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RMJM Serbia has designed a range of adaptive commercial and energy-efficient projects. Can you tell us more about your overall design vision?
Creating the space for people and imagining how to elevate everyday life through design is a great privilege of our profession. Our team approaches every new project respectfully, with joy and openness to explore every option and use the newest and creative approaches alongside the best design practice- including all aspects of sustainability, accessibility, and inclusivity. 

Moreover, our design vision reflects our personal values. We search beyond beauty in order to enhance the unique character of each building and project.

How can design thinking help with sustainable development?
Recently we were invited to participate in a competition for the designing of a landmark project in a beautiful but challenging location. There was a lot of creative thinking that led us beyond the initial sustainability checklist. The positioning of the buildings was chosen based on the direction of the wind and sun, most prominent views, and even the reflection of the buildings in the water. We stripped away our desire to design and let the natural context do that for us. By considering such factors, we are being environmentally conscious and naturally giving ourselves opportunities to sustainably enhance these features with technology and innovation. 

We also followed the circulation of the pedestrians, allowing the community’s natural rhythm to participate in our podium design. Greenery is incorporated into the design of the buildings and creates a sense of terrain, while also populating the sides of the facade that is exposed to the elements, to reduce heat gain and loss. By creating and enhancing vegetation, this feature also encourages the conservation and growth of local wildlife by supporting a natural environment.

Furthermore, the south side of the building is shaped intentionally to provide the optimal angle for photosensory cells in the glass fence. We let nature lead us through the design process and the result is a sustainable, striking and impactful design. The structure is deeply rooted in the environment, connected to the public realm and the beauty beyond. The project undoubtedly belongs there, as much as you know it can not belong to any other place, because there is no place where the wind blows or the sun rises and sets from the same directions. Nature is an endless inspiration and a great teacher.

Has there been a particular project that you’ve been working on recently that had an impact on you?
There are many unique projects that we have been working on recently, but the one that created the best momentum for our professional growth is the office interior for a tech company. The amazing people we are designing for at this tech company have a great professional culture and values, inspiring us while creating a unique multi-use office experience. It is interesting how due to the introduction of a hybrid workplace, office design and fit has changed in the past few years.

We have seen, now more than ever, that we are inviting nature and openness into our office design in order to encourage a more comfortable environment and our sustainability strategies are evolving and becoming more creative to meet these needs. We used recognizable craft elements and turned them into architectural features, reused materials such as wood or brick, as well as the existing cladding in a completely unexpected manner. Accessibility and inclusivity are also a part of every good design, but it’s how you extend it, how you build up what is the expected standard and then add value to the design. 

Working with clients like the above, who set the highest standards, is a way for us to grow professionally, both independently and as a team with any project. On projects like this you can measure that growth from week to week, as it is reflected through the design. It is a journey that your team takes together with the client; the process of the project that will, we hope, become a benchmark for how space will be brought to life in the future. We are so grateful to have clients that empower us to rethink how people work, live, travel, and shop, while also allowing us to put our designs into perspective not only at the present moment but into the future as well.

In your experience, what is the key to developing a good project, like these offices?
Our key is to put people at the centre of every design. This means that you stop thinking only about good design, you start thinking about the experience you create. Our team loves to tell a story, from the moment you look into the facade or enter the building, there is a flowing narrative that creates an interconnected level of design. We want to extend beyond the beauty that eyes can see, by trying to provide the material that everyone can develop in their mind, to make it their own, and give an opportunity for a unique and personalised story to be told. 

When I say that people are the key, I’m referring to ones that we design for as much as the ones who are designing. The kind of work that still benefits most from having people within the office are those organic, creative processes where we can bounce ideas off one another in collaborative and flowing team spaces that actively encourage conversation and relations.

These very vibrant and lively relations between architects, their architecture and what it says to its audience develop a high quality project. As our team is passionately dedicated to every project, they understand that you need to let it change you, to transform you as you grow together through the process. Allowing yourself to learn, challenging yourself to rethink, to grow, to be flexible, and most of all toning down yourself to be able to hear the ones that you are creating for, can lead you to a freedom in design which is probably the most valuable professional goal and essential to developing any project.

So for me, people are the key: our people, our team and the people we are designing for.

Lastly, what type of projects do you personally enjoy working on most, and why?
We have been working on some inspiring projects in the past years, like airport terminals, shopping malls, kinetic facades, prominent hotels, architecture that is practically a land-art, but I love rethinking residential architecture. For me it is an opportunity to provide a new experience or to give a new layer to the well-known theme. By residential design you can directly affect someone’s everyday life, enrich people’s moments, give them something special and even improve their well-being or empower them to achieve more. 

You can create an extension of the family living room to the outdoors, create a space for someone to be alone, reflect and meditate or a tremendous inclusive, community space to share and celebrate togetherness. You can be creative with numerous amenities that can elevate the contemporary lifestyle, add a multipurpose area that can be space for family celebrations or a library, create a lobby infused with nature and even a journey through corridors, enriched with art. You need to relive some moments in your imagination and think about all the little things and the ways to improve somebody’s everyday routine through carefully thought out design. You just have to take that journey through the eyes of the user and experience it yourself and most importantly you have to care! I think that architecture is about care, care to the people you design for and care for the community.

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