Oana Stanescu (Romania, 37 years old) is one of the great European references for the most alternative architecture, someone who has never stopped looking for three feet to the cat in his adventures: be it a gigantic swimming pool in New York, projects for Nike or the festival of Coachella. He has traveled the world, worked for the best (SANAA in Tokyo; Herzog & de Meuron in Amsterdam; REX in New York) and changed the meaning of the word collaboration whenever it seemed appropriate. It is, in addition to being nomadic, a unique presence in an area of overwhelming male presence.
Stanescu starts his interview with ICON Design by recalling that he lived in Seville and that he misses his food, but immediately gets down to business when he is reminded of his first great success: the brand’s first store Off-White in Hong Kong. “It was Virgil’s first [Abloh]. At that time  I worked with an architecture studio called Family, with my partner Dong-Ping Wong. So we met in Hong Kong, a city that I had already been to and was familiar to me, we went shopping and we talked a lot. We soon came to the conclusion that the store did not have to be a mere space in which to sell things: it had to be a place that represented Virgil and the essence of the brand, because nothing is neutral, everything has a meaning “, he says the architect. This is how they decided to dedicate a third of the store to a garden. “We wanted to give that space to the city, to invite them to enter. It would have seemed crazy to anyone else, but Virgil immediately saw and understood the power of the gesture. “
The Off-White location became one of the most versatile spaces in the former British colony. “A place where you could have a dj without looking like a shopping center or where you could turn some supply in the spotlight. You could do all kinds of things and nothing seemed strange ”, explains Ostanescu from his office in Berlin.
The Romanian came to Abloh, current creative director of Louis Vuitton, after having worked with one of the most restless brains in show business: Kanye West himself. “I worked at OMA [Office por Metropolitan Architecture, la firma de otra super-estrella del sector: Rem Koolhas] and he came up with the project of Cruel Summer, for which seven movie screens were needed. I was very surprised by his trust in people, how much he exposed himself. I remember meeting him in Paris with some friends and he invited all of us to hang out with him. He is someone who loves conversation, despite the noise around him. But above all, I remember one of the first meetings we had in New York, at OMA. It was going to be a short meeting and in the end we spent two or three hours. Kanye likes architecture and we would come and go from the room with books and more books, ”recalls Ostanescu.
The architect has her own theory about a guy she has continued to work with, including her mythical Yeezus Tour, and explains the reason for West’s character: “I think his trust in people, the tendency to lean on others, has to do with the collaborative process of music. The fact that someone adds a verse to yours, that someone wants to do something with you. So overall, working with Kanye was a huge learning process, “he concedes.
Now, Ostanescu flies solo with his own studio, dreams of the giant pool that one day he promised would float in the Hudson River, close to Manhattan and teaches at Harvard University. “I am the least intelligent person in those classes, and I am delighted. I have been teaching for a long time, but I think that now I am there at the perfect time because it allows me to see the world around me and confront it instead of avoiding it. And that is something that you cannot do from an office ”.
The architect recognizes that she relates to her students as if they were colleagues from whom she has much to learn. “Maybe they don’t have the experience, but as a friend, who in turn quoted someone, used to say: ‘The experience is a scam.” Stanescu confesses that he is not satisfied with immersing his students in architectural theory and that he tries to break the cycle of immediacy of the one who studies and begins his internship in a large studio where he aspires to stay: “For me it is a wonderful exchange. So I try to expose them to reality, talk about that pressure, preconceived ideas, expectations and try to convince them to start trusting themselves. “
And finally, the pool, or to be more exact: the world’s first floating pool. Stanescu takes a breath. “It all started in 2010, with Family and Dong-Ping Wong. We were very young and we really liked the idea of creating a pool on the Hudson. Keep in mind that New York is a place surrounded by water, but it is not related to it. And it’s a shame, especially in the summer. What happens with this project is that it is not a boat, or a building. Innovating is always complicated. When we thought about it, there were people interested in doing it and there are still many people excited about the subject. I think that in a way, this project is a reflection of who we are: if we had tried to do something like this 20 years ago, the only thing we would have achieved is to end up on the pages of a French architecture magazine ”.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.