JM Architecture: the interview with Jacopo Mascheroni
By Andrea Carloni & Carlotta Ferrati
Jacopo Mascheroni began his professional career in the United States and founded his own studio JM Architecture in Milan. The firm has been working at different scales with real estate developers as well as private clients, and its currently involved in a series of residential and hospitality projects in different countries.
From your biography we now know about your international training. What did it mean to have had such a high level education for your profession?
From the beginning of my studies I wanted to travel to open my mind and see new things. I have always had the traveler’s character and I adopted the same desire to my job.
I left Milan to go to the “Ecole Nationale d’Architecture de Paris”; here the professors taught me so much and I had the opportunity to deal with an international context. There were many Scandinavian, Spanish and Portuguese students, coming from different schools of thought, it was important for my openness. I studied with a disciple of Le Corbusier who applied the theory to practice in a very direct way.
When I returned to Italy, I found myself in a smaller dimension than the one in Paris so I decided to leave once again to write my thesis in the United States. I was always fascinated by American architecture, especially the modernist architecture of the 50s, as a matter of fact, already from the first year of university I researched at Harvard. I developed the whole thesis at the “University of California” at Berkeley and then I discussed it at the Milan Polytechnic.
You began your professional career working in prestigious studies including Richard Meier’s. How did you influence your way to make architecture?
After the thesis I returned to the United States and started working at “Stanley Saitowitz / Natoma Architects” in San Francisco. Here I started my professional career in a totally different world; there were Californian architectures, it was the 2000s, a magical moment.
During those years all dotcom companies reached their peaks, our studio was flooded with projects by young people who had bought lands on the surrounding hills. There was a lot of excitement in the city and it was all very stimulating. In 2001 I moved to New York in the “Richard Meier & Partners” studio where we were about 40 architects. Our projects were reaching a really high level, close to perfection.
We worked together with many engineers and consultations were 360 degrees. Being able to learn the job and facing with a reality of this level, it was fundamental for me in order to acquire a precise design technique.
How did the Lake Lugano House project begin?
It is one of the first projects and it was built on Lake Lugano; it was a very pleasant experience because we had complete freedom from the clients. The structure is built on a very small land and it leans on the lake. The shape of the construction is particular: it is a polygon with rounded edges.
Why the Montebar Villa and Jesolo Lido Pool projects are prefabricated buildings?
Wooden or steel structures are widely used in the United States. Mindful of this background, I always had the dry construction method in my DNA. It has many advantages, from the point of view of timing and quality control. The prefabricated ones are light, anti-seismic and well insulated structures.
One of the things we like the most is that we can share the executive design and it turns for four figures. It starts from our studio where we act as coordinators, then moves on to the one who produces the prefabricated structure, then from the window-fitters and finally to those who make the façade. We control everything with CAD, which allows us to achieve a perfect structure. We can deliver the structure in about ten days on site. The next day the window maker can start to assemble the windows from the perfect joints, everything is made up like a Lego.
There is a strong control over the project; once the executive drawings have been produced, everything will be exactly as we designed it, we could even not follow the construction site directly. This makes us feel comfortable and it allows us to make studied details. To ensure that everything goes as planned the team must be set towards the final goal.
How do you approach to the project? Do you have any guidelines? In a synthetic way, could you tell us how starts a project by Jacopo Mascheroni?
First of all, I have to admit that we are very lucky because we have the opportunity to work in different places, where we always have different inspirations. Not to deal with monotony is the best thing for an architect.
One of the main inspirations is the influence coming from the culture of the place. We like to reinterpret every culture with contemporary lines and express a pure language. This is what we always try to do.
Our opinion is that the best ideas come only if there are constraints that invite us to think, to find solutions and to solve problems. As it happens in the puzzler magazine: the more complex the exercise is, the more your mind works. For us this is much worse than having too much freedom. When an architect has to design his own house, as I have done, he often finds himself in difficulty because all the solutions are possible and there is no preference.
For example, when we built the Montebar Villa, the municipality forced us to make a pitched roof, but the patrons wanted a transparent house like that of Jesolo. At that point, the clients were about to give up the project, but we convinced them that we would be able to get a contemporary architecture anyway and so it was.
Do you think that Italy is a good place for architecture?
Yes, I think so. It seems like a great place because we need a lot of quality in our industry. When people see something contemporary they stop to observe, they are fascinated by the structure because they perceive a high quality. In Italy today there are few places where you stop and you say “Wow”.
We are used to see historical buildings where all the details are masterpieces, so often the new buildings don’t have the same design quality.
Being able to express a well-constructed and coherent contemporary building in various regions such as Tuscany or Puglia is something special. It’s something that doesn’t scare me at all. Our problem is that we no longer have time to think about how our masters of past ages have done. Thinking is the best thing that exists, it is the greatest luxury we can have.