Mirjana Karalić Popović is an architect with international experience, using her knowledge to create original buildings in Belgrade.
You are capable of breathing luxury, authenticity, audacity and attractiveness into a space. When you find yourself in an empty room, where does it all start?
It all starts with a concept, also called “storytelling”. Creation requires initiating a string of associations, creative images, moments lived – which then intertwine into a common group of elements from which a new piece is created. That’s the starting material, the base for developing a serious, substantial approach in creating a new design. The more elaborate and diverse the concept, the more layers and meaning in the final design. Since we don’t only look for aesthetics, but also function, at the beginning it is necessary to come up with a “backbone” to the design, even if it is just one sentence that will keep reminding us, throughout the design process, of the basic idea and the meaning we started out from to ensure that the “substantial thread” is not lost before we get to the final creation.
How did Olympia Architecture come to be? You have an impressive portfolio, which of your projects did you find the most interesting?
Olympia Architecture arose as a logical continuation of my international experience, which I gained working for renowned companies in San Diego, London and Budapest. When discussing the main principles and the work of the Olympia Architecture studio, emphasis is on our focus on hotel interior design, with a special approach through numerous other design disciplines that take the process to a new level. Namely, the “hospitality market” has a serious tendency to accelerate, keeping up with fashion design and its change of seasons; it is therefore necessary to know the directives for the upcoming season in hotel design and keep up-to-date with novelties. To give you a small, illustrative example – the proposed trendy colour for 2018 is Ultra Violet/Pantone 18-3838…
The most interesting projects I worked on were also my greatest challenges, to name a few: JW Marriott in Guangzhou, Ritz-Carlton in Budapest and Paradise City in Seoul.
The JW Marriott project was the first project based on the redesigned JW brand profile. We implemented numerous new elements of the JW brand and went through a specific creation process.
Ritz-Carlton in Budapest was also a challenge of applying the rejuvenated “classic” brand in a smaller facility than is suitable for the RC brand, with emphasis on added higher luxury and a stronger residential impression.
Paradise City in Seoul is a gigantic hotel with many intertwined amenities, perhaps not quite harmonized in their type, at first glance. A synthesis of a large casino and family resort is definitely an atypical concept for a hotel. What is exclusive about this hotel is that it is home to an absolutely phenomenal private collection of contemporary art, such as Pegasus by Damien Christ and Pumpkin by Yayoi Kusama.
You keep up even with the most demanding and most advanced trends, when it comes to interior design. What are the major challenges in the interior design of hotel complexes?
In recent years, hotels have been going through major changes in their structure, all with the aim of adapting to a new type of hotel visitors. Focus is on the new “lifestyle” culture, the digital era that has liberated the world and allowed people to travel more and stay longer at their selected destinations, never interrupting the continuity of their work. City hotels have already adapted, to a large extent, to these tendencies; hotel resorts are still waiting for their substantial transformation in this sense.
People categorize all sorts of things as conceptual approach these days, even though those in the know say that things are not quite as they are portrayed. If we are talking about conceptual design, which direction do you, personally, find the most interesting?
In hotel design, the basic elements are known and mandatory – the integration of the “spirit” of the hotel brand and the location; i.e. the merger of the basic, substantial pillars of an operational name and creative typical elements of the local environment; all this together offers an exceptional experience. Anything beyond that is the individual mark of the designer and their perception of the new experience of this hotel, which is born – in a process natural to every project – through the inspiration that comes in the moment.
When it comes to luxury, you are very skilled in adding a touch of the contemporary and the intense to the classical style; this, it seems, is a very slippery terrain. How do you find the proper measure and where do you find the inspiration for this type of brilliant interior design?
I believe that, for starters, it is necessary to have an intimate knowledge of classical styles and to develop the sense of the extent to which these styles are amenable to interventions. On the other hand, a touch of audacity and boldness in merging the classical and the contemporary brings intrigue and freshness to such a space. We can set this up this as the next installation of elements, by keeping the classical interior consistent in its basic set up and adding a young spirit to it, by entwining modern elements, textures, colours that bring refreshment and excitement to the overall composition. The most illustrative comparison would be – having a film with its story set in one of the classical periods, but toned with a contemporary musical background; all this together, for me, is a top-notch mix of the classical and the contemporary at a very high creative level.
If we are talking about Serbia, which spaces do you find the most inspiring?
My personal oasis is the Square Nine hotel, aesthetically and in terms of its energy – it is my absolute favourite.
What projects are you working on right now, and what are you preparing?
There is an ongoing project of a luxurious, period-styled hotel in Vienna, creation of a new hotel brand in Budapest, several luxurious residential facilities in the region etc. Another thing that is happening at the moment is that we are just opening our London Studio, which is a very exciting period for our creative team.