Co-Working Co-Living, London Royal Docks

In the GEN Z Series, we have so far featured an outstanding 72 young student-architects from all across the continents. This young generation of architects, landscape architects, urban planners, interior designers and neuro-architects has showcased great creativity with their design creations and provided insightful views about climate crisis and future. I love that not even one has had the inclination towards brutalist architecture. In fact, they have shown great talent with their futuristic architectural design.

From the University of Nottingham, the GEN Z Series travels to the Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University to meet 2022 graduated Master’s in Architecture Bulgarian student-architect Gabriela Tsakova. She is currently working as Part II Architectural Assistant at Corgan, London. Gabriela Tsakova reveals, “I was born and raised in Sofia, Bulgaria. I grew up in a family of lawyers and doctors. I was the first to pursue a career in architecture. As a child, my summer holidays were spent in a rural environment, immersed in village life with my grandma, where harvesting fruits and vegetables was part of the self-sufficient lifestyle of every family.”


Having being creative from her early childhood, Little Gabriela used to play with fabrics, buttons and colorful threads during her trips to neighbourhood tailor shop with her mother. She enthuses, “My primary, secondary and college education was in the Liceo Italiano a Sofia. My studies focused on the Italian language and culture, which encouraged the development of my interest and skills in classical drawing and fundamentals of composition. Until today, as young architect, I rely on my sound graphical skills in drawing and interpreting light and shadow.”

Johnny D has an interesting interaction with Gabriela Tsakova about her journey so far in the challenging field of architecture and her Master’s thesis ‘Co-Working Co-Living, London’.

Plan – Ground Floor

What was your childhood ambition? Did you always want to become an architect? 

Since my childhood, I had exposure to art, design, nature and the opportunity to be engaged in creative activities and hobbies. My parents have always encouraged me to experiment with different creative arts, such as classical drawing and photography. Interior design captured my imagination as a child, but it was thanks to a work-experience program for High School students at an architectural firm in Sofia, and the insightful mentoring I received there, that meant I firmly fixed my sights upon architecture.

Proposed Building

How has architecture influenced your life as a student?

Studying Architecture at Cardiff University was very challenging, but also rewarding. At times, I felt a huge pressure to expand my skills and knowledge, which helped me to increase my capacity for hard work.  It felt as if I was thrown in at the deep-end, which sharpened my problem-solving skills and taught me that there is always more than one answer or solution to a problem.

Plan – First Floor

What role do you perform as Part II Architectural Assistant at Corgan?

I am extremely fortunate to undertake my Part II Architectural training at Corgan, as the firm provides fertile grounds for collaborative learning and enhancement of a diverse range of professional skills and abilities. I have been engaged both in competition and tendering for new projects, as well as the later stages of their realization. Competition work involves design skills and 3D modeling in Rhino and Grasshopper, whereas later stage of project requires technical / detail drawings sets to be produced, usually done in Revit. I am very grateful to my boss Francis Walker for always trying to fit a variety of tasks, which develops not only our technical, but also design skills.

Peoples’ Page

Briefly tell us about your University and the Masters’ Course.

The Masters’ program at Cardiff University is a two-year Course. The first part involves education in practice, spent predominantly on placement with architecture firms. This is followed by the second year, which engages students in full-time university studies. The year in practice was crucial, as it allowed me to test and develop further my technical skills. It also sharpened my transferable skills such as working in teams, resilience under tough deadlines, client management, sourcing suppliers across Europe and overseeing, and working with contractors on the site. Being engaged by a small but high impact firm such as Project One, an interior design studio in Cardiff allowed me to take more responsibilities and take part in diverse range of projects.

Co-Working Axonometric Drawing

Briefly describe the significance of your project with the ‘Title of the Project and Site Location’.

In the context of industrial sites, such as the London Royal Docks, the economic and tech development of the 21st Century has led to the decline in industry and left behind an abandonment of neglected landscapes and ruined local economies. The ‘Productive city’ approach to urban regeneration highlights the themes of densifying the deluded areas by creating new employment opportunities, providing housing and improving connectivity. My project ‘Co-working Co-Living’ aims to eliminate the social segregation in the area by giving a chance to younger people, those with lower incomes, or the ones who prefer shared living, to live and work in the area.

