Anna Torriani: “I lived my dream at the ETH Zurich by being a student there”

29.09.2016 | Alumni Porträts

Von:  Nina Bader

ETH Alumna Anna Torriani and her husband and business partner Lorenzo Pagnamenta run their own architecture atelier in New York and their work can be seen all over the world. Establishing herself in New York has never been easy but it was their belief in improving the world through architecture that made their atelier so successful. The ETH Alumni Association talked with Anna about her career since leaving ETH and her inspirations.

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A Project of Anna Torriani
A Project of Anna Torriani

You studied architecture at ETH Zurich, what was your dream when you were a student? Did you always want to have your own office in New York?

I was actually living my dream at the ETH, just by being a student there. I loved the years I spent at the university, and I am still very fond of Zürich.

What did you do after you graduated from ETH Zurich?

While I was studying at the ETH I met Lorenzo Pagnamenta, who later became my husband and business partner. After graduation, we decided to venture to the United States for a study trip. We visited the Northeast and the Midwest, and finally attracted by New York’s energy and diversity, we decided to stay and apply for architectural internships.

What were the challenges you were facing, especially in the beginning of your career?

When we first started working in New York, it was difficult, because only a few firms recognized that the ETH was an excellent school. We had to constantly prove ourselves as architects.

What drove you into opening your own company?

In the late 1980s, Lorenzo and I participated in the New York Waterfront competition and won first prize. We were proud of what we had accomplished together, and it led us to start our own studio.

Where do we see your architecture?

Our built design work may be seen inside school buildings throughout the five boroughs of New York, in a few residential and commercial projects, and lately in a new library building for the New York Public Library. We completed a year ago a new residential addition in San Diego, and if you visit Lebanon, you may soon see the new Byblos Library and Cultural/Administrative Complex. If you want to see more of our projects, we invite you to visit our website:

"Probably the greatest highlight is to see people enjoying and benefitting from the spaces and buildings we designed." Anna Torriani, ETH Alumna
Anna Torriani
Anna Torriani

Where do you get your inspiration?

We are inspired by the culture, history and environment of our projects. Each design belongs and interacts with its place and territory.

What piece of advice would you give to a young graduate in architecture?

To believe that through architecture we may improve the world, in particular with strategic and innovative public projects, and then make it happen.

You accomplished a lot during your career:  your own architecture atelier, your nomination to the UN Advisory Board and the thought-provoking conversations for the  AIA Public Architecture committee, what is – so far – your personal career highlight?

There are no specific highlights, although it is gratifying to win awards, to be invited to exhibit and talk, to participate in design boards and reviews. Currently, we are pleased and proud to be a part of the ETH community at the Venice Biennale 2016, where many accomplished ETH professors have their research and work prominently on display.

Probably the greatest highlight is to see people enjoying and benefitting from the spaces and buildings we designed.

Your work can be seen all over the world – is there an architectural dream you still want to pursue?

Our architectural contribution is mostly set in the public realm. Every day we pursue the creation of innovative spaces and buildings that respond to climate change, and current social and political challenges. We spend a lot of time questioning and understanding our clients’ expectations and goals, then synthesizing our findings into a transformative design. Our hope is to create beautiful projects that inspire both our clients and the community they serve. If someone, whether it is a student at one of our libraries, or one of our residential clients, enjoys and feels stimulated or uplifted by one of the spaces we’ve designed then we know we’ve accomplished our goal as architects.  

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Thu Aug 17 01:43:37 CEST 2017
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