Architecture exists as a rooted cultural thread in Italy. We speak to Branko Zrnic, President of ATI Project, and talk about the relatively young company, its projects and explosive success in the sector.
THE SUMMIT OF ITALIAN DESIGN
Architecture has been at the centre of Italian culture for thousands of years.
To witness this, one only has to look to the marvels of antiquity: the country’s Roman aqueducts, the grandeur of the Colosseum and the carved marble statues of gods and emperors.
Indeed, the Romans were the first civilisation to make use of concrete-like materials widely across the construction of cities and settlements, and in line with this historic tie, architecture has remained a deeply rooted part of Italy’s identity through to the present era.
Today the sector is very competitive and constantly evolving, both in terms of territorial distribution and in terms of the required performance standards. This favours a company structure that is organised, flexible, open to innovation, and that uses a multidisciplinary approach calibrated on the needs of the projects.
“The Italian market is always interesting and stimulating to work in,” begins Branko Zrnic, President of ATI Project. “Many important public and private investments are ongoing at the moment, with very challenging deadlines and requirements in terms of social, environmental, and economic sustainability, as well as overall architectural quality and technological performance. We see this as our opportunity for further development.”
Having graduated in architecture and civil engineering in Pisa, Zrnic moved on to work in the field of sustainable integrated design, an area in which he has remained since 2007.
In 2011, Zrnic became a founding partner and President of ATI Project, an international company specialised in integrated design in architecture and engineering, and committed to the development of sustainable buildings with reduced environmental impact.
THE FASTEST GROWING DESIGN COMPANY
ATI Project is a relatively young company operating in an historic industry.
“Our story has been ongoing for 11 years so far,” Zrnic tells us. “We specialise in integrated design, effectively covering all aspects of a project – from an architectural, structural and MEP (mechanical, engineering and plumbing) perspective. Our studio has grown exponentially in the past years, and is continuing to do so. As a result, we’ve been named ‘the fastest growing Italian design company’.
“We started as a team of two people in our Pisa office in 2011 – me as an architect and structural designer, and my partner Luca Serri as a plant engineer (mechanical and electrical), both specialising in bioclimatic and sustainable design. Today, our team exceeds 300 professionals (both architects and engineers), across eight offices in six countries.”
ATI Project is based in Pisa and Milan (Italy), Belgrade (Serbia), Copenhagen and Odense (Denmark), Geneva (Switzerland), Paris (France), and most recently, Tallinn (Estonia). The company manages all of its work using building information modelling (BIM), from the initial design phases until the final stages of constructive design and project management, and has an overall annual turnover exceeding €20 million in design services.
“Other than integrated design and project management, we are highly specialised in tender management on an international level, where we give our support to construction companies in developing technical offers for works or design and build tenders,” Zrnic adds.
TOP TIER SERVICES
ATI Project provides its clients a full suite of services supported by a team of multidisciplinary professionals bringing the best of Italian architecture to each client. The company does not only promise quality but delivers it, a fact proven by its recent accolades.
“We moved from 103rd in the Top Italian Architecture and Design Firms in 2017, to third in 2021, making us one of the top five architecture firms in the country at the moment,” Zrnic tells us proudly. “Our design approach is characterised by a participation process with our client as well as posing maximum attention to sustainability aspects, from both environmental, social and economic point of view that are fundamental in all our projects. Our design team is our main strength – we fully cover all different design stages (preliminary, main, executive, constructive design, works supervision) in all disciplines (AR-ST-MEP).
“We are a young, cohesive, multidisciplinary and energetic team – always ready to meet new challenges. This has allowed us to approach and become experienced in a very wide range of activities and project typologies.
“We are also investing a lot into R&D, striving for innovation and improvement in every new day. Furthermore, it is interesting to say that we changed our clients more than once in our short history: we started working on interior designs for private houses, so after a few years our clients were mostly real estate investors. Then we started working for public clients in Italy, and focused on our internationalisation in the following years. Today we work for public and private clients, both Italian and international. We were very flexible and capable in managing these changes according to specific market conditions.”
According to Zrnic, through all of this, the secret to ATI Project’s success has always been its team, having grown with the company and continued to incorporate individual expertise as part of a greater whole.
“Creating a better reality”ATI Project
ATI Project currently operates in a 50/50 split between Italy and the rest of the world. In light of this, international growth is a large part of the company’s future aims.
“The main countries we are currently working in and that are a part of our growth strategies are Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, Luxembourg, France, Estonia, Romania, and Serbia,” Zrnic explains. “We are also seeking to open a new office in the Middle East and looking forward to new opportunities and projects there.
“Our goal for the future is to be involved in a number of projects, but of relevant size and importance, with integrated involvement for all disciplines in all design stages.”
In Europe, ATI Project is working on the development of two major hospital projects in Denmark (New Odense University Hospital with JV (CMB and Itinera) and New Bispebjerg Hospital with Rizzani de Eccher as GC), as well as on the renovation of the UN office at Geneva, together with the JV (CMB + Italiana Costruzioni + CSC).
“These have been very exciting experiences and extremely complex interventions (each in a different stage). For each of them we’ve created dedicated front offices and have design teams with over 50 resources per project that have been involved in them for several years,” Zrnic continues.
“It was these three design adventures that turned us into a real international design company capable of exporting Italian design in other European countries, and assisting Italian General Contractors (GCs) in winning important tenders worldwide – in all three of these interventions, we have been involved alongside GCs during the tender phases, giving our maximum support in the development of the technical offers which were very challenging given the size and complexity of the interventions, and then continued working on the projects subsequently. Furthermore, we have recently started working on another major hospital project – the New Tallinn Hospital in Estonia – and are very excited for being a part of this important intervention.”
PLANS DOMESTIC AND ABROAD
ATI Project is also undertaking infrastructure works in Italy, including the design of over 70 schools and educational institutions around the country.
“We are very proud of this. We’ve been working on these projects since our foundation, and have enjoyed each and every one of them,” Zrnic reflects. “It is incredibly rewarding to see how much we’ve learned and how much we have grown professionally through these experiences. Recently we have started a major involvement in public and private university project design, which we see as one of the main directions of further growth and development in this field.
“Education is of course just one of many sectors we have been working on in Italy – our studio has developed various project typologies, but our focus remains on healthcare, educational, residential and office buildings. All of these interventions have a great social impact, not only for their direct users, but also for the communities where they are being built. We always have this in mind and give our best to design inclusive and inspiring environments, and through participatory design processes.” Moving ahead, ATI Project’s priorities are intertwined with its mission to start new stimulating and inspiring projects, both in Italy and in an international environment.
“Although we are a numerous team, we want to make sure we provide maximum quality in all our activities – we are looking through many new opportunities and possible interventions, and are starting to be more selective in terms of the typology and location of projects that we take part in.
“Our priority is working on relevant projects not only in terms of size or complexity but also for their social and environmental impact, in the strategically individuated countries, and being involved from the concept design stage. This type of involvement allows us to apply all our experience and values, as well as our expertise in integrated design. We always enjoy the initial participatory design phases that we develop and personalise with our clients, and that is very important in order to successfully respond to all project requirements and develop buildings that respond to all user’s needs.”