We continue with our new series “Tip from the Expert” where we will meet you with inspiring specialists in architecture and interior design. Our next guest is Radost Georgieva from Studio Atelier Apollonian Architects. We talked in detail about constructions of the Black Sea coast, professional training in Bulgaria and Germany and what should be an architect’s mission. The result is at hand.
Introduce yourself in a few words.
I am a young architect at the age of 34, born in Sozopol. I started studying architecture at the Technical University of Berlin and I did my master’s degree at the University of Stuttgart. During my studies there I practiced at the architectural studio of Arch. Ernest Fry. After my graduation I started working at Atelier Serafimov Architects in Sofia and worked there for 5 years. I have my own studio for two years.
Were you born in the Old Town or in the New?
In the Old, all my relatives are from there. I do not know how much this has influenced me to choose the profession of architect, but I have always been impressed by the many artists who came to paint the city’s buildings each summer. My family has no architects, only artists and sculptors, so my decision was very personal. Of course, when I chose this profession, I did not know what it was. (laughs) I thought I was going to make nice buildings and that. I had no idea how much work I was going to do, but I do not regret it at all. I’m not one of those people who have been studying for 5 years something they do not like, and then they do not practice it. I hope to always be able to practice my profession.
As is popular around here.
It is popular because we have a comparatively small university of architecture where it was relatively difficult to take. And when the students are accepted another specialty, different from what they wanted, they are looking to get it all the way to a diploma. In Germany, you have a free choice to learn what you want and to break when you want. In general, I believe that the candidate student exams should be dropped out in Bulgaria.
Because there is no one to compete, all students go abroad. Why then have the exams? Selection needs dropped.
You have a point. Let’s go back to Sozopol. A lot of people think that every year the city is becoming more and more crowded with shops, pubs and discos, such as Ropotamo, for example. Do you agree, and if so, is this a danger to the preservation of the Old City?
Sozopol is a very sensitive topic for me, because I see with wide open eyes the potential of this city and also with so open eyes I see the great reluctance to work, incompetence and laziness of the city administration. There are basic things that need to be done urgently, such as preserving and restoring the maritime school, building other public buildings with a cultural purpose at the same place, organizing parking, cleaning and renovating the old port, street lighting, etc.
Regarding Ropotamo Street … Unfortunately, it is an example of cheap tourism. This street, which was supposed to be a modern maritime promenade, has become a total kitsch of our time. For me, the decision is to set up special trading venues and build decent stalls to be rented out during the season. There should be fines and prohibitions in order not to stimulate arbitrariness. Yes, they call it “Merry Street” and all young people go there. I do not mind having such a destination, it is still a tourist town. But let it be pure and have some sort of order and organization.
What needs to be done to avoid drowning the Black Sea in concrete and small stalls?
Booths and stalls, as well as the sale of corn with a gas bottle, are simply unacceptable and should have separate places for them. As for large-scale construction … I have led many foreigners in Sozopol and they seem to be undeveloped. For example, people who have been to Spain come to our Black Sea coast and claim to be deserted. Apparently everything depends on the point of view. My personal opinion is also that Sozopol is not overbuised. It’s just built ugly. What has been raised over the past 15 years is poor and poor, the work of bad architects and investors who do not have enough money to build a nice house.
If we are talking about Sunny Beach – this is a mistake that happens elsewhere in Europe. How can it be prevented? Not when there is a lot of lovers of this kind of tourism, and that obviously brings enormous income – who to foretell it and why? The bad about architecture and, above all, nature has been done to us.
Take a beach strip and build it with houses. Each of them will have a separate owner. How would you explain to them that it is important to complement the styles of the buildings?
It is important because the environment in which we live is important. And when it is arranged and enjoyable, we all will feel better. This is called “urban planning”. If it is good not only on paper, but in reality, things would happen. And I would say to an investor – how much better a neighborhood, the higher the price of your property.
What did you gain from your education in Germany? And what did he lose?
I believe that I have gained good education and good command of German. They in turn gave me a worldview, giving me the freedom to think. I have allowed myself to understand that there are no impossible things, and that ultimately a person is free to decide where to study, work, live … Besides, I feel free to make choices at any moment of my life as my diploma allows. (laughs) Today I take advantage of all the knowledge I have gained – both as a language and as contacts – and I continue to work with German companies. At the moment, my studio is doing projects with German desks, opening new doors for me. As for the negatives – I would not say that there are any. I do not regret the fact that I did not think about my fragile age at the age of 18.
How is your resemblance to your work for Ernst Frey and Atelier Serafimov Architects?
The two companies are located in Stuttgart and Sofia respectively. The difference is that I myself was at different stages in my life. I worked in Germany as a student, and my responsibility was radically different from that of designing large objects that I had the pleasure of doing here. In Germany, we have been working in the housing sector and I have been working on designing several nursing homes with medical centers. I learned a lot from my employer, who was then an elderly architect. I met a tolerant attitude from them as the only outsider in the office, and I enjoyed working there for 2-3 years until I graduated.
Then I got a job offer in Sofia and started working as an architect on a large public building here. His investor was also a German firm, so even then my relationship with the country remained alive. My job here was dynamic and I learned a lot from the late regrettably arch. Tanka Serafimov. With him I learned to organize the work and some other technical stuff. It was an important stage in my professional life.
Do you have any observations on the impressions of the Germans on us?
I have been leading Germans here and they have always been impressed by Bulgaria and of course by its nature. But they were impressed by Sofia as a city. Yes, they see it is dirty. Yes, they see it is broken. But they also see other things that we, as we live here, do not notice. Owing to their impressions by the Bulgarians themselves – I can not say, but I think soon that the two nations are understood and work together.
Is it easier to work with Germans or with Bulgarians?
I am extremely pleased to work with Germans because they are accurate and I love my relationship with people to be clear. When it comes to work, it helps a lot. I work with them without the feeling that at any moment they can lie to me. While with the Bulgarians I approach with slight mistrust. Yet everything rests on man, not on nationality. However, I have never met a German with an unfair attitude to me.
Why did you decide to set up your own studio?
Each architect comes to the point where he wants to appear as an artist. That’s why I started to study. It was at the very moment I founded my own studio and started to see the things that I had thought and judged, that I had made a good decision. After 10 years of work I realized I had taken the right path. I love my profession and I care not only to make the building well but also to the people living in it to be happy. It is a great pleasure to deliver me when someone invites me to my newly built building to thank me. This is a very emotional moment for me because a building is not built for 2 years, but for a lifetime.
What do you think should be the mission of an architect?
To create a favorable environment for living – not specifically for living or for work, but for life. Architecture is an absolute reflection of the culture and economy of a country and, however difficult the situation is in Bulgaria, we must take care to create buildings to ennoble the environment and not to damage it. That is why our profession is so responsible, and we must – or at least we should – practice it with the consciousness that what we are planning will remain for a long time, and the created environment will form the consciousness and upbringing of generations after us. Like any art.
What would you like to learn from architecture yet and what other people would like to learn?
I am just beginning my own professional career and I would like to improve my design skills and create more and more beautiful buildings. And what I would like people to learn is to appreciate our work and the environment they inhabit. To take care of her and to make the living conditions condition normal.
A building should be beautiful not only from the outside, but from the inside. Here’s what we learned about interior design and the drawing of the detail by Martina Radeva, architect at IRchitect Studio.