“Why are you doing this?” Here is why.

On the 31st of December 2022, I put an end to an important chapter of my career as educator and professor.

In fact, after 6 years of intense dedication, I decided to step back from my position as Director of Design by Data, the Executive Master in Computational Design for Architecture I have founded at Ecole des Ponts ParisTech.

Quitting one of the most prestigious school of Europe while letting go a series of incredible adventures and relations with my students was not an easy decision to make, but I had important reasons to do so.

A few days ago, I published on Linked-in a post to explain and disclose the story of the Master, and also to share which projects I am focusing next: directing Volumes company to expand worldwide, bringing back Villa Buonaccorsi to the commons, and founding a startup studio for the construction industry and supporting independent education.

Below is a copy of my post – you can also find the original one here

Somewhere in 2015, while having a drink with my friends Aldo and Minh after one of our computational design workshops in Paris, Aldo declared it was time to stop running workshops and to launch a master program in computational design, the first of its kind in France.

When Aldo Sollazzo says something, you’d better execute it.

So I gathered my energies and started working to set up a private organization to deliver what I had named the Design by Data Advanced Master Program.

During this journey, I was introduced by chance to someone at Ecole des Ponts ParisTech and eventually decided to partner up with the school to launch the program.

Starting in 2015 I designed, launched and directed the Design by Data master program with all my energies and passion. I met and supported crews of amazing students, some of whom became friends and colleagues.

From my perspective today, I can appreciate the beauty of a crazy idea discussed among friends that have become a worldwide recognized program in the field.

I am stepping back

A few months ago I decided to step back from the program and quit Ecole des Ponts ParisTech at the end of 2021.

Of course, this was not an easy decision but still appeared to me as the best one to take.

In fact, at some point, it became clear that Ecole des Ponts ParisTech wanted to push the program in a very different direction from what I always pledged, and it is ok to acknowledge that my agenda today is a different one from theirs.

But apart from these misalignments in the strategic vision, some fundamental factors external to the school were crucial to make my decision. The main point of this post is to share those, and they are simple ones.

I am stepping back from my position because: 

  • I do not have time anymore
  • I am interested in making a bigger impact in the real world
  • I want to explore and support alternative models of education and learning, outside of the traditional institutions

What’s next for me

I want to share what I am doing next, as I think you may be interested in some of my future projects. In this case, feel free to drop a comment or contact me!

Here is what I am doing:

  1. I am developing my company Volumes. Started in 2015 as an innovation hub in the 19th district in Paris, it is now growing into a global laboratory for research, consulting and education active in different countries in Europe. This is a challenge I want to take, and it’s not something you can split with a salary position. Now that I finished my work at school, I am taking a new role as Director of the company. Apart from having a managing director role, I will also work as executive director for the research department with different European projects.
  2. I am launching a startup studio for the construction industry, called Driven. I am cofounding the company with Yara and Aldo (yes, he is the same again), as a spin-off of the Reflow European project. Why am I doing this? While working at Ecole des Ponts to develop Design by Data, I observed how the construction sector was late in adopting innovation and technology. Too often, graduated students from my program were hired for positions in which they ended up using a small percentage of the potential of the skills they learned. My bid with Driven is that disruption in the construction sector is coming, but training young talents to work in traditional companies is not an efficient strategy. We need to work faster, at the super-early-stage entrepreneurship level, and create a factory that builds startups. You can learn more in our statement at drivenbyvolumes.io
  3. I am personally and professionally committed to converting a former semi-abandoned baroque villa in rural Italy into a laboratory for the commons, a testbed for radical solutions for the future of Europe. This is a huge one, but the good news is that we are making it happen, check our incredible story.
  4. I am supporting independent schools Even if I am quitting one school, my passion for education and future of learning stays alive; but starting from now I will focus on developing and supporting independent educational institutions and environments. In particular, I will work with my partner Michael to develop the Volumes educational department. Also, I am proudly supporting the set-up of the independent, Riba accredited Paris School of Architecture (hosted at Volumes Lab) and the new Master in Design for Distributed Innovation, which I am pushing from Fab City Foundation in collaboration with IAAC – .

This post is also a THANKS to all those at Ecole des Ponts ParisTech who believed in my initial vision of the program, supported it and contributed to it. 

But above all, a huge THANKS to all the students I met: this was for sure the best part of the whole experience and the only part that makes me really sad. I hope I will have the chance to work with all of my students at Design by Data.

Last but not least, good luck to Karen Perronyn and Selma Abbas for what’s coming next at school and good luck to Romain Duballet who is taking over the direction of the program, which have just been updated from “Design by Data” to “Digital Building Design” with som new contents that you can check here.

One thought on ““Why are you doing this?” Here is why.”

  1. You have lots of stories 😉 I’m super interested in villa converting in Italy. Will continue to follow and hope I can visit it soon.

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