ABOUT ELENA STEVANATO and THE STUDIO
I believe a strong designer must be able to execute her vision on every scale.
I grew up in the Lombardy Prealps region of Italy, the daughter of a land surveyor and a gardener. Although my studies and travels took me around the world, across Europe, Asia, North America and the Emirates, I have always been especially riveted by this first landscape. At the Polytechnic of Milan (Architecture and Urban Studies) and the University of Illinois at Chicago (Landscape Urbanism, MA), I considered the landscape at an urban scale. Much of my work centered on urban voids: how the landscape can “stitch” damaged or abandoned sites to the rest of the city. After five years spend designing vast cities from the ground up at SOM Chicago, I embarked upon a specialization course in Landscape Design and Horticulture at the L’Ecole Nationale Supérieure du Paysage of Versailles. My attentions essentially inverted, I pursued a line of study that augmented my expansive training with an intimate understanding of landscape at the smallest scale. Immersion in the ground, itself, along with meticulous detailing studies and small-scale construction projects aligned my work with Land Art. As a dominant form of contemporary landscape architecture, I envision the ideas underpinning much of Land Art being played out on a grand scale, as evidenced by much of SOM’s city building projects. Above all, my time at Versailles reinforced my belief that an effective plan should be, at once, visible from above and sensible to the man on the ground.
Sustainability, in every sense of the word, is the driving principle of my practice. At Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, I directed a diverse and often far-flung team of designers. Projects ranged widely in scope, from working with existing conditions to creating new topography and even new land, outright. My international experience and fluency in Italian, English and French allows me to effectively communicate, collaborate with and assemble interdisciplinary teams of talented designers from across the globe. With offices in Brescia, my main studio is located in a converted 17th-century barn located 20 minutes from the city. Surrounded by mountains and swathed with light, the open studio hosts visiting designers and artists on a regular basis, an ideal space for collaborative work. Without being remote, the mountain studio serves as a creative retreat from the extreme connectedness of contemporary urban life and technology.