By  on April 8, 2008

In Elena Manferdini's hands, lace isn't for lightweights.

In an exhibit titled "Merletti," on display at SCI-Arc Gallery in Los Angeles through May 11, the Italian architect's interpretation of knotting and intertwining multiple threads weighs 400 pounds, requiring 26 cables to support 301 panels of intricately cut styrene, all of which hovers above visitors' heads.

Inspired by the Venetian tradition of lace making, Manferdini has explored the parallels between fashion and architecture extensively. In addition to designing a four-year-old, made-to-order clothing line called Atelier Manferdini, she's a UCLA-trained architect who teaches at the Southern California Institute of Architecture.

Two black dresses displayed on mannequins next to her giant sculpture at SCI-Arc underscore the similarities between her disciplines. The curve of a styrene panel mirrors a scalloped hem, whereas a cream skirt peeping from underneath a black geometric cutout evokes the sunlight casting a weblike shadow from the sculpture on a wall.

"Fashion becomes a case study for cladding systems for architecture," she said, noting that merletti means lace in Italian, as well as the curved lines of a building. "There is a correlation between clothing and cladding — the clothing of our body and the cladding of buildings."

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