For CallisonRTKL Senior Associate Vice President Emmanuel (Lou) Bancesco, his introduction to architecture started at the tender age of three in Romania through drawing simple objects and animals, eventually moving on as a teenager to drawing and painting street scenes, especially those displaying historic monuments. “In high school, my math instructor noticed how I organized teaching materials into boxes and columns, all colored differently, in an effort to introduce visual memory to the process of learning,” he recalls “He told me, ‘Lou, your exercise book looks like the notepad of an architect.’ At that point, any hesitations I had between fine arts and architecture, had vanished. My next step after high school was going to the school of architecture. Simple as that.”
After earning his BArch degree from the Institutul de Architectura si Urbanism “Ion Mincu” in Bucharest, Lou came to the United States. It was while working on a collaborative project in early 2000, he was introduced to CRTKL’s Lance Josal and Tom Brink. By the spring of 2005, Lou had moved—family and all— from Boston to the RTKL Baltimore office.
“I’ll never forget the first time I watched Lou work during a charrette when he was with another firm,” recalls Brink, vice president, AIA, LEED AP. “His hand drawings were beautiful perspectives, perfectly drawn, but he didn’t stop there. He drew studies of every aspect of the building from multiple viewpoints until there were stacks of paper, every one of which had a visible purpose. Lou wasn’t producing drawings just because it was fun for him or because he got to spend time doing his thing, he was intently studying the best design of that building in its context – visualizing and diving deep into the reality of its design using his incredible gifts – the vanishing tools of hand-drawing. His passion for his work and his belief in the greater good that architecture can bring has inspired me ever since.”
Over his 15-year career at CRTKL, a number of projects stand out for Lou as most memorable, including the Hainan Wanning CITIC Shenzhen Peninsula Development in China and the Ski Saudi, The Mall of Saudi project in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. “By any standards, the Hainan project was a dream come true in terms of the wealth of challenges and opportunities, for urban planners, architectural historians, designers, sustainability experts, landscape architects and artists,” he says. “And we did it all with a handful of people. This is what made the project so amazing: to wake up every morning eager to arrive at the studio of begin researching, philosophizing, writing, sketching, exchanging ideas and filtering through them, testing, and then sketching again.”
On the Ski Saudi project, Lou recalls, “The indoor ski component of the Mall of Saudi development was entrusted to our SEDs design team in Chicago. It was the very definition of a new challenge, for none of us in Chicago had ever worked on such a program. What an amazing opportunity: to learn something new while doing it and get paid for it!” To make the project even more satisfying, the team won an AIA Unbuilt Award for excellence in design in 2018.
“From the first day I met Lou, I immediately knew he had something very special to share with the firm. He charismatic personality, ability to draw and articulate ideas, unique and passionate way of teaching and mentoring, and his understanding of the importance to serve our clients will forever be embedded in our culture. He embodies all that a true design firm strives to be,” says Mark Lauterbach, AIA, OAA, NCARB, CallisonRTKL vice president and office director in Chicago.
In addition to his work at CRTKL, Lou has been a guest lecturer at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, as well as an instructor at Northeastern, and is a noted author of two novels published in the US and UK respectively. Looking forward, he plans to return to Europe and complete his work on a third book.