Elena Manferdini graduated from the University of Civil Engineering Bologna, Italy, and later received her master’s degree in architecture and urban design from the University of California, Los Angeles. In 2004, she founded Atelier Manferdini, a design office in Los Angeles, California. The office is based on a multi-scale work methodology and embraces the philosophy that design can participate in a wide range of multidisciplinary developments that define our culture. Manferdini was recently awarded one of the 2011 annual grants from United States Artists (USA) in the category of architecture and design. In addition to leading her design practice, for the past nine years, Manferdini has been teaching architectural design studios and technology seminars for the graduate and undergraduate programs at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc). Currently, she is the coordinator of the Graduate Thesis Program at SCI-Arc. She has also held visiting professorships at Cornell University and Seika University.

Elena Manferdini’s installation Merletti is a tribute to the painstaking process of lace making. She has created a suspended canopy consisting of 300 black glossy panels manufactured with CNC technologies. The piece, at the SCI-Arc Gallery in Los Angeles, is made with four types of panels – half are die-cut and half are laser cut. The shape of the panels is the result of several mock-ups to study their behavior under tension. Lace-like perforations are modulated to create variations in the shadows on the ground.

Merletti, which is Italian for lace, is part of the Italian-born architect’s continuing research into the relationship between fashion and architecture. She sees clothing as a source of traditional and innovative techniques, introducing creativity, effect, and taste into the mass culture of building standards.

The exhibition also features Manferdini’s fashion designs, which use the same techniques and ideas as her installation. “The ultimate goal for applying digital techniques from architecture to fashion is to introduce customization during the design phase of mass-produced clothing,” she explains. “CNC technologies are standard as computers open the way for custom-designed items, but only a few companies have introduced identity-driven lines. Commercial clothing is still generic. In the long run, applying animation and custom scripting tools to the design phase would blur the distinction between couture and ready-to-wear lines.”