but she considers Petrinja her home town. In 1994, she graduated from the Faculty of Architecture in Zagreb, under the mentorship of Prof. Nikola Filipović. During her studies, she was an intern at the Wade Sell bureau in London, where she dealt with the reconstruction of historical monuments, and she also participated at two urbanist seminars within the Frames of the Metropolis programme. In 2006, she founded her own architectural studio Matrica arhitektura (together with Adrijana Pozojević), where she is still the general manager. The studio deals primarily with interior planning and demanding reconstructions of cultural monuments. Besides that, in 2010 she also founded the Arhitekti Salopek studio, focused mostly on the planning of individual family houses and reconstruction of wooden rural architecture.

Matrica arhitektura is located just a few hundred metres east in Vlaška street, in a space it shares with Kuna zlatica, designer studio owned by Zora’s sister Zlatka Salopek and her partner Ana Kunej. It all gives a nice family touch to her experience in the neighbourhood, and she was very happy to talk about it with us.

Zora SB 02

Zora Salopek Baletić: I came across this neighbourhood soon after coming to Zagreb. I have lived in and around the neighbourhood since then, in different combinations, different circumstances, different apartments…

First time around, I ended up here by accident.

In the spring of 1990, my best friend and student-roomate Ana Dević and I moved into a lovely little apartment in Lopašićeva Street. Since we had been going through the mill because of the unregulated conditions of subtenancy in Zagreb, when we moved into this apartment, which was actually dug up by Ana’s dad, we fell in love with it at first sight. The first rental building from the 1930s, an apartment designed for one person, but just right for the two of us. We immediately filled it with our handicrafts — namely broken old furniture collected from everywhere, which we coloured, upholstered, papered over with photographs and made it usable for another period of happy student life. We loved being there, we felt really cool. Ana studied at night, and I studied during the day, and in the meantime, thanks to its good position, the apartment served a stopover for various characters and friends from our student days, a place for parties and dinners…

The second time around it was not accidental.

In the winter of 1998 I returned to the neighbourhood as the proud owner of my first real estate for which I needed to take out a loan, together with my husband Bojan and the one-year old son Lovro. I still remember us sitting on the floor of the unfurnished apartment, in the dark, watching Titanic… The apartment was in Martićeva, and we chose it for a number of reasons. Bojan and I both liked the neighbourhood, he liked it because he had already been living here, and I liked it because this is where I had spent my best student days and met Bojan. Many family members live nearby: my best friend (now also my maid of honour), my mother-in-law, i.e. Bojan’s mum, my sister and Bojan’s brother. It’s close to work, we don’t use the car every day, we walk to work… It is mostly a residential neighbourhood, but it’s still lively enough, it’s not a sleeping room. I feel at home here, like in Petrinja, where I grew up in the centre of the town, a five minute walk from everything important. In Martićeva, it takes from three to thirteen minutes to get to the market, cinema, theatre, exhibitions, DAZ, school, kindergarten, playground, children’s dispensary, park, a bigger park…

The third time around it was definitely not accidental.

We have just moved a bit from the eastern part of the street to the west part and we enjoy the view of the city from the seventh floor. I really, really like it here now; I like it so much that, when I am in Zagreb, I am always here, never in another neighbourhood. All parents who have children in kindergarten or school and all dog walkers who hang around in parks are very well aware that not only friendships between children and animals happen at those places, but also firm and long friendships between children’s parents and dog owners. And I fall into both categories. Since the school, kindergarten and park (or skulić, as my son’s friends called it) are in the neighbourhood, the parents and walkers you pick up on your way during the years of growing up are also in the neighbourhood. So, there is a whole history of rainy afternoons when children would play and the parents hang out (for hours), a history of summer dinners on balconies and terraces, later also a number of trips taken together and many other things… It is a whole little microcosm.

Zora SB 02

Zora’s everyday life in the neighbourhood is filled with various activities, and talking about her little rituals, she doesn’t hide the satisfaction with the fact that her immediate surroundings offer so much.

Z.S.B.: As I spend the whole day in the bureau (which is also in the neighbourhood — I try not to waste time on transport), the morning, late afternoon and evening are moments when I love the neighbourhood. The mornings are reserved for Bojan and me, the finest coffee, delicious pastries and newspapers at our favourite place (which I am not going to reveal to you). The late afternoons are most beautiful, especially when it’s sunny and warm, green and yellow in Martićeva. I head home from the bureau, I first stop at Zlatna školjka with Ana and Silvana, say hi to Dado who rushes by on his bicycle, then I have an espresso in Remy with Radan and Goran, then I have a glass of fine wine with another Ana in Divas, and on a really good day, I have another one with Mirna at Mojo. Then I take Ogi to the Mosque, where I run into Arijana with Pak, so we have another coffee. When I find the motivation, I go exercising at Tamara’s, where there are always many people and many nice women. I sometimes go see professor Fröbe at the Classical Gymnasium to justify absences. I sometimes close the day with Bojan at Ana’s Mali bar, where we have tempura or some other delicious food. Berni, our neighbour from downstairs, sometimes invites us over to spend the evening on his loggia, where he has a collection of different barbecues and a range hood mounted on the loggia roof, and then he prepares pulled pork! Now I’ve told it that way, it turns out that all we do here is eat, drink and fool around, but that is actually not true; we mostly talk about architecture and design, of course!

I suppose it is similar in some other neighbourhoods, but this is definitely a neighbourhood where the old word “neighbour” has its original meaning, somewhat modernized by new ways of socializing and coexisting. Except for my already mentioned friends, my new friends are also here, as well as my dentist, my ex sister-in-law, my big nephew, my favourite waiter. I don’t just feel at home here any more, I am at home!

 
 

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