21 Questions With…Alejandro Zaera-Polo

THE SCHOOL OF ARCHITECTURE’S NEW DEAN IS LOOKING FORWARD TO HIS SEVENTIES AND WON’T PASS UP SOME GOOD SERRANO HAM.

Name: Alejandro Zaera-Polo   Portrait_of_alejandro_zaera-polo

Hometown: Madrid by birth, London by Adoption

1) Last book you managed to read for pleasure?

It may have been London Fields from Martin Amis, but I have a terrible memory and this is a long time ago.

2) What is your greatest guilty pleasure?

I never feel guilty about pleasure. I believe pleasure is functional.

3) In one sentence, what do you actually do all day?

Crisis management

4) What are your favorite ways to relax?

I work out to get physically tired, then I relax.

5) What did sort of job did you dream about having as a child?

I wanted to be a jet pilot.

6)  When’s bedtime?

1 am

7) Favorite movie?

No favourite movie, some favourite directors: Cameron, Cronenberg, Gilliam, Kubrick, Ridley Scott…

8 Up-and-coming architect to keep on eye on?

This is something I prefer not to disclose publicly. I need to keep my preferences neutral to avoid prioritising tendencies at school. In five years I hope to tell you about some Princeton alumni.

9) Where do you do your best thinking?

Most interesting ideas occur to me in bed, while half asleep

10) Best building on Princeton campus?

Probably the University Chapel. I quite like the Jadwin Gymnasium too.

11) Worst building on Princeton campus?

Difficult to say because it means I would not have noticed. The School of Architecture is pretty bad…

12) What’s your drink?

Gin tonic. With food, red wine

13) When and how did you decide to become an architect?

At the very last minute. I was hesitating between art and philosophy but I was recommended to get a serious job, so I thought that architecture was in-between. At that time in Spain architects were very respected professionals, unlike artists and philosophers…

14) In 25 years I will be…

Doing the best buildings of my career. 70 years old is the maturity age for an architect.

15) Favorite Spanish dish?

I like raw stuff. I think good Serrano ham is unbeatable.

16) The Princeton architecture building—ugly or misunderstood?

Definitely ugly and, what is worst, not particularly functional.

17) What makes someone an architect?

The capacity to spend hours and hours thinking and simultaneously moving your hands over a piece of paper or a keyboard, leaving little traces on the paper or the screen that could be used to organise matter.

18) What’s your top vacation destination?

Donosti, in the Basque country

19) What college has the best architecture?

Probably Rockefeller College

20) What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve done in the past year?

Getting married

21) What’s your favorite room in the world?

No favourite room, when a room is truly intense you need to be in the mood for it, and mood changes all the time. Now I am remembering the Hall from the Palazzo della Raggione in Padova, or the Sala de los Abencerrajes in The Alhambra, Granada, or the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, or Ryoanji Garden in Kyoto. I like that kind of intensity when I am in the right mood.

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