First held in 2008, the Big Architecture Festival is an international architectural event managed by Zavod Big – Center for creative economy of Southeast Europe, originally known simply as Zavod Big, these days as BIG SEE. In 2018, with the ambitious transformation of the organiser into a creative hub serving the broader Southeast Europe (SEE) region, the festival took on a new role. It now takes place twice a year, in May and October. The May event highlights architecture’s relationship not only to design but to the economy and culture of the region and beyond; the October event happens during the Month of Design and is devoted to interiors. (The spring event for 2020 was shifted to October.)
The festival now hosts a broad range of events – predominantly educational – aimed at promoting, researching and evaluating architecture in the Southeast Europe region. Billed as something of a hybrid trade fair/festival, it also features activities and presentations that put architects and interior designers in direct contact with engineering companies, construction manufacturers and other stakeholders from the private sector. Each event culminates in a ceremony announcing the BigSEE Awards for Architecture and Interior Design, respectively.
In its current form, the Big Architecture Festival features a wide variety of activities aimed at establishing a multi-disciplinary flow of best practices to architects and adjacent creators from throughout the region. The leading event of its kind in Southeast Europe, it gives forward-thinking architects, building professionals and other decision-makers an opportunity to experience and learn about new materials, innovative technologies and advanced techniques.
The festival also features a number of lectures and other educational events with a regional focus. For example, the 2019 edition of the festival hosted a lecture by Montenegrin curator Dijana Vučinić on the public/private divide in architecture with a focus on the specific historical situation surrounding tenders and competitions in Southeast Europe.
In the broader framework of the Month of Design, attendees of the October event can also visit virtual pavilions representing each of the 19 countries of the region. The pavilions present a curated synthesis of creativity from each country that encompasses not only architecture and interior design but also visual design, product design, wood design and tourist design.
Beginning in 2009, the Big Architecture Festival culminated in the presentation of the Hiše Awards (hiše means “houses”). Presented each year in conjunction with the award’s namesake, Hiše magazine, the award recognised several outstanding examples of home architecture from throughout the world. The winning works were given an exhibition at the festival and a dedicated issue of Hiše magazine.
With the overhaul that saw event organiser Zavod Big become BIG SEE and assume a leading role in the creative scene of the Southeast Europe region, the Hiše Awards were discontinued. In their place, the Big SEE Awards, a range of awards presented to creators from the 19 countries of the Southeast Europe region for outstanding achievements in a number of architecture and design fields, were introduced. Since 2018, the BIG SEE Awards for Architecture and Interior Design have been presented in the framework of Big Architecture Festival.
In 2019, Big SEE also introduced the BIG SEE Architectural Visionary Award, a lifetime achievement award presented to the most impactful architects and architectural thinkers in the region. Recipients to date include architect and deputy mayor of Ljubljana Janez Kozelj, renowned Croatian architect and theorist Andrija Rusan and Montenegrin curator Dijana Vučinić.
As a follow-up to each edition of the Big Architecture Festival, the Month of Design and the BigSEE Awards, BIG SEE publishes the BigSEE Report, a comprehensive atlas featuring the award-winning projects and interviews with their creators as well as reports from the year’s events. It’s a “must-SEE” for anyone working in these industries and interested in what is happening at the cutting edge.