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Giancarlo Alhadeff, FAIA, is an international architect in the truest sense of the phrase. Based in Milan and London, Alhadeff was born in Egypt, educated in Japan, and trained in architecture at Harvard (Bachelor of Arts, 1972) and Columbia (Masters of Architecture, 1975). Since establishing his own practice, Studio Alhadeff in 1990, Alhadeff has designed residences, multi-unit housing, and commercial and retail projects around the world, from the Turkish coast to Lake Como, from Manhattan to Moscow. Even the firm’s client list — large multinational firms, jet-setting families — is quintessentially cosmopolitan. Being a global nomad has had a formative effect on Alhadeff’s character, and on the character of his architecture: as the architect himself puts it, “If you’ve lived your life moving from place to place, you either make a point of standing out, or you learn how to blend in. I’ve always preferred the latter. I’m a chameleon.”

Here are five of Giancarlo’s favorite things:

1. A specific camphor tree in Tokyo which I used to look at from my window as a boy
Once I visited it in search of my home there, but the building was gone. The tree was still standing in a rare twist of fate. Camphor trees are scented, curative, can be used to make furniture, and basically have a long life which can evolve into many forms. I see a camphor tree, whether in Asia, the middle east or Florida, I think of the productivity of the hand, nature…It’s my madeleine, thank you Proust. (Pictured above is Shisendo, the garden temple of the poet Ishikawa in Kyoto — so many memories contained in this place — is a favorite destination, and is full of camphor trees.)

2. Where stone and wood meet, edge to edge
I love to look at and use these two materials in direct contact. My project in Hebil Bay, Turkey provides many such instances, and I am proud of it.

3. A mixed collage from 1960 by Richard Meier, which has been with me since the 70’s
He made it while sharing a studio with Frank Stella and was given to my father who commissioned one of Meier’s early works. It makes me think of New York in the 70’s, how condensed and important that decade was for my own evolution and of my father.

4. A gouache by Gio Ponti from the late 60’s
It is so frivolous and so spare at the same time. The two heads sharing one eye were a favored leitmotif of Ponti’s and this was actually painted in my family home in Tuscany. It was in my bedroom there, and now is in my living room in Milan, next to a drawing by Henry Moore.

5. My tool collection
These compasses were used for working wood into boats, and were mostly found in and around Sag Harbor in the 70’s, where whalers and boatmakers once abounded in the 1700’s. Some are French, and have little swerves and flourishes notwithstanding their absolutely utilitarian nature. What I enjoy is how their spare linearity defines the wall….and what people think when they see them for the first time!

Read more Friday Fives right here.

Jaime Derringer, Founder + Executive Editor of Design Milk, is a Jersey girl living in SoCal. She dreams about funky, artistic jewelry + having enough free time to enjoy some of her favorite things—running, reading, making music, and drawing.