Friday Feature: Diana

Who are you and what do you do?
Diana Wellenbrink – architect. Back in my home country I was arch.Diana Popova -- when you're an architect in Bulgaria, you put your title in front of your name just like doctors do.

What made you decide to go into your field?
When I was twelve, I visited the home- museum of Victor Vazarely in Pecs, Hungary. I was so impressed by the two-dimensional transformation, textural effects, the play of perspective, and light that upon returning back home I started painting (of course trying to imitate the scene). Sometimes I wish to be as excited about other things now as I was then. The built up knowledge end experience seems to steel that “virgin” appreciation and joy of discovery. Though I still could wow loudly -- a couple of years ago I visited Louis Khan’s Salk Institute Campus and no matter that I’ve studied about it before, I've read that the physical experience cannot be compared to anything.

What did your family think of your chosen field?
My mother, a teacher in Chemistry and a widow raising two children, asked shortly “How much do you need?”; I told her and that was the end of the conversation. She gave me the money I needed to study drawing for 3 years and mathematics for 2 years in order to be accepted in the University. Mother, thank you! I hope one day I would be able to support my son in pursuing his dream.

Who is the teacher who had the most influence on you and why?
My teacher in drawing, who was an architect that I kept in contact with until I left for America. He was literally beating us for “basic stupidity” but at the same time he was sitting and holding our hands to teach us how to “loosen”, “how the object should start to appear", and "never forget the big, focusing on the small”. Unfortunately his professional life proved that talent without a business approach won’t make an architectural career.

What was the biggest hurdle you faced along your educational path? (academic, financial, motivational, family or peer pressure, outside distraction, etc.)
That in architecture, you should have a strong personality, but that at the same time, you need to learn to give up – how much, when, where. One of my professors at school marking my work said: “I wish to put a ”D-“on your work, because I don’t think a client would like it, it is so 'dark', but it shows who you are and what your mood is, so “A-”.

So you to find who you are once and second how to “twist” that with a certain project, or geographic circumstance, or budget issues, or client’s personality, or team preferences is not easy I think it is never ending process.

What inspires you?
Works of art and architecture. I wish to say nature, but I am an urban type of person and I like to see the “marks of civilization”. If I am in the mountains and I see a shelter, I feel relaxed. That is why, I guess, I am an architect – to build shelters.

What schooling is required for success in your career?
Work is the best schooling. I didn’t believe it when one of my teachers asked us to redraw a project that had been designed by a well established architect. Now I know he was right.

What kind of people are the most successful in your field? Are there any specific attributes?
I’ve already mentioned that unfortunately only talent in the field of architecture is not enough. You need to have a special approach that is a talent of its own. At certain moments, you need to be a psychologist, a public speaker, a businessman, a brick layer, a wrestler, and many more…

What is the best advice you were ever given?
A quote of one of my professors, leading a class in modeling, also famous sculptor “Don’t say a word unless you could summarize it as a sketch.”

The advice of my thesis advisor upon saying good bye to each other: “From this point on, do not let anybody not address you as arch. Popova”. Interpreted, that should mean that what you gain as a professional if official, so nobody should be allowed not to respect that and there are only certain institutions that could object or suspend this.

A quote by memory of a line from Kipling’s poem: “If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you, // But make allowance of their doubting too.”

Is your field growing? (ie. is there room for new entries and is there career growth?)
I wish to say it stays as broad as it has always been.

What advice would you give someone considering a career like yours?
Go, go, go! There are few minutes in your career, but they are worth for all efforts and sleepless nights. One of mine was when we lit up a newly renovated place and the old lady who gave this place to her granddaughter and was reluctant of our “invasion” started crying and said “it is as if I'm seeing my place for the first time, it is so wonderful”