CEE Monthly / Discovery

Design District Zagreb

Fresh on the heels of Zagreb’s 7th D Day International Design Festival, a weekend program offering a series of lectures and workshops covering professional aspects of the design industry, the Croatian capital is set to turn the spotlight on its trendiest neighborhood – the cultural hub around Martićeva Ulica – with the first annual Design District Zagreb, slated for June 16 through 19.


Design District is the brainchild of Ira Payer, the president of the city’s newly-minted Design Center Zagreb. In addition to being one of the founders of D Day, and the editor-in-chief for the web portal dizajn.hr, Payer was also one of the forces behind the Croatian Design Superstore, a combination design showcase and pop-up show featuring furniture, accessories and design objects from the country’s best and brightest talents. As a designer, Payer works with Superstudio, the Superstore’s in-house design team, whose projects have ranged from the wildly popular Croatia As It Is tote bags, to Newer Tendencies, a guide to Zagreb’s contemporary art scene, published by the Aksenov Family Foundation in 2015.


As of January 2016, Payer is also the president of the newly-minted Design Center Zagreb, a non-profit aimed at the support and development of the city’s unique creative scene. Design District Zagreb is one the center’s first projects, produced in collaboration with the Croatian Design Superstore. As for the parameters of this new “creative zone,” Payer explains that the neighborhood was ripe for development, as a formerly industrial area, home to many car garages and mechanic shops. “Like many European cities, Zagreb sees its path for creative development in the transformation of industrial infrastructure into support structures for the production of culture in the broadest sense,” Payer explains. “In the case of this neighbourhood, the transformation has been taking place gradually and unobtrusively, without compromising the distinctive spirit of the whole area.”

“This zone is the home to some of the best architecture and design studios in Zagreb, as well as multiple offices for civil and creative associations,” Payer continues. “The neighbourhood is infused with an invaluable architectural heritage, dating back to the Modernist period, which is currently experiencing something of a renewal. On the other hand, this area still has plenty of empty, unused spaces, left behind from the collapsing of various auto-related businesses. We intend to revive these spaces and make them useful.”

Design District Zagreb’s program will try to solidify some of these efforts, bringing together the various cultural actors within the area, to help stimulate growth, as well as strengthening the existing community ties. As Payer explains, “Our goal is to highlight the creative and cultural production of the urban area around Martićeva Ulica, with the objective of slowly and steadily opening its abandoned spaces to people who are temporarily or permanently situated here. In the context of the post-industrial transformation of Zagreb’s urban environment, our aim is also to provide new value and meaning for this charming neighbourhood, but in a such a way that these shifts are coming organically, from the ground-up, with grassroots initiatives and active participation of the city-dwellers.”


Part of Design District Zagreb’s mission then is to help introduce the various figures in the scene to a wider public. One forum for this is the Design District blog, which publishes profiles on community members, ranging from the team behind Galerija Miroslav Kraljević, an art space that’s been featuring the best of international and local art since 1986; to pastry chef Petra Jelencić, the owner of the neighborhood’s Mak na konac cake shop and café; to the design collective Grupa, who founded their showroom on Križanićeva Ulica in 2006.

Starting Thursday, June 16, Design District Zagreb’s programming will help bring these creative figures into contact with a larger audience, with a series of talks and lectures, workshops, open showrooms and “small acts.” One of the featured special programs is an open call competition, Hacking Ikea. Produced in collaboration with IKEA Croatia, the contest urges young designers to scheme up creative twists to products offered by the Swedish furniture giant. Jury members Nina Bačun, Ivana Fabrio and Igor Štefanac helped narrow down the entries to a list of finalists, whose innovative objects will be on view to the public June 18 and 19.

Design District Zagreb runs from June 16-19 in areas around Martićeva Ulica. For more information about the program, check the festival website.

This post was contributed by Kate Sutton in support of this year’s discussion series she is curating: ‘Keys to Contemporary Art’ at the viennacontemporary | 22 to 25 September 2016 in the Marx Halle |

The theme of this year’s Keys to Contemporary Art discussion series is ”Public Image”. Curator Kate Sutton, an internationally acclaimed art critic from Nashville who currently lives and works in Zagreb, examines the topic through the lens of the public, the audience. She speaks with leading representatives of the international art scene about the criteria by which shared stories, images, and information units become “public”, and about how art institutions perceive the needs of different audience segments and fulfill their responsibility toward them.


  1. (c)  Design District Zagreb
  2. Ira Payer, photo by Marija Gasparovic
  3. (c)  Design District Zagreb
  4. Croatian Design Superstore. Photo by Marija Gasparovic
  5. (c)  Design District Zagreb
  6. Featured photo: Blokbar. Photo by Marija Gasparovic

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