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Work Life: Silvia Isacco, freelance architect

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Silvia Isacco, 42, is a freelance architect. She splits her time between Lecco, a small town by Lake Como, and a landscape architecture studio in Milan

My alarm goes off at 7.25am sharp, but I like to lie in bed for 10 minutes to mentally adjust to what I know will be a long day ahead. The very first thing I do, out of sheer curiosity, is check the outside temperature (the average for this time of year in Milan is about 7°C), which is projected onto my ceiling from my bedside clock, before turning on my laptop to check my emails. My clients are often overseas so can contact me at any hour of the day.

At the moment, for instance, I have a French client who is based in Thailand, so I have to adjust my working hours accordingly and reply to all emails whenever I get a chance. My house is a real melting pot of classic and contemporary designs, and is filled with Ikea pieces, family heirlooms, trinkets from Marrakech and a lot of architecture books and magazines.

I live with my adorable white cat Gehry (named after the architect Frank Gehry) and I’ll give him a quick feed before changing into my work clothes – normally a pair of jeans, a white T-shirt and a long black cardigan.

My studio is a 15-minute drive from my house, and I’ll stop off at a local cafe for a quick breakfast of cappuccino and brioche, which I’ll eat while reading Il Giorno [an Italian national newspaper based in Milan]. If I have a building site open for a particular project I’ll go there first thing to check on progress, talk to the building manager and bring him back to the office to talk through new plans and drawings if necessary.

Back in the studio I’ll check my emails again, making sure I’m up to date with all the latest building legislation, as well as the latest energy-saving regulations, which are increasingly becoming a part of architecture (and on which, frustratingly, the rules change on an almost daily basis). After wading through a mountain of paperwork, I’ll settle down for a quick lunch, usually something from home, such as white rice or farro [a grain similar to pearl barley] with lentils, chickpeas and vegetables, before turning my attention back to my computer.

I also work as a consultant at a landscape studio in Milan, one hour away, so will often travel there in the afternoon. I am part of a team of architects and, at the moment, we are working together to help design and landscape a major new road system in preparation for the 2015 Universal Exposition, a huge food industry event taking place in Milan that, in three years’ time, will see thousands of people flocking to the city. I’m also always juggling at least two interior design projects, so I’ll spend some time looking for inspiration from some of my hundreds of architecture books (which I have gathered from all corners of the globe). I do this in the first instance and then I’ll start to draw, just for the sake of it, until eventually the more creative side of my brain kicks in and good ideas start to emerge.

One of the most amazing buildings I’ve ever seen and have always wished I had designed has to be the Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris. The exterior decor is inspired by Arabian geometry but it works as a mechanism to filter sunlight through the building’s windows, creating a stunning effect from the inside and out.

As a freelance architect, my job can be quite glamorous, but I do often work alone, mainly for private clients who need renovation work done on residential buildings. So I can sometimes be on my own for weeks on end in the studio. But I’ll always have Skype on and speak to friends and family on the other side of the world to make sure that I never feel lonely. The long hours are worth it. For me, I really am in my dream job.

When I was a young girl, I had to leave the house I grew up in to go and live with my aunt. I had no space for myself and it was so frustrating to always be a guest in somebody else’s house – you couldn’t change a thing. Now, as an architect, each new client I have is a chance to make my dream come true. I get to plan a new house every time I start a new project.

In the evenings, I’ll try to finish work at about 7pm and will head straight out to have dinner and drinks with friends. Back at home, I’ll relax by flicking through one of the many copies of Elle Decor magazine piled up around my house, or by watching some television before finally heading to bed at about 11.30pm.

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