FORM Focus: SCAPE Comes to Los Angeles

Italian architecture firm recently opened an American location in Culver City, brining with them a warm, contemporary, thoroughly Italian aesthetic, as found in a design for a villa in Lugano. Image courtesy Scape.

Italian architecture firm recently opened an American location in Culver City, brining with them a warm, contemporary, thoroughly Italian aesthetic, as found in a design for a villa in Lugano. Image courtesy Scape.

With offices in Rome and Paris, SCAPE has established well-known profile throughout Europe since its founding in 2004. Recently, the architecture firm, known for its facilty on a range of projects, opened its first American outpost—in Culver City. Intrigued, we reached out to one of the firm’s four co-founders, Paolo Mezzalana, to find out what prompted to move into the Los Angeles market. He shares the impulse behind it with us and fills us in on his thoughts on our architectural past, present and future.

Why did your firm choose to expand to Los Angeles?

LA has been in our hearts since 2009, when we worked on an incredible project Downtown (never completed). The singer, producer, actor, director and model Vincent Gallo asked us to do a design for his house and recording studio. The project lasted approximately one year, and we worked together with for a concept inspired by Italian design of the Seventies. It was a dream and as it often happens the dream didn’t came true. But the love for Los Angeles became real and never passed. From a professional point of view we think that LA has a lot of potential for our work and our way of thinking about architecture.

What is appealing about Los Angeles’s architectural culture?

It’s may be not easy to understand, but for a European, Italian, Roman architect, Los Angeles is synonymous with freedom. What I want to say is that we are used to think, work, in a “milieu” that has a very old background of cultural rules. And sometimes these rules become unacceptable! Personally, every time that I’m in Los Angeles I feel free. The architectural culture of LA is open to new ideas, new experiences—the city doesn’t judge you at all times. And you can feel it when you drive through the hills. You can admire a mix of styles that in Europe is not even thinkable. But this crazy  mix in some ways is in equilibrium (well, not always!). What keeps everything together is, first of all, nature. The relation between nature and urbanism in LA is so strong. The second binder is the infrastructures.

Finally what we really envy is your space. In Italy, we don’t have any more space.

What will your firm contribute to our architectural culture?

We are Italians and we have a plus: We are used to studying and understanding the context. That means that we know how to make projects in harmony with the surroundings and the city. Then of course we have the Italian touch!

What sorts of projects will you be focusing on here in LA?

Architects are of course open to everything and our cv is a mix of very different programs and very different scales. (That’s the concept of our name SCAPE: It’s a suffix that doesn’t exist alone. We chose it  to express that we work at different scales, from city-SCAPE to land-SCAPE). But in Los Angeles we are most of all interested in private houses, retail, renovation.

What types of opportunities does working in LA bring?

The cultural scene of the city changed a lot in the last years. Los Angeles is the right place to meet interesting people that have something to say and to start new projects.

Finally, and most importantly, what do you think of the food scene here in Los Angeles?

I think that the food culture in LA is a mirror of what I said fabout the architectural culture. Los Angeles accepted all kind of influences from Europe,  sia, South America. At the beginning it was confused but now the food experience became very sophisticated. A few of the Italian restaurants in LA have a very high level

Having said that, to make me happy, bring me to Father’s Office. I’m burger addicted.

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