The Fifthteenth Annual Berkeley Undergraduate Prize for Architectual Design Excellence 2013
Berkeley Prize 2013

Gancheva - Bio

I spent the first 17 years of my life in Sofia, the capital city of Bulgaria. From a very early age I was exposed to the discipline of architecture through the work of my parents who are both practicing architects. The distinction between studio and home was somewhat blurred to me and as I was growing up the sight of piles of architectural drawings, scattered journals, and unfinished models became natural to me. I was fascinated by the idea that these items would eventually translate into actual buildings and perhaps a little bit intimidated by the responsibility that comes with having such a profound effect on the built environment.

It became my goal to live up to the challenge and pursue a career in architecture. I greatly enjoyed the creative aspect of the profession and would spend hours on end sketching buildings that had caught my attention. I was particularly interested in historical architecture and was lucky enough to have the opportunity to travel throughout Europe and see in person some of the most spectacular feats of architecture that have survived to our time, including among others the beautiful German Schlösser and French Châteaux, the great mosques of Istanbul, and the ancient monasteries of Greece.

Traveling helped me expand my horizon and inspired me to study architecture abroad. The city of Edinburgh, with its beautifully preserved old buildings and castle overlooking the College of Art made the perfect setting. Currently, I am working on my final undergraduate project, a Healthy Living Center in Dalmarnock, one of Glasgow’s most derelict neighborhoods. The experience has been eye-opening in demonstrating the devastating effects neglecting the quality of the built environment can have on not only the living standard of the community but also on the social cohesion between disparate subgroups of that community. At the same time the project has also shown that strategic interventions in the urban fabric, generated after extensive consultation with the local population, have the potential to turn around the decline of an entire neighborhood.

In the future I hope to be able to practice such socially sustainable architecture and do my part to improve the quality of life in some of Sofia’s lesser developed districts. I will strive to create buildings that are sensitive to the community they will serve. After all, architecture is first and foremost, a profession in service of humanity.

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Ms. Slavka Gancheva, Univeristy of Edinburgh, Edinburgh United Kingdom
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