By Dana Tudose Tianu

Interview with Natalia Caracas, 14, Bucharest.

A public school graduate, Natalia scored 9,95 at the National Evaluation Exam (out of 10). She wants to become an architect.

I am sitting down with Natalia on a sunny morning at the beginning of July, in La Petite Bouffe café & pastry house, a wonderful cultural space in Cotroceni.

There is a “cultural living room” in the basement of the café, tastefully decorated, where, surrounded by books and sitting in elegant armchairs, in dim, warm, lighting, culture lovers feel relaxed and inspired. I’m having a cappuccino and Natalia picks a pink lemonade. 

Natalia, 14, was born and raised in Cotroceni. Her mother, Carmen, is an attorney and mediator, and her father, Alin, a dentist and a sculptor. She has a younger sister, Ariana, whom Natalia mentions with a note of admiration I easily pick up on. 

In June, Natalia graduated from a public school with tradition and excellent results, also based in Cotroceni – the “I. Gh.Duca” secondary school. She scored a 9.95 average on the national evaluation exam. To me, this speaks to determination, ambition, effectiveness, but also a balanced personality and clarity of thought that can be so useful to all of us. Having all of these qualities at 14 gives you several advantages later in life. 

Natalia wants to be an architect. But before college, her first option for high school is the famous Gheorghe Lazar in Bucharest. Her father, uncle and grandfather, all went there. She calls it “a family tradition”. As I write this article, she is still waiting to get confirmation that she will, in fact, be a “Lazarista”. 

What follows below is an excerpt of our 40 minute-long conversation, which we hope will inspire people who have, perhaps, lost faith in the public school system, or those who need to find the motivation to change it for the better. 

Natalia’s success, however, is a combination of factors, of which the most important one has definitely been her own parents’ interest in who she is and who she can become. She did performance ballet for 7 years, and that effort in itself was a strong character-building tool. Her luck of having been born and raised in a great community/neighborhood, is also to be considered. 

DTT: When did you start thinking about becoming an architect?

NC: Until just six months ago, I used to think of being an architect as if it were a far-away reality. It seemed a dream. My father is the one who gave me architecture books to read and started me thinking about improving my drawing skills by taking classes. 

I guess my father picked up on my interest of looking at and photographing old buildings, especially in the old center of Bucharest. The fact that he is (also) a sculptor opened up this perspective for me, because he knew what to show me and how to guide me. My father does all his sculptures at home, so we were all able to witness the creative process. Our house is a museum ☺ 

I am more passionate about photography, for now, rather than drawing. 

DTT: Which of the various aspects of urban architecture (planning, rehabilitation, development, history) interests you the most? 

NC: Whenever I visit a city abroad, the first thing I do is pay attention to the buildings, to their design, their architectural style. My father usually gives me more details and explains certain aspects to me. I like to photograph buildings and nature the most. 

DTT: What did those 7 years of ballet bring in your life? 

NC: It has been a great passion of mine. I participated in many, many contests. I used to go 3 or times a week. I loved rehearsing and perfecting my technique. What stressed me, during the performances, was accurately showing all that I have learned, all that I was capable of doing. 

DTT: You have two months of vacation after such a long stretch of studying all the time. If you could do anything, what would you do? 

NC: I would read. I know it may seem strange, but I got used to using my time productively and learning something. 

DTT: Did you consider any other professions, aside from architecture?

NC: I thought about becoming an attorney, observing my mother’s work, but she advised me against it. (n.a. I am smiling on the inside, at the thought that parents with very demanding professions usually want to spare their children the pain and tribulations of their own career☺).

I probably would not have considered architecture if it hadn’t been for my father’s guidance and opening up this world to me. 

DTT: When would you like to start digging deeper into understanding what being an architect means? 

NC: I definitely want to improve my drawing skills beginning with the first year of high school. 

I’m also thinking it will be useful to attend classes at the University of Architecture in Bucharest.  

DTT: What quality do you admire most in your parents?

NC: I admire my mom’s ambition. When she wants to achieve something, nothing stops her. I admire my father’s talent and intelligence. He gave 10 years of his life becoming first a doctor, and then a sculptor.

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