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Founded in 1984 as part of the Istituto Italiano di Cultura in San Francisco, the IIC in Los Angeles had its first location for nine years at the offices of the Italian Consulate General, then located at 12400 Wilshire Boulevard.

Since 1999 there have been five directors: Guido Fink (1999-2003), Francesca Valente (2005-2010), Alberto Di Mauro (2010-2013) and Valeria Rumori (2015-2021) and current director Emanuele Amendola (1/18/2022 - today).

The IIC became autonomous in 1993, the year in which the Italian Goverment acquired the current venue at 1023 Hilgard Avenue in Westwood. The modernist building, which once housed the International Student Center of the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA), was designed in 1963 by Robert E. Alexander, partner of Richard Neutra.
Recipient of several prizes and awards, Alexander studied in France, Italy and Spain, where he drew inspiration for his architectural style and lived before moving to California to work with Richard Neutra.
He founded Robert E. Alexander & Associates in 1959.

The building opening gala was held at the Institute for 1000 guests, with many celebrities in attendance, including Michelangelo Antonioni and Sophia Loren