Five minutes with… Zulf

This month we are introducing Mohsin Cooper’s architectural assistant, Zulf.

Zulf has been studying at the University of Brighton, and has just completed his Part Two studies whilst working at Mohsin Cooper.

Can you remember what first made you want to become an architect?

I’ve been brought up in and around the built environment sector my whole life. My dad was a project manager and I worked as a labourer on sites for 10 years.

I guess you could say it’s in my blood.

What’s been a highlight of your studies this year?

Working on my final year project: transforming and reinvigorating an underutilised cruise ship terminal in Dover.

I picked the terminal because when I first visited I had a very eerie feeling that we weren’t meant to be there – not the ideal response to a building which should be welcoming passengers for the start of their cruise holiday!

I wanted to counter the current narrative, which is all about getting to your destination as fast as possible, and rediscover the glamour and excitement of international travel.

Identifying the problem helped me to figure out early on how I wanted fix things. My design sought to bring the whole building back into use as not just a terminal but as a destination in itself, by expanding the leisure uses on offer and reinstating welcoming public spaces.

It’s going to be featured in the Architect’s Journal and the online design magazine, Dezeen, and amazingly has also received a commendation for the RIBA (Sussex branch) prize.

What sorts of projects do you most enjoy working on?

I think my Part Two project has given me a taste for large scale projects!

I’m currently working on a 40-unit scheme which has plenty of constraints, and that sort of thing is particularly enjoyable because it’s really satisfying working out how to solve a problem and pre-empt likely planning issues.

What do you like most about being an architect?

For me, the best thing is getting to know your client. When you meet at the start of a project to get briefed and go through their wish list, you feel like you can really help them. You get to know them well, and get to help them turn their vision into a reality. That’s really satisfying.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve been given?

In a session on model making during my undergraduate degree, a lecturer once told me:

“If it shines and it’s not gold, it’s glue!”

And glue on an architectural model is not a good look.

Since then I’m fairly obsessed with making perfect-looking models!

What are you looking forward to in the coming months, work wise?

I’ve got a couple of interesting projects on the horizon, including a bespoke new build house where the client is aiming to become completely off-grid. It’s sure to throw up some design challenges which I know will be really fun to work through and solve.

And what’s next for you, outside of work?

I’m looking forward to completing a big cycle trip with family. We’ll be cycling round Poland over 10 days. Like most people, it was something that was planned way before Covid happened, so it’s great to finally be able to do that soon.