ARCHIPELAGOS: Living the Non-American Dream

Event: New Practices New York 2010 Winner Presentation: ARCHIPELAGOS
Location: Center for Architecture, 09.02.10
Speaker: Jonus Ademovic — Director, ARCHIPELAGOS
Sponsors: Lead Sponsors:Dornbracht, MG & Company; Valiant Technology; Sponsors: Espasso; Hafele; Skidmore, Owings & Merrill Media Sponsor: The Architect’s Newspaper


Academy of Performing Arts, Sarajevo, Bosnia.


While studying architecture in his native Bosnia and Herzegovina, Jonus Ademovic’s independent spirit prompted a professor to suggest he work in America. He balked at the idea, but was soon forced to flee his country during the Bosnian war and become a refugee in NYC. Though he considers it home now, Ademovic views the city like a “foster parent” because acceptance hasn’t come easy. His immigration caseworker laughed at his desire to practice architecture, but after tending bar and working odd jobs, he was admitted to the master’s program at The Cooper Union, Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture.

In 2006, Ademovic achieved his dream — and perhaps the ultimate American dream — of starting his own practice, which is one of this year’s New Practices New York award recipients. The name ARCHIPELAGOS hints at the collaborative nature of the small firm, which was bolstered by connections within the local community of Astoria, Queens. Most work came by word-of-mouth in the neighborhood, including renovations of many restaurant, bars, and gyms.

Since then, ARCHIPELAGOS has moved to Manhattan and won larger commissions both throughout the city and internationally. The firm recently won a competition to design the Academy of Performing Arts in Sarajevo, Bosnia, where the film industry is booming. Lower-level glazing and a meandering ramp system draw passersby into the building, which features stages and TV studios along with requisite classrooms.

Ademovic’s connections to his native region still run strong. In addition to competitions, he is working on a book about projects in post-war Slovenia. Despite the initial roadblocks encountered, he seemed hesitant when asked if he’ll ever leave NYC.