We are very pleased to present our interview with noted architect and designer, Iris Fabbri. Ms. Fabbri’s office is located in Lugano, Switzerland from which she serves her many clients around the world. She brings special insights and expertise in the modernization of sites of special historic or architectural significance. Ms. Fabbri is a Sotheby’s Consultant in Lugano, providing support and assistance in all areas of fine and decorative art, jewelery, wine, books and collectibles; a testament to her skilled eye for design and quality.
Throughout our article here, we have presented examples of Ms. Fabbri’s projects with photos taken of the original property, her conceptual renderings, and also examples of the final realization of the work as compared to the renderings. Included are examples of renderings for an estate in Silicon Valley, Seven Springs Ranch, which Ms. Fabbri prepared during one of her frequent visits to the San Francisco bay area.
ENSEMBLE: What is your professional background?
IRIS: I grew up in a family with a strong passion for music, art, and design. From a very young age, I have been involved in the art collection in different categories like Modern Art, Old Master painting, Chinese ancient art, French and English furniture, precious stones, and more. In fact, I also represent the famous auction house Sotheby’s for the southern part of Switzerland.
I graduated from Architecture in Milan and since the age of 26, I was involved in private and commercial real estate investments. I then had the privilege to collaborate with a wonderful Milanese architect, Renzo Mongiardino. He had an incredible influence on the return of the best of classic architecture, focused on reinventing existing mansions architecturally as well as reviving the classic best craftsmanship in all fields like decorations, boiserie, cast iron, works, and more. His clients were from renowned families worldwide, including the likes of the Heinz, Rothschild, Versace, Valentino, and royal families.
All these different experiences made me knowledgeable in a vast range of aspects that are ALL so useful for my profession.
ENSEMBLE: When did you start your own firm?
IRIS: I opened my own studio in 1992 in the Italian speaking region of Switzerland, the beautiful town of Lugano, which is situated between the lake and the alps. From here, we serve clients in different parts of the world.
ENSEMBLE: What is your special area of focus?
IRIS: From the beginning, I really covered everything that can go into a good home. I have obviously done the house design and architecture as well as the interiors, all the way down to the furniture and even art collections when requested. Due to my knowledge in history of art and styles, I specialized both in classic architecture, initially, but now I do a lot of modern to contemporary and I love it.
ENSEMBLE: Where have you had projects globally during your career?
IRIS: It depends on the period. Italy, Switzerland, Florida, Monte Carlo, Belarussia, Lithuania, French Riviera, and Slovakia maybe right now………We prepare the architectural artistic projects and then organize all decorative supplies from Italy and France mainly, when we do not find them in the towns where we work. I try hard to use local suppliers and installers whenever possible although that does not always work.
ENSEMBLE: How many are you in your Swiss office?
IRIS: We usually have 5 to 6 architects, plus exterior collaborations. We prepare all the projects as mentioned and later work continuously and coherently with the general contractors and builders of the highest standard. I’ve kept this small because I like to put my personal touch on every detail.
ENSEMBLE: I see you use renderings very effectively to present your project.
IRIS: Yes, in the last several years, we specialize in that field and we prepare the renderings in the studio instead. It is quite rare to do these renderings internally, but it works well for us.
This permits us:
• To present the client with a very good idea of the finished product
• Clients can ask for changes of materials, etc. and we give them the final images for what they desire and will end up getting
• I, myself, know better the final project and am better prepared for the realization of it
I have here a good example to illustrate:
This (below) is the villa in Switzerland we built in the estate that was owned by one of the Beatles, George Harrison. As you can see in this photo, the job has not been terminated as the main steps are not well connected to the previous car arrival area and the cars are still driving on asphalt.
The property has been sold again and we are back there working to finish some details. This is one solution we studied and presented in several renderings.
ENSEMBLE: Do the costs vary according to the architectural style?
IRIS: I would say that costs are more or less the same for both modern and classic architecture when both requires all the necessary attention.
Later it depends on what items you put in the property. For example, if you are an art collector, or if you love special period furniture; each home has a different story.
ENSEMBLE: To what extent do you follow the realization of your projects?
IRIS: It depends on the project and its location. If the project is not in our area, we usually collaborate with a local Architect that directs all the local works with the general contractor.
I surely need to know everything, to see everything and give revisions and approvals. Today’s communication systems permit me to follow the works as well as my office from wherever I am. When it comes to materials and samples, I need to see and touch to choose. For example, the classical villas you see with the stone facades are all done in a very hard stone excavated in Bulgaria. The stone resists well in very cold European winters. In order to choose the quality of the stone and the right factories capable of cutting them correctly, I went for a trip in the mountains in Bulgaria and visited all the factories first to see with my own eyes which one suited best for our needs.
ENSEMBLE: Please tell me more about your involvement in Sotheby’s.
IRIS: I started a collaboration with Sotheby’s in 1998 and from the year 2000, I run the office of Sotheby’s for the Italian speaking area in Switzerland. This gives me access to the art market as a professional and enriches me continuously as well as updates my knowledge and involvement in the field which covers so many different specializations like modern and contemporary art, design furniture, period furniture, European and Oriental works of art, etc.
Just to give an example – I found and created the famous sale of all the belongings owned by the legendary Soprano Maria Callas. That was a huge worldwide success and a wonderful experience.
I see art objects on a daily basis and have developed a well trained eye through inspection of the best and the worst. So today I can say I have a sensitivity for quality and harmony which is based on all these years of experience.
ENSEMBLE: Which kind of architecture are your fond of?
IRIS: I love contemporary, clean, empty big spaces with lots of light and great art.
I love classical villas following the Palladian great architecture. Palladio, many may know, was the great Architect who adapted the classic style to private mansions.
I love mixed styles like Mediterranean, Spanish or more classic mixed with cool contemporary elements and art.
I love everything that is beautiful and there are many beautiful homes in so many different styles. It’s true for homes and of course it is equally true for art, fashion, jewelry, and more.
ENSEMBLE: What are the main projects you are working on right now?
IRIS: We are constructing a contemporary villa in Vilnius (Lithuania), restructuring completely an ancient villa in Dinan (France), restructuring a villa in the center of Lugano, preparing some project for upgrading estates around Lugano (this area became lately a highly interesting place for wealthy Russians and other nationalities moving their residences), and I am working on a dream project which is called: Art Street and this is a new residential concept I’m inventing now. Very exciting!
ENSEMBLE: What do you like about Silicon Valley in particular?
IRIS: I love it all. The people – they are so friendly, the weather is fantastic, the nature of these hills around, the atmosphere of Silicon Valley, which is so creative, interesting, intelligent, vibrant, and unique.
I also love the opportunity to work with the unique properties here which present a different challenge from those in Europe. Recently, I was asked to prepare conceptual renderings for the Seven Springs Ranch in Cupertino (see rendering photos below). The Spanish Colonial Revival Period of design is incredible, it blends features from classic Spanish design with the special influences of the Americas. This is something found only here; it is like a treasure in the midst of the modernity of Silicon Valley.