Alessandro Isola: “Being frightened of being wrong kills creativity”
Alessandro Isola Studio means bespoke architecture, interior and furniture. All with an awareness of space, beauty and utility. Alessandro Isola, an Italian architect based in London, founded it in 2014. He started his formal training at home in Italy, where he studied Art and Interior Architecture in Milan.
Then, he decided to move to London to continue his studies and he graduated in Architecture at the Oxford Brookes University School of Architecture, where he was granted a distinction and awarded the coveted Michael King memorial prize. After that, he worked for Foster + Partners where he also gained his RIBA/ARB professional chartered qualification.
He then co-founded IM Lab and subsequently started his practice, Alesandro Isola Studio in 2014. What defines his style is innovation, creativity, stimulation, personal… he always seeks to go beyond conventional and to draw a smile to people’s faces. His projects have been published and awarded internationally.
Decommunity has sat down with Alessandro Isola to talk about his projects, his career, his fears… everything that makes Alessandro Isola’s studio recognized all over the world.
Who is Alessandro Isola? Tell us about you and how you started your own studio.
I am an Architect by formation, although sometimes I joke and say that I feel I am a psychologist as much as an architect. I think, one of our biggest challenges, as designers, is to be able to read people, to observe and listen to them. I think words, gestures, movements, they are all keys to a design story.
My formal training began at home in Italy, where I studied Art and Interior Architecture. Then I headed to England and graduated in Architecture at the Oxford Brookes University School of Architecture and the Architectural Association in London.
After various experiences, among all, working at Foster + Partners and co-founding with a friend of mine IM Lab, in 2014 I started my practice, Alessandro Isola Ltd, a London base multidisciplinary design practice which specialises in architecture, interiors, and product design.
Starting my own studio was challenging, scary and rewarding at the same time….and it still is.
When you look back, how do you feel about your first project?
I don’ t remember the outcome of my first project from an aesthetic point of view. I only remember this constant feeling of pressure and that I underestimate how tough it was to bring a project from concept to reality. I remember being scared to be wrong. No matter how many projects I have done since then the tension and the worry of being wrong is always there.
I came to a conclusion, though, that if you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original, I think being frightened of being wrong kills creativity.
Tell us briefly about your inspiration process.
I find inspiration in the small things of daily life. They can be random, unnoticed, or even annoying yet powerful enough to create interactions between us and feed my imagination. My designs are informed by movement. Movement can be dynamic, where the end user will engage with the object in unexpected ways, like with the slide sink or the torque table. Or it can be a movement frozen in time capturing an unconscious gesture, like with the stumble upon collection.
A big source of inspiration are my clients themselves, my design team, the craftsmen, my production and management team. Conversing with them and exchanging ideas elevate the projects to another level. This connection is very important to me. Clients for example are not just clients, it goes much deeper than this. I cannot explain it in words.
I always strive for perfection no matter what I do.Alessandro Isola
How is Alessandro Isola different from other architecture studios in London? How is your work recognizable?
Probably that my projects are extremely personal. I don’t design for someone that I don’t have a connection with. Always listening to the client, understanding their needs, their expectations, and their dreams.
I always strive for perfection no matter what I do. I do not compromise for commercial purposes, I do not compromise on the time I spend and invest in a project, all that matters is that the user, the client, the buyer is satisfied with the outcome.
Pros and cons of working as an architect in London.
Since studying at the Architectural Association in London I have been attracted to the London multicultural environment. I enjoy relating to people with different cultural and social backgrounds. London exposure to new places, new shops, new restaurants, theatre plays, keep me mentally alive.
I don’t design for someone that I don’t have a connection with.Alessandro Isola
London though is a very fast speed and dynamic environment and sometimes this can be overwhelming and very often I crave quietness, silence, and stillness so maybe we’ll bump into each other during my lonely strolls or in a yoga class.
How would you describe your work?
I would like my work to be seen as inventive, creative, poetic, boundaryless, stimulating, personal, innovative, useful and beyond convention.
I seek to challenge the way things are and the designs have always something unexpected and surprising, that I hope draws a smile to people’s faces.
You’re Italian.. how do you transmit your essence/roots to your projects?
Craftsmanship, experimentation, and passion.
For much of my production I return to my native Italy to source true independent craftsmen, that over generations have perfected a particular craft technique. This bygone artisan know-how and timeless quality is sensitively paired with letter day advancements in technology, to create a design outcome that is just as fascinating to touch as they are to observe and use.
All done with a smile…. while having an espresso of course! (-he laughed-).
Who are your references? Favourite architects and designers to be inspired by.
I don’t have a favourite architect per se but I am most drawn by individual projects or products that are based on radical transformation, breaking the boundaries and transcending the ordinary. In general though example among others are Richard Buckminster, Thomas Heatherwick and Nendo.
A dreamy project
Any that would trigger my curiosity, inspire and challenge me, it could be anything from a big public installation to a pen.
How has this last year been for Alessandro Isola?
Our pattern of life has changed drastically. The home has become a hybrid of different activities including work and physical exercise. I think in general we became more aware of our space and how it looks and should look and most of all how it should be used.
I think the ability to adapt, and transform should be at the core of our homes, where multifunctional spaces respond to ever-changing needs.
An architectural trend that you are applying in your projects
I do not subscribe to a specific trend. For me, form is the result of an action, a gesture, and a natural evolution of a deeper concept which at its core explores the human interaction between spaces and objects. In my projects transformation gives a unique perception; an object or a space can change as you walk along or as you interact with it, giving it a unique look that goes beyond trend.
The work is always site-specific, context-specific, and client-specific and this is what naturally gives a design style.
A book, a film and an essential reference in architecture
Film: Nuovo Cinema Paradiso by Giuseppe Tornatore and A Single Man by Tom Ford
Book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
The best reference in Architecture is our surroundings and to look at it with an observative and inquisitive eye.