Office Plan – First Floor

The rapidly growing build-to-rent sector and schemes such as ‘Help-to-Buy’ and ‘Shared Ownership’ schemes were implemented to solve the housing crisis in the UK. However, those new-built properties remain inexcusable and unaffordable to many, who are working in London. The project’s ethos is that everyone deserves a good quality of living. In this context, it aims to provide a housing development based on shared living and positive social impact. It opens a space in the housing sector for those who value communal living and flexibility, which matches the new emerging flexible and remote work patterns. To contribute to the economy of the area, the project will provide environment for micro-businesses, self-employed individuals and start-ups by a co-working scheme.

Pre-Fabricated Elements

Which National or International architect has inspired / influenced you? Please specify as to why?

Santiago Calatrava, Eero Saarinen and Zaha Hadid are some of my favorite architects. I admire how sculptural and dynamic are their design creations. I consider their works as a piece of art. The buildings they create are easily recognizable with a distinct style. What inspires me is developing a design style in my career that someone will look and know who did that. It is very easy as a designer and an architect to be influenced by different styles, clients and project brief, but what make you unique is having an authentic architectural style of your own.

Elevation and Section

As an Intern, what is the most important lesson(s) you have learned from senior architects, while being a part of a project?

It can be difficult to maintain decent communication with all parties in design and build. A lesson I have learned is that it is extremely important to have good relations, be kind and responsive at all times. Building relationships with people can be as important as designing. Another important lesson is to always triple check your work. Small mistakes can cause immense issues, possibly related to legal matters, financial loss, missed deadlines etc.

Residential Units’ Design Consideration

Will the younger generation of architects make innovative changes to mitigate the catastrophic effects of Climate Crisis? Elucidate your perspectives.

I am an optimist that my generation of architects will not only be just “activists” in creating awareness about sustainable design, but also be relentless change agents, implementing new practices, relying on new environmentally-sound materials and technologies, while developing equitable architecture and inclusive built environments in the times of economic and climate crisis. Sustainability is not just another textbook chapter, but also it has to be embedded in all activates and processes we do as architects.

The construction sector is amongst the biggest generators of carbon emissions, therefore as architects we are responsible and have a duty to invent solutions that will not only minimize the damaging impact, but also regenerate solutions through innovation in building materials, life cycle, strategies of production, recycling, etc.

Residential Unit Elements

Which significant aspects of the global platform ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ did you liked the most, and why?

As architects and designers, we should support each other and proactively engage within colleagues’ geographical borders to create a truly international community. ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ is a great platform for the people in the industry to come together, share knowledge and good practices, as well as have a voice supporting the latest advancements in the field. Having such exposure and opportunities to showcase our design creations to potential employers is confidence-inspiring and a meaningful stepping stone at the initial stages of an architectural career journey. 

Single Residential Unit

Local charm of cities has diminished due to Modern Architecture as every city looks alike and similar. How should architects / urban planners / landscape architects modernize cities, while maintaining the local charm intact?

Local charm to me lays in the history of the area. Most European cities have this ambiance of the past filtering from the historical streets and buildings. New development areas could feel very sterile at times. London Royal Docks and Royal Wharf developments are a fascinating example of how architectural regeneration can be inspired by the historic context of the area, as well as drive a social and economic renewal to formally abandon deprived areas bringing them into the 21st Century. The development of these areas deployed various architectural designs to foster a community spirit and a city neighborhood feel rather than just mushrooming expansive and alienating residential blocks of flats. Through such architectural approach, the city grows in harmony with the interests and lifestyles of its community.


Looking at the past in the current present, what are the futuristic architectural changes you would like to see in your home city / town? Elucidate the reasons for your vision.

Sofia is located in a valley, surrounded by beautiful mountains and nature, which regretfully remain unnoticed if one immerses in the hustle and bustle of the city life. Unfortunately, nowadays Sofia seems very chaotic, polluted and noisy as it is entirely private car-dependent city. Due to the geographical setting, ancient part of the city as well as vast expansion of dwelling the infrastructure did not catch up to offer a viable public transportation network. In this context, my futuristic architectural changes will be to transform the infrastructure and create a pedestrian and cyclist-friendly city, driving inspiration from the Groningen’s example.

Exploded View of Residential Block

Image Courtesy: Gabriela Tsakova

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