The Los Angeles Biennale

Currently at the International Architecture Biennale Rotterdam. Formerly at the Shenzhen Biennale of Architecture/Urbanism.



Feb '14 - May '14

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    Aram Guiragozian
    Feb 21, '14 5:11 AM EST

    Dede is a project which is an open ended short film. In its current research phase it is a composite of multiple thoughts, quotes and stories I reflect upon. This is the story of the immigrant with the American dream combined with the ambiguity of the Los Angeles dreamscape reality.  These collection of stories are thoughts which I have struggled with over the years and in reality have become the subversive thoughts and questions that I play with everyday.


    In no particular order:

    Conversations with my family:

    “Dad you’ve already won. You’ve won because you don’t ever have to worry about three rockets hitting another house of yours and blowing it up again. You’re free!” My grandfather was house sitting my parent's home in the month of September, 1978. During this time, Lebanon was in the midst of a Civil War. The attack happened! I was born in April of that year. I had  a conversation with my father about a year ago discussing his "American  Dream" and what it meant to him to have his freedom after living in America for the last twenty-eight years.

    "I remember I was living in London at the time working at a bank and was asked by my boss to transfer to New York . He was moving and since I was his secretary he wanted me to move as well. So I did. Our office stood right next to the New York-Well Cornell Medical Hospital. I remember in 1979, when the Shah stayed at this hospital during the Iranian Revolution. My Boss was of Iranian descent. He had a few pictures with the Shah hanging on his office walls and we were told to bring down the pictures. So, we brought them down, we wrapped them up and hid them. New York was too much for me, so I moved to California". I had this conversation with my eldest aunt a few days ago.  She was the first one to come to California from our family.

    Mom what was it like growing up in Lebanon? “It was simple. I remember we were one of the first homes in the city that had a telephone and a TV. All of the neighborhood kids would come to our house to watch television shows. It was a great time, we were a tight knit community and everyone treated each other like family." I had this conversation with my mother two years ago.     

    To Gassia, my youngest aunt. I asked her, "what do you remember of the civil war in Lebanon?" She replied, "I was eighteen. I remember going to school at American University of Beirut (AUB) and the war broke out. We were stuck in class. We were told we had to run across the field to the bomb shelter. So, they lined us up and we sprinted across the field. There were snipers on the roof tops shooting at us. I can still hear the streams of bullets followed by the sound of thumps, bodies dropping. Naturally, I started running in a zigzag form so I wouldn’t get shot. I had to survive. I couldn’t disappoint my parents. Until today I can still hear her voice screaming, Gassia! Gassia! Help! Please! Help! Please don’t leave me here!" My aunt looked down reflecting on one of her classmates being shot down and explained, "I just couldn’t I had to save myself. I just couldn’t".I had this conversation with my aunt six months ago.

    "Architecture and war are not incompatible. Architecture is war. War is architecture. I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms. I am one of millions who do not fit in, who have no home, no family, no doctrine, no firm place to call my own, no known beginning or end, no "sacred and primordial site."   Lebbeus Woods


    Growing up (So) California :

    1987, age nine: My family decided we should move to California from Doha, Qatar . At this time, Middle East had an expectation that war would break out within the near future. Two years later the Gulf War began.

    CALIFORNIA, Yay! I already understood as a kid what I thought of California . It was exciting. Nene and Dede (Grandma and Grandpa) lived in the U.S, Disneyland was in California , my aunts and uncles were in California and even Michael Jackson lived in California. "Mom! Dad! We're going to live next door to the King of Pop? We Made It!". California to me was comprised of small images and a couple of ideas.   

    During my teen years I grew up in a small city called Monrovia. Here I had a group of friends who were mostly all skaters. We were always in the streets exploring L.A. on a one to one experience. Hanging out at skate shops and skating from city to city listening to metal and punk rock music.

    In high school, we were always at Damien’s house. Damien had a cool cousin named Michael and Michael's dad was even cooler. He was good friends with the Band Danzig. Danzig, in the 90s, were at their prime. We were always at their concerts hanging out backstage being in the middle of “L.A. Cool” screwing around mimicking Glenn and the crew.  We had the Misfits shirts on, the Samhain haircuts, and the Danzig private parties to tag along to. For an Armenian kid where was my Armenian-ness. I was always in the middle of everything and was curious about anything. Anything and Everything!

