Alfonso Oliva, the engineer who lands in the United States

Published on May 03, 2016

Italy gives us great satisfaction, especially if these are related to talented young people that with hard work and a spirit of change should be to represent it around the world.

It is the case of the old, Alfonso Oliva, a young engineer, with a double title, English and american, and recently it has obtained the Award of 2016 in New York city, the coveted prize awarded to young, talented structural engineers.We Snap Italy we met him to let us tell his story

Who is Alfonso Oliva?

An Artist and Engineer/Architect, 32 years old, born and raised in Italy and in Cassino (FR), and subsequently moved to New York at the age of 25 years where, since then, lives.

Artist and scientist, how do you combine the two things?

Actually, I think that both things will go a little bit in parallel. In fact, its my passion and dedication to the world of Art has led me to grow quickly in the world of work.

As an Artist, I have focused a lot over the years on the sculptural design and photography, exhibiting also, in recent times, some of my work here in New York. I then decided to apply my creativity to work and I then started to implement the concepts of Computational Design and Software Development in the tasks that were assigned me on a daily basis. At a distance of 6 years, the different approach to the science and non science, which I proposed and pushed during my working career here in NY, has revealed innovative and effective.

Founder of ERA+, the Laboratory for Engineering Research and Automation at the LERA Leslie E. Robertson Associates New York, how did you come to get your department?

The course was very exciting but not without obstacles and difficulties.It all started at Cassino in the office of Engineering of my father, Antonio Oliva, where I have built most of the solid foundations that I have accompanied over the years. In 2009, I moved to New York to study, where, a year later, I started to work at Thornton Tomasetti. After the first year of work, I realized that the rhythms of New York were quite high.

Later, the need to want more free time for Art with my interests in creative themes listed above has prompted me to look for the way to combine both my Artistic career and that the Engineering/Architectural. At the same time I began to understand that the industry of Architecture, Engineering and Construction were in some respects outdated in terms of technologies applied to design techniques, and that all this made the tasks the work is repetitive and sometimes boring. So I started to automate the design tasks that were assigned me initially using two computers, one to conduct the calculations by hand, and the other to test the automated procedure. The first results were in fact a failure, the machine that computava the automated procedure (and that I let run during the night) sometimes incappava in “bugs” and in the morning I found myself with 0% of the work product and the software to be reviewed. Gradually, however, things began to work and the benefits were obvious. At that point I knew I wanted to continue towards that career because it was what I motivated, and why to advance the technological level of the industry would have helped not only me but many other young people interested in innovation and new technologies.

What was your course of study?

I initially obtained my bachelor's Degree in Civil Engineering in 2007 at Cassino. Thanks to the program Dual Degree of H2CU are then moved to New York in 2009 where I earned a Master's degree from New York University in Structural Engineering in May 2010. Immediately after I carried out a Research work on a building under construction in the complex of the Columbia University designed by the Architect Rafael Moneo. Then I went back to Cassino where I finished the Master's degree in Civil Engineering from the Unicas. On the same day of my graduation at Cassino I received a job offer from New York for a one-year internship at Thornton Tomasetti, and so, a few days after, I left for NY. I started working and I was hired full time after 5 months of internship. After the first year and a half of work, my passion for Art and Technology led me to start a Master's degree in Architecture at the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, NJ with a focus in Computational Design and Software Development. For two years I have followed the lessons in the evening after work, but I still managed to maintain a balance between work/study and social life and to achieve the title in May of 2014.

To better demonstrate the benefits of the automated procedures I have then created a software for optimization of high-rise buildings subject to lateral loads which I then presented at the international conference AXES of 2014.Two years ago, in 2014, I decided that it was time to look around and then landed at LERA | Leslie E. Robertson and Associates, where thanks to the experience accumulated over the years and the support of the Partnership, I founded the department LERA+ | Laboratory for Engineering Research and Automation that today I run.

What do you do mainly?

Currently I am the head of the department LERA+ and I manage everything related to R&D (Research and Development) and Computational Design for offices in New York, Shanghai and Mumbai of the ERA. You interface with the design teams and we are working currently on projects such as the George Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, and three super-tall towers in Malaysa, where we apply the results of our research and for which we develop software for the automation of the design process. Our goal is to continue to advance the state of our society and to give a concrete impact on the industry by implementing new technologies for the benefit of all.

In the field of research, as well as to present our work at international conferences, I'm currently writing a book that will be published by the end of the year on the Architecture of Origami together with the University of Rome La Sapienza to experience the applications of these forms in the field of buildings. Moreover, under the artistic profile, I am working on a series of sculptures inspired to the concepts related to nature that I will launch by the end of the year on my personal site.

How do you feel to represent Italy in the world?

This is perhaps the most difficult question for me. From a part, in fact, are very proud to make the shine to our beloved Italy, in the other side I'd rather represent Italy to be stronger and more healthy. A country where anyone who applies can make the difference, instead of feeling pushed to leave everything and go away from a system to a certain extent corrupted and of little merit. I really hope that sooner or later our system will undergo a radical change and get out of this dark period to allow all Italians living and not to lead a life full of happiness and satisfactions in the beautiful Italy.

What projects do you have for the future?

Having achieved this step forward in my career, I feel motivated to continue in my path, and point to specialize increasingly in the field of applied Research and Computational Design. The point is also to continue in parallel with my artistic career and in the future to affermarmi as an international artist in the field of Sculpture Design.


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