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Be philosophical in the here and now
Photograph: Katrina Wittkamp
Zoka Zola Architecture & Urban Design
You want a house that is a work of art, that expresses an opinion about space, home, privacy, and intimacy. You also want it to accommodate your child, your dog, your office, and your heating budget. Go to Zoka Zola (http://www.zokazola.com/).
Croatian-born Zola studied architecture in Zagreb and worked in London, Rome, and Vienna before coming to Chicago, where she teaches at the School of the Art Institute. Her European art-school vibe manifests itself in a way of talking about her work that is dreamy and visionary, and in finished products that are sleek, practical, and surprisingly American.
Her own house on Chicago’s Near West Side won Architecture Magazine’s Home of the Year Award in 2003. She writes of it, “This house is designed not to feel owned. When the building feels owned it’s impoverished, because it has a flattened relationship with the rest of the world.” She lists early 20th-century architects Gunnar Asplund, Ludwig Wittgenstein, and Konstantin Melnikov as her inspiration for the look of the house.
The house feels open and clean, with space flowing from the basement architecture studio, where she works with four employees, through the living areas and up to the private bedrooms and bathrooms on the second floor. Massive windows bring the outdoors in. Her employees use her house’s kitchen, and in summer, meetings are held on the deck off the living room.
“My strength is in organizing space,” says Zola. “My projects use space for multiple purposes, and I don’t lock in how the space is used. Someone else can move in and feel that there is room for them and their lifestyle and furniture.”
Zola’s questions for a potential client: “Why do you want to commission a house? What do you want out of it? What is your lifestyle? What are your needs?” Then she produces 20 to 30 sketches and asks for feedback. “I get a precise brief from my clients by having them react openly to many possibilities. It allows us to open up and think of every possible solution, without really knowing what the problem is. And the client feels that they have control.”
Illustration © Zoka Zola