Back to all Blogs

Caterina Roiatti, AIA, SARA,

TRAstudio architecture: Co-Founding Principal

Published on March 08, 2024

Could you share your journey to becoming an architect?

I grew up in Italy, in a family where everybody was and is an architect, I am, in fact, third generation. My grandfather, Pino Valle,  was a noted architect in Udine, his son Gino Valle and the two daughters, Nani Valle and Lella Vignelli  all went on to open very successful modernist architectural offices of their own.  Growing up, when I followed Nani on site visits, I never thought it was unusual that she was a woman architect, the respect of all the men on the worksite was “palpable”.

I always knew I would work in visual related fields, after high-school, asserting my independence, I left Venice and moved to Paris to pursue fine-arts painting. I worked for a couple of years as an assistant to Renzo Mongiardino, a famous Italian decorator, soon realizing that I was more interested in the bigger picture, after my return to Venice I was not surprised to learn that the family had already enrolled me.  After graduation, having to face the perennial Italian economic crisis, I decided to apply for a Fulbright scholarship at Harvard. I recall the day I left very well, because I knew that meant I was not going back.

Tell us about your company and the type of architecture you specialize in. What sets your company apart from others in the industry?

Following the Italian tradition of expansive creative thinking, we never pursued specialization: as summarized in our name, in Latin TRA means in “between”, simultaneously the edge and the link, we see ourselves as the connectors between art and architecture, the private sector and the community, the developers and the agencies, the clients and the contractors.

The studio’s experimental attitude searches for the intersection between the conceptual and the operational space, we embrace technology but we also very much hands on.

In architecture, the various aspects of design depend on one another, we pride ourselves that our multifaceted experience, allows us to identify the enabling problem quickly, addressing the multiple areas of expertise that are often required within a single project and the unexpected issues that inevitably arise, both during the design and the construction process.

 In honor of International Women’s Day, what advice would you give to young women aspiring to be architects?

Never think that being a woman puts you at a disadvantage.

I often noticed that people tend to remember more what I said, precisely because I am often the only woman in a meeting. Being a woman in a field of men can attract attention, take advantage of it.

 What are 5-10 professional tips you’d offer to other architects?

If you are in an office where you work on the same type of project every day, I suggest looking for another job: you do not want to end up in a niche that might dry-up in the future!

In our studio, we all feel lucky that we are asked to learn new things every day, right now we are working on preservation, ground-up, interiors and modular construction projects, all at the same time.

I learned to rely on the collaboration of the less visible players in the business, we often get the best information from brokers, expediters and project managers, also I now understand not to think of other architects as competitors, in fact, I often reached out to colleagues when I needed help.

I think it is important to become very familiar with the zoning and be informed about new policies, regulations and laws before they became effective, try to be always one step ahead of the land use lawyer and, particularly, the client. The AIA advocacy groups are a good place to start to get updates.

Through my career our studio had to survive many crisis, right now in New York City there are not many new buildings happening. My advice is, if nobody is asking you to work on a new project, look for them, you may end up making it happen for your client as well as for your firm.

Learn to prepare, or at least read, a real estate pro forma, many clients rely on their instinct first, run numbers too late. Most architecture schools offer courses in development, they might bit dry, but the familiarity is very useful in practice.

We always design both the exterior and the interior of our buildings, we also assist during construction, we call it “amplified construction administration”.  Being more involved also allows us to maintain control on the execution, for example we always strive to incorporate passive house and sustainable practices in our projects, even when the client is not pursuing certification. A project is always the sum of many projects, if you wear all hats, you will have more fun.

Find a great partner, Robert Traboscia, with whom I cofounded the studio over 25 years ago, is still my best friend and mentor.

Final advice: do not get into this profession to make money, although do not believe people who tell you will not be able to.

Share your approach to building design and the aspects of design you’re most passionate about.

I am interested in the bigger picture, the vision that keeps everybody motivated. I find that the initial conversations are the most exciting, because that is when all the possibilities are being presented but also when you need to search for the single idea that ties everything together.  I often visualize the architectural idea as a sphere, a simple object you can pass on to everybody in the team.

I am also interested in the timeless quality of good design, we often marvel at the fact that our projects have longevity, we never felt we had to retire an old project from our website because it looks outdated.

 What metrics do you find most important to your real estate clients?

The willingness to think of opportunities and challenges like they are your own makes you an essential part of the team, rather than a hired hand.

Tools like ArkDesign are becoming more and more important to both architects and developers, since speed and agility in looking at options to a site essential.

 Can you share any personal or funny anecdotes from your career?

Italians do not believe in the separation of work and family, my partner Bob and I met at Vignelli Associates, it was the perfect place to be because most people there were of the same age.

Bob and I started working together immediately, the best discovery was that we were not interested in or doing the same things, being different has been our best asset.

Start creating optimized floor plans fast & efficiently with ARK

Win to become an Ark AI Architect

Join our “AI Generate” Challenge and showcase your innovative architectural designs!

Ask a Question

Become Certified

If you have mastered ARK and have created a few projects on our platform, you too can become ARK Certified and feature on our website!

Submit an article

Submit an article to be published on ArkDesign.AI blog.

Submit a project

Submit Projects that you have designed to our gallery.

Upgrade to Pro

Please fill in your details and we will get back to you with all the details

Get a demo

Please fill in your details and we will get back to you shortly.