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.
What’s your favorite Southland freeway?
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.
If you had a theme song what would it be?
“Gimme Shelter,” The Rolling Stones.
How do you dissuade someone from studying architecture?
Just invite them to go to any architecture office and see how miserable the life is.
Whom do you go to for advice?
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.
What’s the last law you broke?
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?
If you could be any animal, what would you be?
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.
What’s your fondest childhood memory?
Saturday afternoons in the park, just doing stuff with my dad.
What’s your biggest irrational fear?
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.
What’s your favorite plant or flower?
What word do you use the most?
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.
What’s your favorite thing about Los Angeles?
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.