Massimiliano Locatelli works to turn dreams into reality. Most of his early life was spent working towards a career in architecture, and by his mid 20’s he had already earned a PHD in Interiors and founded his own firm, CLS Architetti. Working between New York and Milan, he’s designed homes, stores, and entire buildings in cities like Paris, London, Moscow, Saigon, and many others. Mixing the natural with the fantastic, he has created spaces that wouldn’t appear in most architects’ wildest imaginations, even going as far as to design an entire store that appears to be upside down for Viktor & Rolf. He recently spoke with us over email about some of his projects, the techniques and themes he’s excited to explore in the future, and his lifelong love of architecture.
LASTBLOG: What drew you towards architecture and interior design? What creative opportunities does it offer you that other mediums do not?
Massimiliano Locatelli: Architecture had always been my true passion when I was at school. I just followed it and build my profession around it. The opportunity Architecture and Interior design give to me is to start from zero at every project with the freedom to “build” something new every time.
LASTBLOG: By your mid 20’s you’d already earned your PHD in Interiors, and founded your own architecture firm. Can you talk a little about the experience you had before this?
ML: Before PhD when I was at University I started working in several Architecture offices since I felt I could not only study but I wanted to see what happened in the “real world”. After my degrees I immediately felt it was the right time to found my own architecture firm, CLS architetti with my partners Giovanna Cornelio, Annamaria Scevola and few years later Davide Agrati became an Associate.
“The challenge is to understand and preview a client’s dream and then turn them into reality in a way they do not expect but they feel comfortable with.” – Massimiliano Locatelli
LASTBLOG: You’ve lived between Milan and New York City since 1993. Is there something that draws you to these two cities, something about them that inspires you?
ML: I think I have been traveling between the two cities because I find in the two of them the balance I am always looking for: New York more contemporary, open 24 hours a day, great energy and open minded; Milano, Italy, taste, quality, tradition.
LASTBLOG: You earned your PHD in Interiors. How would you describe the difference between designing interiors and exteriors? How should they work together?
ML: I have never felt there is a difference between exterior and interiors, there has to be a constant dialogue between the two and one is the extension of the other.
LASTBLOG: Can you talk a little about your influences? Which architects – or other artists for that matter – do you draw from?
ML: If I have to say a name for sure Le Corbusier, his work matches my idea of being simple, innovative and contemporary in architecture. I would also say that my Maestros are all the architects, artists, designer who approach their job in a very open minded way finding the best details to solve a need.
LASTBLOG: You’ve said that your specialty as an architect is to “make people’s dreams come true.” Can you talk a little about this? How do you balance the needs and wants of your clients with your own ideas?
ML: I think that an Architect has a big responsibility, we build the places where people live most of their time, either homes, offices, stores, hotels and leisure places. The challenge is to understand and preview a client’s dream and then turn them into reality in a way they do not expect but they feel comfortable with.
LASTBLOG: What happens when you have a particularly unique idea? How do you know when to implement it? How do you know if it can even be done?
ML: Every project starts from an idea and my goal is to experiment in every project something new. This can be a material, a mood, a way of thinking to the space with a good listening to the culture of the place the project is located.
LASTBLOG: The “In Progress” section of your website currently shows some of the projects you’re currently working on. Can you talk about some of these projects? What inspires and excites you about them?
ML: There are a lot of ongoing projects at the moment, very different one from the other and located in very different countries. I am excited to work on each of them starting from the “dream” and then turning to reality taking into consideration and respecting the culture of each region.
LASTBLOG: Are there ideas that you might not have been able to try before that you’re now exploring due to newer innovations?
ML: Well, sustainability is one of the themes I am always very interested in and that has developed a lot in the last years. I can say we are more and more involved in this with the newest technology available.
“I think that an Architect has a big responsibility, we build the places where people live most of their time, either homes, offices, stores, hotels and leisure places.” – Massimiliano Locatelli
LASTBLOG: Can you talk about the Viktor and Rolf storefront you designed in Milan? What inspired you to make a store that seemed to have been turned upside down? What challenges did it pose?
ML: I have worked four hands with Viktor and Rolf to experiment the upside down concept for the store. The inspiration was a northern Europe interior but to be seen upside down. The challenge was to create an unexpected environment for the clients where to have their shopping experience.
LASTBLOG: What about the Runway Vincom center in Ho Chi Minh City? What did the client ask for when you started this project? How did you arrive at the final design?
ML: The client left me a good freedom to develop the project, for this store my idea was to combine the local Vietnamese craftsmanship and the contemporary technology of “fractals” all developed in 3D but then cut and lacquered locally.