Based in Bratislava, Slovakia, Lucia Ortutová studied architecture and interior design at the Slovak University of Technology. In 2015, she opened her own design firm, Ortuta Architects, with her husband, also an architect. Ortutová specializes in residential design, but recently has taken on commercial projects such as the stylish Mirror Bar in Bratislava, featuring Vibia lighting.
Read on to learn about Ortutová’s influences and aesthetic, the challenges for women in design, and more.
“When you cooperate with clients who are emotionally attached to the project, it’s essential that you approach them with lots of time and attention and you really learn how to listen”.
Were you always interested in design and architecture?
I have always loved to draw and paint, ever since elementary school. I spent every free minute doing something artistic. Later I discovered I had some talent thanks to my high school art teacher in America, where I studied as an exchange student. She encouraged me into art competitions and into a deeper connection with art in general. That was when I had started to consider architecture as my future field of study.
What were your early design influences?
I grew up in a small village in the north of Slovakia. This made me very close to nature and natural materials as well as handmade artwork. I prefer to work with natural wood and stone, combined with more contemporary building materials.
Can you describe your experience working as a woman in design?
When you cooperate with clients who are emotionally attached to the project, it’s essential that you approach them with lots of time and attention and you really learn how to listen. That way you really get to understand your client’s needs and preferences. I like to think I am pretty good at this and it maybe comes from my being a woman, but I guess we can’t generalize.
What are some unique challenges you’ve encountered?
Being a professional architect and a mother of two.
“Women designers—like women in any other field—encounter big challenges in being good mothers and successful professionals at the same time. It is possible to make it happen, it just requires lots of self-discipline and good time management”.
You worked at other architecture firms before opening your own. Can you describe how that differs from having your own company?
I started working for a successful architectural studio while still studying at the university. It was a fantastic experience and I learned very much from the most skilled architects. I also had a chance to observe what teamwork means in a larger group of designers, which was a very valuable. Later, I discovered I wanted to be in direct contact with the client. That’s why I started business with my husband. I already had a family at the time so it was also very convenient for me to become a boss of my own time. It’s not possible to compare having your own company to working for somebody else. You have very different responsibilities, but it’s priceless to be able to manage your own time between work and your private life.
Do you feel it’s more difficult for women to establish their own architecture/design practice?
I think it is equally difficult for men and women to start and run their own business. The only difference is that women have it a little harder when they have children. Women designers—like women in any other field—encounter big challenges in being good mothers and successful professionals at the same time. It is possible to make it happen, it just requires lots of self-discipline, good time management, and, in my case, enormous help from my husband, who also happens to be an architect.
“Since there’s never enough time to prepare the design, I have to be very fast with the idea and, at the end of the day, these quick ideas turn out to be the best ones”.
What kinds of projects do you specialize in—residential, commercial?
For years, I’ve specialized in residential housing and interiors. It gives me a unique connection with my clients and I get to set up a customised living space for someone, which can be challenging when the design preferences of the client are quite specific.
Two years ago, I started to work on some commercial interiors. Commercial projects tent to be less time consuming because the clients are not as emotionally attached as they are with private residences. This usually gives the architects more space to be themselves and to create something that is the closest to their design preference.
How would you describe your aesthetic?
I like design and architecture that makes sense. I like to keep it simple, clean, natural, and witty.
You’ve worked on television. Can you describe this experience?
I’ve been working for a television programme called Nové Bývanie, a show about people who are in the market for a property. I am one of the featured architects who create a visualization of what the future interior might look like if the client decided to buy it.
It’s very inspiring and fun because I get a different perspective and cooperate with very creative professionals from completely different fields. Plus, since there’s never enough time to prepare the design, I have to be very fast with the idea and, at the end of the day, these quick ideas turn out to be the best ones. The show is quite inspiring for the viewers because they get to see how architects and designers work and what can be done to a property that seems hopeless at first.
What is the design scene like in Slovakia these days?
It’s thriving at the moment, especially in the western part of Slovakia, which means a lot of work for architects. People have started to see the value and importance of architects and designers and to give them more trust. This of course improves the quality of design work here. Also, clients and designers are more eco–friendly now and this has had a relatively big impact on the building materials and design approach in general.
Which upcoming projects are you most excited about?
I am very excited about our Spa and Fitness project for the Hotel Carlton in Bratislava. We are also starting to redesign the Savoy restaurant at the Hotel Carlton. It has a great potential and the historic building itself is amazing.