In the Green Room

Architect Hernan Diaz Alonso

Thank You For Smoking

Hernan Diaz Alonso

Architect Hernan Diaz Alonso is principal of Xefirotarch and graduate programs chair at SCI-Arc. Before participating in a panel on the future of downtown L.A.—where he’s lived since 2001—he sat down in the Zócalo green room, cigar in hand, to dish about dissuading would-be architects and why he might like to be a pig.


Q:
What’s your favorite Southland freeway?

A:
I guess it’d have to be the combination of the 105 to the 110 because it’s what takes me from the airport to my daughter.

Q:
If you had a theme song what would it be?

A:
“Gimme Shelter,” The Rolling Stones.

Q:
How do you dissuade someone from studying architecture?

A:
Just invite them to go to any architecture office and see how miserable the life is.

Q:
Whom do you go to for advice?

A:
At this point in my life, pretty much nobody. My father died four years ago. And I think usually advice—it’s a little bit like experience. It’s a hair comb that they give you when you are already bald. So you can go for advice to many people, but you might find that the advice, even if well-intentioned, doesn’t quite apply.

Q:
What’s the last law you broke?

A:
Probably smoking in a public building. [Said with a cigar in his hand. A few minutes before a security guard came by and asked him to put out the cigar.] Change that. I was breaking the law as we were speaking. We live in L.A., one of the most polluted cities in the world, and people care about this?

Q:
If you could be any animal, what would you be?

A:
I guess I like the pigs because they can live a very dirty, happy life until they are killed. Or a bull in a bull-fighting arena—you know you’re going to die, but at least you have a shot. And if you die, you die with a lot of pomp and exuberance.

Q:
What’s your fondest childhood memory?

A:
Saturday afternoons in the park, just doing stuff with my dad.

Q:
What’s your biggest irrational fear?

A:
It always surprises me every time an airplane lands that we’re all alive. I feel like the pope, and I want to kiss the ground. I’m not afraid of flying; it just amazes me that they do.

Q:
What’s your favorite plant or flower?

A:
Sunflower.

Q:
What word do you use the most?

A:
Fuck. Not really, sorry. I use fuck a lot. But I think the one I use the most is, “It seems to me …” I use that a lot. But it’s not one word. It’s many.

Q:
What’s your favorite thing about Los Angeles?

A:
My favorite thing about L.A. is that I cannot pick a favorite thing. There are too many layers to pick one thing, which makes it the most exciting city I know. That seems like a really good thing.