Working out of the Box is a series of features presenting architects who have applied their architecture backgrounds to alternative career paths.
In this installment, we're talking with Liz von Hasseln, one part of the husband-and-wife team and 3D sugar-printing design firm, The Sugar Lab.
Are you an architect working out of the box? Do you know of someone that has changed careers and has an interesting story to share? If you would like to suggest an (ex-)architect, please send us a message.
Archinect: Where did you study architecture?
Liz von Hasseln: Kyle and I both received our M.Arch from SCI-Arc in 2012.
At what point in your life did you decide to pursue architecture?
Kyle and I actually both have backgrounds in molecular biology. [...] About 5 years ago, we each took a leave of absence from our respective PhD programs. We never went back.Kyle and I actually both have backgrounds in molecular biology. We've each done some graduate work in that area, but the closer we got to the careers we would be able to attain with the degrees we were pursuing, the less appealing they became. About 5 years ago, we each took a leave of absence from our respective PhD programs. We never went back.
Around that same time, about a dozen of our closest college friends were feeling similarly disillusioned with their current trajectories. We all decided to move to one city to regroup and figure out our next moves. When we couldn't decide which city to move to, we diplomatically bet it on a baseball series. The Padres beat the Red Socks, and U Hauls across the country struck out for Portland, OR. In Portland, we worked on a project that renovated older structures to contemporary energy standards. It was our first exposure of any kind to building practices and architectural design, and we found that we really loved it. We began to apply to architecture programs.
We were captivated by the idea of 3D printing edible structures, and when we graduated, we started The Sugar Lab, a micro-design firm for 3D printed sugar.When did you decide to stop pursuing architecture? Why?
At SCI-Arc, Kyle and I both became fascinated by free form fabrication in general, and unorthodox 3D printing configurations and materials in particular. In our second year, we bought a used 3D printer and ran a mini-prototyping business out of a tool shed that helped us pay for school. We also used the printer to experiment with novel materials, and discovered that sugar worked well as a substrate. We were captivated by the idea of 3D printing edible structures, and when we graduated, we started The Sugar Lab, a micro-design firm for 3D printed sugar, out of our live/work loft in Silver Lake.
Describe your current profession.
In September, The Sugar Lab was acquired by 3D Systems. Kyle and I are thrilled to be a part of the company, and we are now heading up a nascent 3D Systems food arm as Creative Directors Food Products. We're also continuing to run The Sugar Lab, as a part of 3D Systems and with their considerable support.
Our backgrounds in architecture serve us well during the process of designing and modeling for sugar.What skills did you gain from architecture school, or working in the architecture industry, that have contributed to your success in your current career?
Our backgrounds in architecture serve us well during the process of designing and modeling for sugar, which has a lot to do with structural and material considerations as well as making design moves. That background has also helped us develop design instincts for merging structure and facade within a unified 3D printed sugar sculpture. We're always aiming for a sculptural, dimensional form that maximizes what 3D printing brings to sugar.
Do you have an interest in returning to architecture?
Architecture, like biology, will always be a part of what we do, how we approach a problem, how we perceive the world around us. We may never build a house, though. For now, we couldn't be happier in our current design space.
The Sugar Lab's website: the-sugar-lab.com