We’d like to take the opportunity to introduce you to the 1st prize winner of our "The Home of Shadows" competition – Maria Tîlvescu Nicula from Romania!

Maria Tîlvescu Nicula from Romania

I am a PhD architect and a teaching assistant at ”Ion Mincu” University of Architecture and Urban Planning, in Bucharest, Romania. Currently I am attending an internship at Aires Mateus in Lisbon.

My PhD degree focuses on the field of memorial architecture. I was born in Romania, right after the fall of the communist regime. I did not get to live those times, but I grew up in a society that still bore the marks of almost half a century of dictatorship. Thus, I have always been interested in the past and its heritage, fact that was later on reflected on the entire activity that I carried out in the field of architecture.

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?

Although I have a special interest in memorial architecture (and I mention here my first ever-built project – „Resistance and Repression in Bihor”, located in Oradea Fortress, Romania), my practice as an architect included so far a wider variety, from large-scale commercial centers to residential projects, photography and even graphic design. I try to stay as further as possible from a restrained specific subject and I always venture in fields that are less known to me, in order to gain experience and enhance my skills. When I start to feel insecure and scared, I know I am on the right path!

Another important activity for me is participating in architecture competitions in itself, hence I have already gathered a number of international prizes that gave me courage and boosted my confidence in going further on this road.

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

Architecture is the domain that I am most passionate about, a field of peace and struggles at the same time, ever changing, like life itself. Architectural design is the activity where I feel most challenged but also most „at home”. I think the architect should be bold in observing the world, but humble in forging it, stepping gentle and with care while giving the best in the creative process.

Why do you participate in architecture competitions?

You have the opportunity to challenge yourself to the maximum, refining and sharpening your skills, from the inception of the idea to the most expressive and honest way of conveying it.

I have always believed that the anonymity offered by international architecture competitions is extremely important. Your situation or origin no longer matter; only your skills matter, and that, in my opinion, is a very beautiful and valuable thing.

Additionally, I believe that by participating in and winning international competitions, I can inspire my students to do the same. Some of the best experiences in my career as an architect have emerged from competition-related circumstances, whether it's internships, masterclasses, collaboration offers, or simply interacting and learning from other architects around the world.

Lastly, but certainly not least, I participate because it brings me great joy. I simply love doing it.

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

There are winners in architecture competitions, but there are no losers, only passionate people engaged in an experience that will help them grow. Keep it simple, participate with enthusiasm and passion and do not give up! It will improve your whole career in so many (unexpected) ways! And don’t forget to have fun along the way!

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