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SCI-Arc Student Profile: Cole Masuno

Cole Masuno is going into his third year of the undergraduate program at SCI-Arc. Born in Los Angeles, California, he is currently interning for Deegan Day Design.

Sci-Arc student Cole Masuno Portrait

How has studying architecture impacted how you view the world?

During my studies at SCI-Arc, I have had many moments of finding myself – moments that forced me to question the way I see the world. One of the most important things I have learned at school is to risk being wrong. It was only after taking a position that I learned how to spot the differences between things. To see the world without limits is to find inexhaustible opportunities for architecture to happen; to make irrelevant things become moments for design.

Which living architect do you most admire, and what is the quality you most admire about them?

The qualities that I admire most in architects have to do with their ability to move past preconceptions of what architecture could be. It takes an uncompromising curiosity to allow oneself to find the unexpected out of the ordinary and to ask questions that suggest the unimaginable.

A diorama render of an environment
Cole Masuno, Zany Environments, Screenshot from 2A VS Game, 2019. Instructors: Damjan Jovanovic and Ramiro Diaz Granados

If you were to die and return as a building, which would it be?

If I had to choose a building I would pick [main character Rick] Deckard’s apartment in Blade Runner, because it shares a strange relationship between its history and the futuristic landscape it hovers over. I also like the interior of ‘the waiting room’ in David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, as a hallway draped in velvet curtains and patterned floors that extend to an uncertain point. The height of the ceiling is never revealed in any of the shots, so it’s hard to tell how tall the space really is.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

I always admired Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s ability to provoke profound thoughts and extremes out of the ordinary scenes of everyday life. When I read Crime and Punishment, it was Dostoyevsky who said, “Those who diverge from the beaten path... are capable of saying something new.” And it was Dostoyevsky who taught me that, “[S]he who dares is right.” Rem Koolhaas also quotes Dostoyevsky in the beginning of Delirious New York: “Why do we have a mind if not to get [in] our way?"

What is your most treasured possession in your workspace?

Notebooks! I have a lot of notebooks. For me, note-taking is a form of thinking. I have found that setting up lists assists me in diagramming systems to help inform and understand my ideas.

Plan drawing of an E-Sports center
Cole Masuno & John Wang, E-Sports Center, Plans from 2B Studio, 2019. Instructor: M. Casey Rehm

What do you consider the most overrated virtue, both personally + in architecture? The most underrated?

While I feel like a lot of important issues that relate to architecture such as novelty, problem-solving, sustainability, and rigor should be considered as a given – I think it is possible for them to become overrated without being coupled with other ideas that are invested in advancing the public imagination. On another note, although I am fortunate to have started my education at a time where both students and faculty are making a group effort to try and change the negative stereotypes and lifestyles of an architectural education i.e., not sleeping, I think there is something fundamentally wrong that students think they have to adopt an unhealthy lifestyle to compete with the demands that studio work often entails. As for an underrated virtue, I don’t feel like optimism is underappreciated, but I think it’s possible for it to be underrated.

Which talent would you most like to possess?

I wish I didn’t overthink so much. Too many thoughts. Too many ideas. All of that being good except it can be distracting sometimes.

How has your experience as an architecture student influenced your taste in music, and what is your current studio soundtrack?

I grew up on music. Before I was born, my dad was a punk rock musician in Los Angeles. When I was younger I was raised on Tom Waits, Nick Cave, and Marvin Gaye. Music was always a very important part of my childhood and both of my parents wanted to expose me to that. My tastes vary, but when I’m working in the studio sometimes I listen to music to clear my head. Whether I’m feeling some Anderson Paak, or if it’s 4:00am and I’m feeling some Aphex Twin, there is always music playing.

Axonometric 3D render of an E-Sports center
Cole Masuno & John Wang, E-Sports Center, Axon from 2B Studio, 2019. Instructor: M. Casey Rehm

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

“I’m hungry”

What are you most proud of?

When I was younger, learning was something I always shared a passion about, and I had always felt a great sense of community through my interests in music, skateboarding, art, and design. If there was a problem it had more to do with where to direct my ambition. I was always curious, but I had trouble finding a focus – and sticking to it. After finally making a commitment to study architecture, I’m really happy that I found something I want to stick with.