We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to one of our Honorable mention winners for our "The Marker Design Challenge" competition – Alexandra Arad and Leman Zlatkova from United Kingdom!

Leman Zlatkova and Alexandra Arad from United Kingdom

Alexandra Arad

I am a qualified, self-employed architect based in London, UK. I have gained over 5 years of professional experience working at leading architectural practices in London where I have co-led award-winning projects before setting up on my own as Alexandra Arad Architect in November 2021.

I divide my time between private architectural projects and academia. I mentor architecture students at both Undergraduate and Postgraduate levels at the University of Westminster and I will be teaching Architecture & Design courses at Oxford Royale Academy this summer together with Leman.

I am passionate about working closely with local communities and organisations across London to develop projects that support the growth of more resilient, diverse and sustainable communities. As part of this strand of work I volunteer with a social enterprise in South London to lead art sessions for older adults in the community as a way to combat social isolation.

Leman Zlatkova

Lemitecture, formed in March 2021 in London, specialises in high-end residential projects. I started as a freelance architect working on various projects from loft conversions, community halls and full storey extensions. I have over 5 years of professional experience across Gent, Istanbul and London and I have worked on various scale projects ranging from designer outlets for top tier clients to small interior projects for private clients.

As an architect and director, I have extensive knowledge and experience to share with students of all levels and actively mentor in the University of Westminster’s alumni mentoring programme. I have occupied many teaching and mentoring roles at the university, working closely with the Architecture department to enhance student experiences, optimise learning, and prepare students for working in practice. I will also be teaching Architecture and Design at Oxford Royale Academy this summer with Alexandra.

I founded and run the Architect Aunt platform - an agony aunt service for architecture students worldwide, providing a unique opportunity for students to gain insight into what working as an architect involves. I regularly engage with my community to answer questions and provide 1:1 or group support in their education and work-life.

Brief information about the projects that you/your company have been involved with. For instance, what scale have you focused on/preferred, any significant projects where the company/ individuals have been involved?

Alexandra Arad

I have predominantly worked on small to medium scale community, cultural and commercial projects including community hubs, co-working spaces, libraries and schools. I am most drawn to projects at the heart of local communities, that have the potential to create real positive impact on the communities around them.

Most recently, I have co-led the design and delivery of the radical retrofit and extension of a community hub in South London for Black-led and -owned visual arts organisation 198 Contemporary Arts & Learning. By refurbishing their existing single-storey premises and adding two new floors we created high quality spaces for art, education, work and activism which enabled the organisation to extend their outreach in the community. Their redeveloped space enables 198 CAL to continue to support local young people with complex needs reconnect with learning and develop careers in the creative industries. The project has recently been awarded a RIBA London Award 2022.

Leman Zlatkova

Lemitecture focuses on small scale projects, such as extensions, full house refurbishments and interior projects for private clients. I enjoy working on small scale projects, engaging with the client and building relationships because I am passionate about creating and improving spaces to enrich day to day living and the well-being of my clients.

I was involved in an exciting project to reopen and refurbish community centres within estates. As an architect, I feel a sense of duty to help others and contribute to society. I volunteered my skills to Lavender Hope Community Hall and provided existing and proposed refurbishment drawings required for a funding application. The application was successful, and with volunteers from the community, refurbishment began. On opening day, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held by the Lambeth Mayor, and the newly refurbished hall received positive feedback and is still making a positive impact on the estate today.

What does architecture mean to you and what is the role of an architect in your society?

Alexandra Arad

To me architecture expresses emotion and gives a reading into the multiple layers of a place. It tells stories of the history of a place, its political and socio-economic context, its physical surroundings and the people who inhabit it with their own emotions, needs and aspirations. I think the role of an architect is to capture all these different stories and skilfully translate them into space, form, materials, light and shadows to create functional yet flexible spaces that encourage people to add their own story as another layer of architecture.

Leman Zlatkova

For me, architecture is multi-faceted. Ultimately I believe it is about collaboration between individuals, community and surroundings to enhance day to day life. Architects bring all aspects of a project together to improve the prospects of the site and transform space by bringing passion and commitment to providing creative solutions to challenging problems. Architects find the perfect balance between function and aesthetics, simplicity and complexity of space and emotion. We experience architecture daily, unknowingly for some, in our personal and private lives and our work and public lives. Architecture addresses form, texture, light and sound, to name a few, indicating the effects of a well-designed space go far beyond the structure, energising people who occupy the space.

Why do you participate in architecture competitions?

Alexandra Arad

I participate in architecture competitions because I think they are an effective way of addressing social, cultural, economic or environmental challenges. I see them as an excellent tool to quickly generate a pool of innovative and ambitious solutions and to push the socio-economic, technical and environmental agenda further.

As a young architect, competitions provide me with a platform to openly contribute to solving some of the pressing issues our society faces, a position that is often harder to achieve for less experienced or renowned architects within more traditional project procurement routes.

Leman Zlatkova

Competitions allow me the freedom to innovate without compromise. I enjoy exercising my imagination while collaborating with my network to solve new and meaningful briefs. I value the platform competitions provide and aim to receive recognition and exposure for my contributions. Ultimately, these opportunities allow me to expand my portfolio, grow my comfort zone, and design with purpose.

What advice would you give to individuals who struggle to decide whether it would be beneficial for them to participate in architecture competitions?

Alexandra Arad

I would strongly encourage all architects, but especially young architects at the beginning of their career, to participate in architecture competitions. Don’t be discouraged if the results are not what you were expecting - the work that you have put into submitting your entry is will reflect in the development of your career in some way or another! Competitions offer a great opportunity to learn new things about a topic or further your understanding of it through intensive research and testing of different ideas within a restricted timeframe. But most importantly, participating in architecture competitions will give you the opportunity to have your voice heard and contribute directly to addressing issues that you are passionate about, regardless of your previous experience.

Leman Zlatkova

I would highly recommend taking the opportunity to collaborate, develop and expand your design knowledge and skills through architectural competitions. They provide a unique opportunity to work on a stimulating brief, a chance to share your ideas and have influence. Competitions allow you to design creatively and freely to truly express yourself through your designs and break up your daily routine.

Participating in architecture competitions is beneficial to increasing understanding of architecture, the role architects play in society and how they can tackle important problems through extraordinary design.

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