The University of Utah has published a new Q+A interview with Mehrdad Yazdani about the design and success of Lassonde Studios, the breakthrough entrepreneurial education building that has quintupled the number of student-led startups on campus in just two years. As the piece recounts, Troy D’Ambrosio, the executive director of the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute, can vividly recall the process of selecting the building’s architect. For hours, he’d listened to different firms present to his team and show PowerPoints full of images of similar buildings they created. Then Mehrdad Yazdani and the CannonDesign team took the stage.

There was no portfolio or PowerPoint full of similar work that accompanied them. Instead, Yazdani stood and told the committee that he’d never designed a building like Lassonde Studios. In fact, given the university’s bold vision for the project, he was confident nobody ever had. “For Lassonde Studios to achieve its full potential,” he told the committee. “We’re going to have to create an entirely new typology of living/making/learning building.” Those words were music to D’Ambrosio’s ears.

The full article can be read online. Here’s a key excerpt:

Lassonde Studio’s success speaks for itself today, but what drew you to this project years ago when there were no assurances it would ultimately enrich entrepreneurial learning?

Yazdani: My team and I are drawn to projects that push us outside our comfort zones, and from the moment we learned of the vision for Lassonde Studios, we felt it could do just that, and we pursued it aggressively. Reading the RFP [request for proposals], meeting Troy and his team, we could sense an appetite to really explore new ideas and that only further fueled our interest.

During the design process, we’d often share multiple options at key moments based on our research, engagement and prototyping, and the steering committee was always open to our most radical notions. The university’s openness to be unconventional and push boundaries was so key to us being able to achieve what we did.

Our team always strives to break new ground with our work. That’s how you strengthen your creative abilities and grow as a designer. We felt from day one Lassonde Studios could be as rewarding for our team as it could for the University of Utah and its students.

Read the full Q+A with Yazdani >