Hernan Diaz Alonso is an exuberant, lively guy and the three days of conversations about his passions and obsessions were as charged as his personality. Before his visit, I was not really sure what to expect. Horrific, fleshy, plump, decaying – all adjectives I would use for Hernan’s work. Without a close eye, it could be hard to differentiate the tactics and techniques deployed in his work. Some may even question his status as “an Architect” considering his indifference to program and users. But to Hernan, his limited palette is neatly curated to his sensibilities as a designer; and Architecture is not limited to buildings or even spaces for people. Hernan is not conflicted to subjectively fight his corner and say, “I have an Architect’s mind, I couldn’t be any other type of designer.”
This type of unwavering, confident statement was characteristic of much of the conversation during his visit. Here at Knowlton we are surrounded by a variety of talented professors, whose interests and strengths land all over the map. With the theoretical underpinnings of this institution, it can sometimes feel like an obligation to navigate the various camps of thought coherently even though many times they are completely in conflict (Conflict is where genius happens, by the way). To that end, one of the big ideas Hernan impressed upon me was that Architects are individuals – each with varying interests and expertise – and thus it is not pertinent for him to participate in conversations irrelevant to his work.
Though he spoke of his work intelligibly, many of his thoughts were rounded out with the simple application of intuition. He also discussed the importance of constructing one’s discourse, but still privileged building (and recognizing) one’s sensibilities first. This was one of those, “magicians talking to other magicians” conversations that he probably wouldn’t speak so bluntly about in a public forum. It boiled down to this: first, figure out what you like, then, figure out why. That is an extreme oversimplification but it ultimately removed a bit of pressure from thinking we need to have a resolved agenda we are looking to inject into Architecture. With time, research, and experimentation, it will click (“or it won’t” –Doug Graf). At that point, leave it behind and forge forward with the substance that surfaces.
I personally don’t have a stomach for much of his work - I have little to no interest in the grotesque affects that manage to consistently emerge. Nonetheless I found our sessions with him extremely valuable. His work is positioned in contemporary modes of production and thought, which easily relates to all young Architects despite their particular M.O.
This guest post is courtesy of Laila Ammar, a G3 Architecture student and participant in the Baumer Sessions
This blog will be a feeder for recent news, events, and student work occurring at the Knowlton School at The Ohio State University. Posts will typically center around updates from the schools lecture series, exciting projects from recent student reviews, and updates from other school events.