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How Is A Tower Like A Gown?

November 09, 2008|Emili Vesilind | Vesilind is a former Times staff writer.

When Elena Manferdini spies an intricate ball gown or a flowing lace skirt, her mind wanders to skyscrapers, towers and federal buildings. The Italian architect -- and founder of L.A. design studio Atelier Manferdini -- uses the drape and texture of fabric as inspiration for the elaborate buildings she masterminds.

"I like to show that there's a correlation between the human body scale and the architectural scale," said Manferdini, 34, who's the subject of a solo exhibition at the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles through Nov. 29. "It's all part of this comprehensive research on the role of clothing -- how textile can inform the skin and a larger building."

The show, "Works in Progress," highlights her work in product design, art installation, architecture and fashion. Whatever the project -- silver, laser-cut sneakers for Nike or a hangar-sized installation of laser-cut plastic chips for the SCI-Arc gallery in downtown L.A. -- Manferdini's aesthetic is one-track.

She creates texture in buildings and clothing by cutting through veneers, often in repetitive patterns. The effect is alternately that of intricately wrought lace and those paper snowflakes you made as a kid.

On display at the Italian Cultural Institute are miniature models and photos of future and past structures, including the planned Guiyang-Huaxi Tower, an hommage to Miao women's filigree headdresses that resembles the graceful swoosh of a column gown.

Hanging next to many of the building representations are the Manferdini-designed dresses that inspired them -- sweeping, minimalist pieces laser-cut with patterns of clover leaves and spiky triangles. That most are too peekaboo to wear in real life is beside the point -- Manferdini sells them to private collectors, not the general public. "I use fashion," she said, "as a playground for my design work."

The Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles, 1023 Hilgard Ave., Los Angeles, (310) 443-3250.


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