LOS ANGELES I EN I Ilaria Mazzoleni

Main at IM Studio

 1 November 2012 – 12 : 30
6009 rodgerton dr
Los Angeles, 90068
Introduced by Oliviero Godi


My name is Ilaria Mazzoleni, I’m Italian, and we are now in Los Angeles where I live, work and teach. I teach at the Southern California Institute of Architecture. And I also have an office called IM Studio MI/LA, which stands for Milano and Los Angeles. I do work both in Los Angeles and in Milano.
I studied at the Politecnico di Milano and then I came to Los Angeles several years ago for my Master’s. I had a scholarship to do a Master in Building Science at the University of Southern California, School of Architecture. Both my undergraduate and graduate thesis were about Sustainable material. After that I started working at AGPS Architecture in both their Los Angeles and Zürich office. In 2005, I started teaching full time and I opened my own practice. I have few collaborators; some of them are my former students. In the studio we investigate both research-based projects and also projects here and in Italy.
In 2005 I also began developing research projects in biomimetric design. I see biomimicry as the next step beyond sustainable design, a way that looks at nature as a source of inspiration. The design has to be sustainable and really connected to its site. For doing that, looking at nature, and the nature of the place, and understanding what’s it, allows you to connect and design appropriately. And so I started doing a series of research on specific animals and how animals have adapted physiologically and behaviourally to a specific environment and then started to suggest sequence of exercises and design projects that I’ve been exhibiting over the past years. For the last eighteen months, I’ve been focusing on the publication of a book, titled «Architecture Follows Nature – Biomimetic Principles for Innovative Design».
It’s a book that contains methodology that I developed as well as 12 case studies.


The building you wish you had designed ?
I do have many buildings that I would like to design but I hope to be able to do it in the future.

The project you designed that makes you proudest ?
There are two main projects: One research: “Polar bear, Keep It Warm”.
A competition: “Eco-systemic restoration: a model community at Salton Sea”. This is a larger planning project. We created a community for a thousand people where, like in an ecosystem, everything is interconnected. It’s a collaboration with an evolutionary biologist, an agronomist, an urban planner, and many others.

A striking detail in one of your projects ?
The section of the envelope of the polar bear house with its fur-like glass tubes. It Scales up the fur of the polar bear. These tubes are reorienting themselves following the sun angles. That dynamic envelope helps to collect as much heat and light as possible which get stored thanks to a phrase change material into the thick envelope.

The project you would never design ?
As architects we like to design everything. It’s not that a museum is better than a cemetery. It really depends on the opportunity, the client, and the situation. Any project can be the greatest project.

The ideal or perfect city ?
Los Angeles, but not necessarily because I find it perfect. Los Angeles is really a place that offers a lot. I love its multiplicity. It’s not easy to understand in a few days. Los Angeles has so many layers, so much diversity and complexity. I always associate it to Milano. Milano is also a city where people don’t go for its beauty. Milano has many hidden qualities. You have to live there to discover the palaces, the courtyards, up to the detailing of the entry doors. In Los Angeles there are different realities and your mind can reset every half hour. It is a mini version of the world.

Do you prefer talking or
Neither one. I prefer thinking.

The question that is bugging you?
Why is it not built?

What infuriates you as far as architecture is concerned?
I think people who are really single minded. You must be a very open minded person. In Italian we say that architect are “tuttologisti”, as they are interested in many things, in almost everything, really.

Franck Gehry House – Los Angeles

The most ridiculous building in Los Angeles?
Sometimes ridiculous can be understood in a positive way like some streets of Beverly Hills. There is English cottage, French chateau, … They all coexist and this is fantastic. However a great example is the house of Franck Gehry, where he takes the traditional cottage and transforms it. That’s the freedom and the openmindess of Los Angeles.

The song you’re listening to over and over again ?
Brad Mehldau a jazz pianist.

Your message to young architects ?
Never give up.

Who’s the architect who accompanies you ?
A mentor is someone that tells you a few things that will guide you throughout your life. I have been fortunate to meet a few of these people in my life; one of the latest that I can think off is Alessandro Mendini. Every, and each time I have a conversation with him I feel enriched and encourage to go ahead and work hard to improve my work and myself. I think that people who spend time to critique your work, are actually the ones who care the most about you.

What you remember about your student years?
I had a great time and I met people that shape who I am today and are still my friends now!