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B.Arch Alum Cole Masuno Talks ’Fulfilling’ DID Experience and Finding Community in Architecture

Cole Kazuo Masuno (B.Arch ’22) is a Los Angeles-based designer—and DID alum—currently working at Eric Owen Moss Architects.

We spoke to Cole to learn more about his experience in DID and his thoughts on the role of community in architecture.

What first sparked your interest in architecture?

I think it's a question I return to often, and my answer always changes. I don't think architecture inspired me to go into architecture. I looked a lot at Japanese animation, and I read a lot about architecture. I think reading might have been that spark, but I didn't really have a clue where it would lead me.

How did you discover DID?

I'm from Los Angeles. It’s funny, I always describe to my friends that DID was always the word on the street. I did not know what SCI-Arc was, but I heard about it often throughout different periods of my life. I think nowadays, SCI-Arc is easy to discover through social media. But in 2010 I had a family friend say, "Have you ever heard of SCI-Arc?" To which I responded, "No." I ended up checking it out and the rest is history; it was an awesome experience, to say the least.

What do you value most about your experience in DID?

I think one of the things that’s most important is being introduced to a lot of different ideas and people. It was important to be exposed to other value sets that helped shape my understanding of architecture.

During your DID journey, was there a moment that made you realize that architecture is the right path for you?

At the age that I was in DID, I was searching for a place where I could find a community to feel comfortable in. When I arrived at SCI-Arc, I had a hunch. There was not anything clear, but I knew I had to give it a chance. Obviously, it worked. But yeah, I kind of just always knew.

What was the most important outcome of your participation in projects throughout the program?

I think there is no real way to learn unless you try it, and the program helped introduce me to many different ways of working, thinking, seeing, and designing. DID was really great in helping you get comfortable, doing things that you're not used to doing or that you might not have ever done before.

I don't think there is any way an introduction can be comprehensive, but it felt like it was just because you were doing it with a diverse group of people, each with a different range of experiences. It made it feel fun and easy too.

Scenographic monochrome view from sunset boulevard Cole Masuno thesis project architecture

Scenographic View from Sunset Boulevard.

What are your ambitions in the field and profession of architecture?

Now that I completed my fifth year of the undergraduate program, I'm excited to see what the next step is, but it's bittersweet in the sense that I am in no rush to leave. It's been my most favorite year of my education. Even as a fifth year, when you expect that you might have figured it all out, I think it's been the year I've realized how much more there is to advance my education. I don't think that's gonna stop. There are things I want to do, but I'm open to opportunities finding their way to me, or my way to them.

How did your goals evolve since your DID and student experiences at SCI-Arc?

I think it's been important to learn how much you can take on in terms of what you want to explore. As a young student, I felt obligated to do as much as I possibly could. While I don't think that's the wrong attitude, my academic experience taught me how to navigate through multiple interests, how to identify them, and where I could push the constraints of those conventions.

What do you aspire to give to architecture practice?

Searching for alterity requires exploring the conceptual and aesthetic possibilities of architecture, by forming new models of practice. Architecture has the capacity to expand our visual culture, through various artistic mediums.

As a DID alumni and a current SCI-Arc student, what advice would you offer to the younger youth coming in?

I think you have to see this stuff to really get it. I wish I looked at "El Croquis" or "GA" books early on to see just how people drew, and how people understand space through drawings. There is no point in starting from scratch, which is why I think it was really helpful for me to learn and see what other architects have done, to expand my own frame of reference.

If you could describe your DID experience with just one word, what would it be?


What inspires you to continue on this path?

I don't believe architecture is something you can do alone, as I am consistently left inspired by my community and their point of view. It simply isn't a solo adventure. There is no architecture without community—a community to whom I am indebted.