Experimenting Through Scales
In 2004 Elena Manferdini founded Atelier Manferdini, a design office based in Los Angeles, California. The firm has been highly visible as an advocate of design excellence and has been recognized internationally for its ability to create imaginative architecture, art and object design. The office is based on a multi-scale work methodology and embraces the philosophy that design can participate in a wide range of multidisciplinarydevelopments that define our culture.
Solo show exhibition of 66 miniatures printed drawings and 12 samples of hand woven carpets designed by Atelier Manferdini for Urban Fabric Rugs.
Building the Picture is part one of a two-part series of special commissions generously supported by the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, SCI-Arc and Arktura.
Interview with Elena Manferdini
What defined the multidisciplinary approach of the Atelier?
The multidisciplinary methodology of Manferdini Atelier is innate in most Italian professional architectural practices. The ability to work from the small scale of the object to the large scale of the building is embedded in my Italian background and education. From a functional perspective that is also how I started my career, working with furniture and product design to then grow to tackle the larger scale of architecture.
How and to what extent is there a sense of continuity throughout your work?
This is a very interesting question as every project starts and is embedded with the notion of research. As a result, a drawing can soon, through a process of experimentation of materials, scale, and dimensionality, turn into a façade and inhabit an architectural fantasy. Through this process, the concept stays the same but the identity changes.
What is the role of the exhibition within your work?
The exhibition plays a crucial role in turning the conceptual work of an architect into an artwork, exhibitions are an effective mean to bridge the dual identity of architectural drawgins, that can be understood as scaled down architectural artifacts, or autonomous artwork. The exhibitions of Atelier Manferdini range from drawings and models to large scale insertions which challenge the space of the white cube gallery. The opportunity to ‘own’ a gallery space for this past year has also meant a challenge because it pushed my office to be in constant production, and exposure.
How does your work at SCI-Arc influence your practice and vice versa?
My work at the university is complementary to my work back at the Atelier. As SCI-Arc is a school that encourages creativity and free thinking I am constantly stimulated by this environment and numerous of my students end up working at the practice because of a similar methodology and approach to architecture.
To what extent has your cultural heritage impacted the way you work?
Although I have been living and working in Los Angeles since I pursued my masters at UCLA, there are certain aspects that I trust are inherently Italian, as a passion and research on symmetry, materials, and a sense of order. While the outcome is geometrically very different it is strongly related to an Italian heritage and understanding of architectural facades and space.
Elena Manferdin,, principal and owner of Atelier Manferdini, has over fifteen years of professional experience in architecture, art, design, and education. She graduated from the University of Civil Engineering (Bologna, Italy) and later received her Master of Architecture and Urban Design from the University of California Los Angeles (Los Angeles, CA).
In 2004 she founded Atelier Manferdini in Venice, CA. The office has completed projects in the US, Europe and Asia. Currently Atelier Manferdini is one of 4 finalists for the façade design of the new METRO facilities in Down Town Los Angeles. She is building the façade of a Montessori school and a Hermitage parking structure in Florida. She recently completed the interior lobby and outdoor open space artworks for the Zev Yaroslavsky San Fernando Valley Family Support Center of LA County. She designed and built the entryway for the Hubert Humphrey Hospital in Down Town Los Angeles, along with two commercial stores on Abbott Kinney (Venice CA), an art gallery in Hollywood, an art pavilion for the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. In 2012 she remodeled a 3 floors cruise boat in Kyoto (Japan). In addition to art and architectural project, Elena Manferdini has worked on several museum installations and object designs; through the years she has collaborated with internationally renowned companies such as: swarovski, Sephora, Driade, MTV, Fiat, Nike, Alessi, Ottaviani, Moroso, Valentino, Arktura, Lerival and BMW.
Her artwork received the prestigious 2016 Public Art North America award. In addition to that Elena Manferdini was awarded the 2013 COLA Fellowship given by City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs to support the production of original artwork. In 2013 she received a Graham Award for architecture, the 2013 ACADIA Innovative Research Award of Excellence. In 2011 she was one of the recipients of the prestigious annual grants from the United States Artists (USA) in the category of architecture and design. Finally her Blossom design for Alessi received the Good Design Award in 2011.
Elena Manferdini’s work has appeared internationally in books, professional journals and reviews. She has been featured in several publications: Domus, New York Times, Elle, Vogue, ID, Icon, Form, Contemporary, Metropolis, and Architectural Design are selected examples. In 2013 a monograph on the firm’s work “Elena Manferdini” was published by Equalbooks.
She frequently lectures, and her work has been exhibited internationally in both architecture and art museums. Selected examples are the Art Institute of Chicago, LACMA and MOCA in Los Angeles, MAXXI in Rome, MAK center in Vienna. In 2006 Ms. Manferdini was invited to design the West Coast Pavilion representing the USA at the Beijing Biennale in the Chinese Millennium Museum. In 2008 and 2010, she curated the West Coast USA session of the Beijing Biennale exhibition. She has lectured widely, including at MIT, Princeton, GSD, UCLA, USC, UIC, UCB, Seika University, Tsinghua University and Bauhaus.
Since 2003 Elena has been part of the design faculty at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), where she is now the Graduate Programs Chair. Throughout the years Elena has been acknowledged with prestigious appointments such as the Howard Friedman Visiting Professor of Practice at the University of California Berkeley (UCB) and various Visiting Professor Positions at Cornell University, University of Pennsylvania and Seika University. In 2013 she was selected as recipient for the Educator of the Year presidential award given by the AIA Los Angeles.