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5 Things We Learned... Maja Paklar



When in doubt, ask MPak

Maja Paklar is a Croatian-born, Serbian architect who immigrated to the US with her family in the late 90s. Her experience as a refugee heavily influences her approach and design of public space. Her projects explore nuances of social boundaries and cultural integration in order to transform notions of place and displacement. Unorthodox, raw, and intelligent, Maja is an invaluable asset as a designer and a friend. I often solicit her advice for projects I'm working on, holding my breath for the bite (she's honest AF) and then appreciating her ability to push things to be new and better. She instinctually gravitates towards the quirky but wonderful details of people, places, and things overlooked by most of us. She loves concrete, textured materials, everything Gordon Bunshaft, and enjoys the modernist art of El Lissitzky and Kazimir Malevich. She's still one of the most unique creatives I know.

While working as a senior designer at Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM), Maja designed several cultural and educational centers in China, the Middle East, and the US. The love for such typology brought her to Diller Scofidio + Renfro, a prestigious interdisciplinary design studio whose provocative work blurs the boundaries between art and architecture. She holds a Master of Architecture from Harvard University Graduate School of Design. Her graduating thesis was awarded the distinguished James Templeton Kelley Prize by the Boston Society of Architects in 2009. 

Here are 5 Things We Learned about Maja.

What made you...you?

The things I grew up without - safety, security, certainty. Somehow I managed to turn them into positives, but sometimes I wish things could have been easier for me. But easy is boring…you understand my dilemma?

When are you happiest?

When I’m allowed to do what I want. I do my best when I’m not constrained. I always think I could do a lot more than what the circumstances allow. 

Would you rather have a muse or be a muse?

 My muse is my imagination. I think you’re either born with one or not. I’m more than happy to help those who lack one ;)

Who do you admire?

People who, in spite of the obstacles, succeed against all the odds. People who can build anything from scratch based solely on their own capabilities. 

What is important?

In life, I think simplicity is important. In architecture, every single detail is important. It is also very important to have a voice and to be heard.

Check out DILLER SCOFIDIO + RENFRO's work at www.dsrny.com

Connect with Maja on LinkedIn

Images from left to right: Maja Paklar; The Haas Brothers's Microbeast, 2017; Drawing by Mies van de Rohe of Berlin Reichsbank project, 1933; Gordon Bunshaft's Beinecken Library at Yale University; Detail of Egon Schiele painting; Toyo Ito's Mediatheque in Sendai