Versatility as a Professional Choice

Dubravka Đukanović, architect – conservator and the Director of the Novi Sad based architectural office Studio D’Art, as part of the current project by CAB: Women in Architecture, talks about her versatile career, the importance of architectural heritage and the influence of interpersonal relations on architecture.

On Beginnings, Experience and Opportunities

Aesthetics is, in its wide sense, in the base of all my interests and choices since early youth. In that light my decision to study architecture came naturally. I also seriously considered studying design, but in architecture I recognized the possibility to satisfy my curious, versatile spirit by trying out various spheres of this complex field.

During my two decades long professional career I was lucky enough to have opportunities opening for a layered growth, by acquiring knowledge and skills in the fields of architectural design, interior design, urban renewal, historiography, teaching and building realizations in the widest possible sense, from construction to managing complex projects. Of course, endless hard work, perseverance, persistence, patience and composure in time of temptation, as well as faith in my own values and ideals, enabled me to satisfy an extremely personal need ‘to throw the dice on.’

Photo by N. Milićević

On Women in Architecture

Quality is what sets you apart, regardless of gender. Clients recognize experts which are supreme in their profession and are happy to collaborate with them. What set female architects apart from their colleagues is a particular expressiveness, a controlled ego and a desire to treat equaly and synthesize all parts of the project and all participants in the project.

An additional demand for professionally engaged women is the balance between professional and personal life. A dedication to family and a dedication to work are two equally valuable parts that make complete a successful women.

On Important Projects

In the field of architectural design those are various individual residences I’ve done by the principle of total design. In a programmatic sense those are not the most important or most demanding tasks I worked on, but those are the projects in which I consistently expressed my personal sensibility in transferring the psychological profile of the people I met into spatial relations and colors to create a backdrop to their lives.

Figure 2. Residence in Petrovaradin

When you get to know the people you design for, in the base of the design brief is a particular link between architecture and psychology, and architecture outgrows the sphere of personal feeling of the designer towards the space and topic. This notion of architecture I first recognized during a visit a long time ago to the Villa Müller by Adolf Loos in Prague, in which this idea shines through its concept, spatial relations, textures, colors and every detail. The pursuit of total design, exclusivity and establishing a personal connection between architecture and its user certainly is what determines my projects, especially projects of individual houses, and that is probably where it’s visible the author of these buildings in a woman.

I also consider as very important projects the historiography writings, created as result of research of cultural heritage of Vojvodina, which I have published, so far, in the shape of two books dealing with the study of the origin of form and shape of religious buildings built during the 18th, 19th and first decades of the 20th century.

On Influences

I’ve adopted the spirit of Belle Époque and the ideas of the Modern movement during my studies. For years I’ve been following the work of various authors. I deeply believe that no presentation can replace the personal experience of architecture and space, and I often visit the work that I find intriguing. From early youth I love to travel, and most of my time during travels is dedicated to artistic and architectural work from all periods. All this significantly affects my work.

Figure 3. Residence in Sremska Kamenica

During my professional career I often changed the surroundings and the environment in which I grew as an architect. The focus of my interests was in the fields of architectural design, heritage renewal, project management, research and scientific work, teaching, and in shorter periods in engineering and urbanism. Each of the topics I dealt with brought new insights and special experience which gathers and inevitably influenced the evolution of my relationship to architecture and space. If I would have to single out one name, the cooperation with Professor Ivan Antić significantly marked my relationship to my profession.

On Interpersonal Relations and Cooperation

I think that a quality personal relationship between the designer and the client is a precondition to good work and I always try, regardless of our differences, to find and nurture a thread which will provide a base for good cooperation. I avoid conflict situations, and the fact that for years now I am in a position to select the work and clients I consider a great privilege.

The difference in education, upbringing, personal and professional ethics in the relationship between the designer and client in not an impasse, but when such a split, in any sense, is prominent between you and any member of the team you are leading, it will eventually become a problem. I try to invest a lot into every associate and every work participant and positioned so they reach their maximum potential. When I have to make a decision to remove someone from the team, from any reason, for me it is a challenging struggle with my own emotions.

Figure 4. Interior of Vojvođanska bank branch office in Subotica

On Advice

I rarely give advice. I rather point to possible solutions and paths leading to best possible results. However, I enjoy exchanging ideas with young people and in these conversations I try to pass on to them some of my life and professional experiences.

Love towards the profession and an unconditional commitment to work and permanent growth, essentially determine the path of professional progress, but to a large extent determine also our life path. When you love what you do, everyday challenges outgrow the level of work obligations and become a game you enjoy. That is the only way a logn professional career can become an endless source of pleasure, a field of achievements and an important part of a good life.

Figure 5. Residence and kindergarten Wonderland in Novi Sad

The best advice is sublimated in a old Chinese saying, whose message is that only a small percent of people understand what their life is about. I try to to look at myself and the world around me from that perspective. With knowledge and experience, acquired with continuous work throughout many year and investing in yourself, comes a clearer outlook on various influential aspects and a better understanding of events and people around you. That is, with ethics, lack of vanity and power to calmly weather through foreseen and unforeseen storms, a condition of success, regardless whether it’s reached through status, glory, power, money or all of the above.

Maybe it’s useful to transfer to young people the knowledge that life and career are long events and the line can be drawn only at their end.

Figure 6. Competition entry for municipal library in Novi Sad

On Cultural Heritage

The evaluation of cultural and in that context architectural heritage is of essential value to the establishing of our identity – personal, family, local, national, European. Through a deep and honest commitment to research and promotion of cultural heritage I want to contribute to its interpretation and evaluation, as well as the establishing of an expert and general responsible relationship to the existing built structure and historical buildings. In that light, I find design in context to be the most demanding and most subtle expression of work for a contemporary architect.

Dubravka Đukanović, PhD, is an architect and assistant at the Department of Architecture and Urbanism at the Faculty of Technical Sciences, University of Novi Sad, where she teaches on architectural heritage, conservation and protection. She finished her graduate, post-graduate and PhD studies at the Faculty of Architecture, Belgrade University, and acquired a rich professional experience on various aspects of architecture while working in Novi Sad. Since 2005, she leads her own Studio for architecture and design STUDIO D’ART. Besides the Novi Sad architecture department, Dubravka was also guest lecturer at the Miklos Ybl Faculty of Architecture, Szent István University in Budapest. She received several professional awards and honors.


Architects, Architecture, Dubravka Djukanović, Novi Sad, Women in architecture

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