The GEN Z Series travels from Turkey to the United Kingdom to meet Lydia Deniz Osman, who graduated with an architecture degree from the Nottingham Trent University, UK in July 2022. She hails from Azerbaijan and comes from an interesting mix of family backgrounds. Lydia reveals, “My mother is Turkish, father is American and my husband is Sudanese. I grew up in Azerbaijan. My sister and I went to a small international school in Baku, where out of the total 200 students, there were 30 nationalities (smiles).”
Having finished her High School in Baku, Lydia travelled to the US, her father’s homeland. In the year 2017, she joined the University of San Francisco to study B. Sc Mathematics and BA Architecture. Two years later, she transferred to continue her B. Arch at the Nottingham Trent University. Lydia loves travelling around the world and makes sure to seize every moment she gets. Her outgoing personality loves to meet new people, try new cuisine, learning more about various cultures and appreciate the beauty of city architecture.
Lydia is an avid lover of Liverpool’s brutalist architecture in UK. She enthuses, “In the field of architecture, I am very interested in sustainable design, specifically how societies function within cities and how design can influence the natural instincts of people to create lasting design solutions. I am also a strong believer in taking inspiration from vernacular architecture. There is no better design for an environment and its climate than the one used for hundreds of years.”
Johnny D interacts with Lydia Deniz Osman about her exploration in the architecture world and her award-winning thesis ‘Meadow Lock College, Nottingham’.
What was your childhood ambition? Did you always wanted to become an architect?
Growing up, I took multiple painting lessons and completed AP Art in my final year of High School. Art for me was enjoyment. I realized ‘art’ cannot be a career for me, so I had to study something more solid. I discovered architecture during my second year at the University of San Francisco, while doing my B. Sc Mathematics. In the second year, I changed my major from Mathematics to BA Architecture. Needless to say, I fell in love with architecture.
Architecture was the perfect match for me, which is a great combination of art and mathematics. A year into architecture, I came to know that BA Architecture at the University of San Francisco was not accredited, which meant I cannot get an architect’s license as soon as I graduate. I researched to discover RIBA’s 3-Part System in the UK. Nottingham Trent University was the best, so I joined there in the month of September 2019.
How has architecture influenced your life as a student?
Architecture is a very demanding field of study. The stereotypes about sleepless nights, poor diet and spending all our time in the studio are 100% correct (smiles). Studying design is very different from other fields like mathematics, where there is a problem and one solution only. In design, the challenge is to choose and defend one solution out of hundreds. This is something I had to struggle with during my first year breaking away from the traditional ‘answer the question’ type of education to this never-ending cycle of design, critic and redesigning.
Briefly describe the significance of your project.
“The greenest building is one that is already built.” – Carl Elefante 2012
My project ‘Meadow Lock College: Foundation School of Architecture’ is located along the Trent River and Meadow Lane Lock in Nottingham. The adaptive reuse project is for a new foundation school of architecture. The ‘Pre-Arch’ curriculum is based on the idea of preparation prior to B. Arch, where students are taught the skills and knowledge they need to be successful in architecture school. The architectural program reflects this curriculum with spaces relating to the four modules taught at the school: Drawing, Model-Making, Construction and Theory.
As a part of this project’s development, I wrote my final year dissertation on the sustainability of reusing existing buildings. It was concluded that since 80% of the building stock that will exist in 2050 in the UK are already built, it is more environmental-friendly to reuse existing buildings rather than demolish them and build new sustainable ones. This is because the materials for new sustainable buildings are higher in embodied carbon than the ones that already exist. Therefore, a solution is to refurbish existing buildings as much as possible to upgrade their energy efficiency. I incorporated this conclusion into my project’s sustainability strategy and reused the existing ‘Environmental Lab Agency’ building that is on site.
As an Intern, what is the most important lesson(s) you have learned from senior architects, while being a part of a project?
I had the amazing opportunity to do my internship at Chapman Taylor, London in 2021. We were just out of lockdown and the office was still adjusting to having everyone back. Lluckily, I was able to meet people from all the different departments and see how they work together to deliver international projects. I worked mainly on a master planning project that they were working on in Azerbaijan. I learned so much about how the employees work together, what kinds of tasks are delegated to whom, and how the company works with a client from halfway across the world (smiles).
Which National or International architect has inspired / influenced you? Please specify as to why?
Carlo Scarpa – the Italian architect of the mid-1900s. He is a master of tectonics and materiality. I believe Scarpa’s work is one of the best examples of part-to-part and part-to-whole relationships in architectural design. For example, at Brion Cemetery, a burial ground that he designed, where he is also buried in, he uses a step pattern that is repeated in all parts of the building – from the main façade to all the way down to the furniture. His obsession with designing every small detail to perfection is very inspiring!
Cities are getting inundated in a massive proportion due to flawed drainage and sewage systems apart from Climate Crisis. How should urban planners, architects and landscape architects tackle this crisis to make cities flood-proof?
In Nottingham, we have one of the UK’s largest green roofs, which is on the Newton building at NTU campus. Green roofs, such as this, are a perfect solution for over flooding of the drainage systems in cities. This is because when there is heavy rain, a green roof can hold onto a significant amount of water and release it slowly through the drainage system which would otherwise run-off a regular roof and cause over flooding of the system. Green roofs also have a number of other advantages in cities, such as filtering CO2 out of air and attracting bird species which helps local ecosystems.
Briefly write about your University and Course.
I studied B. Arch Architecture course at Nottingham Trent University. It is a RIBA accredited program. The three-year course is divided into four modules per year: representation, technology, context, and studio. The four modules are fully integrated with one another, especially in the final year, where everything you learn from the representation, technology, and context modules can be incorporated into the studio project simultaneously.
Which significant aspects of the global platform ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ did you liked the most, and why?
What I enjoy the most about ‘zerobeyond – the new frontier!’ is the interview articles. I enjoy reading about the opinions of other students and architects from their personal perspectives.
How would you describe architectural style in Azerbaijan?
Azerbaijan is a very interesting country. It is small, but its geographical position is perfect. Historically, it sits on a major trade route between Asia and Europe, and during the Soviet Union, the Capital city of Baku was crucial. The architectural style today reflects layers of the country’s history. In Baku, there is the old walled city called ‘Icherisheher’, which means ‘Inner City’ with the 12th Century Islamic Architecture.
Just outside the old city walls is the downtown area called ‘Targova’ with Russian Imperial architecture as well as Soviet era architecture. Finally, as the city expands outwards, there is late-modern, post-modern and contemporary architecture including Zaha Hadid’s ‘Heydar Aliyev Center’. The uniqueness of Baku is that the architectural eras are very clearly laid out, almost in concentric circles originating from the old city and expanding outwards like ripples in a pond.
Honours and awards related to architecture, if any.
I won the ‘Best Sustainable Design’ award for my ‘Meadow Lock College’ project.
Image Courtesy: Lydia Deniz Osman