Details from some of Branko Orbanić's houses

Details from some of Branko Orbanić’s houses

Boring paperwork stuff out of the way, this is about how we got to the final plan for the build. The one now submitted to the planning office, waiting for the final stamp.

In the beginning, there was this huge piece of land and a couple of crumbling houses on it. Sometime in 2009, as our idea about this place was defined as something “old” and as rural as possible somewhere in Istria, I googled “stone houses restoration Croatia”, exploring. I came across Branko Orbanić via www.dragodid.org and decided to write him an email expressing general interest in what he does (at this point we haven’t even started looking at the properties yet). Branko is “an architect, builder and an activist”, from Žminj, Istria who runs a company specialised in restoring stone houses and monuments. A guy extremely passionate in reigniting interest in traditional building methods – giving talks, running workshops and training other builders and general public on the subject. Amongst other things, he “runs” his own lime kiln.

Branko replied as enthusiastically as I afterwards learned he always is. Two years later, he is our main contractor – ever inspiring and full of ideas. (Interestingly, his company, Kapitel d.o.o. still doesn’t have a website. By the look of things, the word of mouth is good enough for these guys.)

This is a lovely movie (in Croatian) where Branko talks about his views on rural architecture in Istria.

We spent quite a bit of time with Branko even before we agreed he will build the thing for us. That included attending a drystone building workshop – Moj kažun – surely we will build a few of those while in Istria. We are *very* talented.

"Moj kažun" – drystone building workshop – May 2011

“Moj kažun” – drystone building workshop – May 2011

Through Branko, I met Vjeko – the architect. He worked as an apprentice at Kaptel at the time and is now part of Praksa – an engineering cooperative for design, urbanism and architecture from Pula, Istria.

Vjeko and I spent the last year navigating the bureaucracy together. I never knew how much of architect’s work is the boring legal stuff – I prefer glamorizing the profession as perfect combination of art and technical acumen.

With input from Vanja’s brother in law, also an architect, the masterplan was arrived at – I LOVE this crazy drawing – red arrows indicate all the views across the property.

Lovrinići – masterplan – 2011

Lovrinići – masterplan – 2011

The design brief said the following: space for running bed and breakfast needed. Breakfast to be served in a communal setting every morning and also dinner for guests and hosts once a week (or more often if delicious enough). Accommodation for the owners, accommodation for the guests needed with big bathrooms, great views, small kitchen, comfy beds and sofas. No TVs in guest rooms. Pool. Target audience: couples in their 30s to 60s (or less, or more), children welcome – ideally under 2s and over 12s. Pets welcome. Communal space – for breakfast, lazying about, chats. Garden – magnificent with vegetable and fruit gardens. Altogether the impression was for the place to be luxurious but very relaxed and romantic and style to be a contemporary take on Istrian/Mediterranean country style. A chic place to chill in beautiful countryside. Cool – no?

With all that in mind, amongst all the paperwork battles, lovely Vjeko found the time to draw the plans – even to make the model. Vjeko is here to make it “architect cool” and Branko (Kapitel) to soften it up and fit into rural setting – great plan 🙂

Lovrinići – model – spring 2011

Lovrinići – model – spring 2011

Some months later, after quite a few alterations and adjustments, final plans for Phase 1 were drawn and submitted to the planning office. This includes two spaceous apartments for guests, one for us and a communal space that will for now be outside only. We are still not sure if pool will fit into budget, but fingers crossed it will. We will try and restore as much of the existing old houses as possible and where not possible try and recreate the ambiance that is there now.

Final plans – phase 1 – November 2011

Final plans – phase 1 – November 2011

Now we only have to see how will we get from what is shown in the picture below to what is drawn in these plans. The team going forward is Vjeko (the architect), Sladjana (contractor, Kapitel), Zdenko (independant project manager) and me. Whoo hoo!

BTW, I have megabytes and megabytes of pictures that serve as an inspiration for all of this. Two of the places from the huge list are Les Sardines aux yeux bleus and Graine & Ficelle. Enjoy.

Lovrinići – spring 2011

Lovrinići – spring 2011

I am also inspired by these guys putting final stones to the fabulously restored kažun.

Final "kažun" stones – Vodnjan – May 2011

Final “kažun” stones – Vodnjan – May 2011