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Vanessa Lastrucci

Environmental Architecture, 2017–2019

What were you doing before you started studying at the RCA?

I studied architecture in Italy, graduating with a degree in Landscape Architecture. I moved to London to work in a number of architectural practices, but I always had the idea of continuing my studies around design in open spaces with an MA. As soon as I saw the Environmental Architecture Programme at the RCA, I knew that was my thing. I just had to apply.

When did you first hear about the RCA, and why did you decide to study here?

I met people who had studied at the RCA when I began working in London. What I understood from them was that the RCA is very open to bringing together different disciplines and this really appealed to me. The Environmental Architecture was exactly what I had been looking for, I just hadn't found it yet.

Can you describe what it’s like studying at the RCA?

The studio space and facilities are just incredible. Our weeks are so intense. Thursday is our studio day, and the week seems to revolve around this. A lot of great work and ideas came out of this group dynamic. We're exposed to a lot of different voices from different fields that help us try to define what Environmental Architecture is. I'm not sure we managed to come up with an exact definition, but it allowed us to help direct things in a way that I've not done before. It's been like a huge experiment, and we have this power to shape things. It's been so exciting.

Have you been set any particular briefs or projects that you've really enjoyed working on?

One of the most challenging things we did this year was to design our own brief. We ended up working on the Atacama salt flats in Chile, looking at the environmental and social issues there, as a result of lithium mining. Our work is as much about research as it is about design, so to work in such an unusual environment required us to work in different ways. The most important part was visiting the Atacama. Only there were we able to truly appreciate the scale of the site and speak to indigenous leaders and gain access to parts we otherwise wouldn't have been able to.

How has your work or thinking developed while you have been at the RCA?

One thing that I've learned is how to always push your research, your thinking, further. To challenge what you're doing. How to bring together different approaches and perspectives. How to challenge your role and your ideas of how things are and how they could be. The discussions with the indigenous leaders in Chile helped me to understand different ways of thinking about an environment and how we relate to nature, challenging ideas of community and property – these things we take for granted.

What have you found to be the main differences between your expectation of studying at the RCA and the reality?

I didn't really know what to expect when I started. I had this idea, this feeling of what I was looking for, so I took a chance and it's been everything I wanted. It's the best decision I've ever made.

What have you found most rewarding about your time at the RCA?

For me, it's been the exchange of ideas. The discussions with students and tutors, the seminars and workshops. These are the things that I will miss the most.

"I had this idea, this feeling of what I was looking for, so I took a chance and it's been everything I wanted. It's the best decision I've ever made."
Vanessa Lastrucci
Vanessa Lastrucci