    As I grew older, I phased out of metal and punk rock music and was introduced to rap. I found something in rap that I couldn’t find in any other music genres. The story of the underdog. Rap for me was poetic and raw. I understood it and mostly it understood me. I finally found something that understood me. To emphasize...I finally found something that understood me. I listened to Pac and Biggie all day, everyday. I listened to Pac so much that at the age of eighteen my first car was a “Black Ac Integra.”  Now all the kids think I’m L.A.! 

    One night some things happened. Finally, I got home and I was in my bed. Age twenty, around 5:00am I heard my father waking up. This man that sacrificed everything was getting ready for his twelve hour shift.  The stories of my family members started playing out in my head. Everything in twenty years of my experienced life came crashing down on me. I promised myself from that point on I would get an education. So. I did. I enrolled into a city college and got a job as a bartender. You’re fucking right I’m L.A.    

    Bartending in L.A. is interesting. The first couple of years were fun and exciting. I met a lot of people. In bartending you can meet a range of all sorts of people. From the everyday guy that nobody knows to the people on TV that everybody thinks they know, but to be a bartender for fifteen years becomes a little bit more complicated. I don’t take any of it back because it allowed me to become independent. It helped me pay for my enrollment into a higher education institution where I graduated with my degree. One of the great skills that bartending teaches you is to become a great listener and to read faces and body language. It makes you understand humility at its best. Hmm, questioning how L.A. am I really?

    Most of all, what bartending and my education in architecture brought to me was this project. 

    “When I was a boy I saw a film called The Isle of Lost Ships, and its scene was the Sargasso Sea, where all the seaweed in the Atlantic winds up in a warm, enormous eddy. According to the movie, all the lost ships wound up there, too, and there were Spanish galleons and wrecked clipper ships and old Roman galleys, and people lived forever, and there was Lewis Stone in some kind of costume. You went home afterward and could not sleep and lay in bed and listened to switch engines, somewhere, shunting freight cars around in Chicago yards, and you thought what a wonderful, wonderful world it was and how could you ever wait to grow up?”

    The Territorial Imperative by Robert Ardrey



    To reflect back on the beginning stages of this project I truly am not sure when I started to think about all of this. If I can pin point anything it would be the conversations that I had with my Grandmother and Grandfather regarding their stories of our family and the history of my Armenian background. I grew up in a very close Armenian family, but outside of my immediate and extended family, I didn’t even have one Armenian friend. All of my friends were of different ethnic backgrounds. So, I felt like I was missing a large part of my identity.   

    Throughout my education, I’ve always fought for the humanness in Architecture. It’s this on going struggle with myself, but truly I understand what Architecture stands for in today's society. I myself can’t allow for Architecture to be the front man for humanity while feeding big name brand firms. It’s just not why I fell in love with Architecture, it’s just not me. 

    The more I questioned my own past and my identity the more I wanted to understand the history of my background. Naturally, living in L.A., I started to explore Glendale, California. Glendale is known for being one of the largest Armenian communities outside of Armenia. I started to explore everything about the city. During my exploration, I discovered that there are large communities of elderly Armenian men throughout the parks of Glendale. Here, they mostly spend their time playing cards, backgammon, discussing philosophy and current political issues.

    In my daily search for answers, I visit these parks and I take pictures and record videos when possible. I’m trying to become more apart of my Armenian community. My Armenian speech is a little broken and my dialect is of Western Armenian. Most of the men that I have interacted with are of Eastern Armenian dialect. I have to learn backgammon and overcome these barriers. I’ve already met one elderly man and we talked a little about life. (Dede #1)

     “I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia .”  William Saroyan


     [Time loop]

    “Dad you’ve already won. You’ve won because you don’t ever have to worry about three rockets hitting another house of yours and blowing it up again. You’re free!” My grandfather was house sitting my parent's home in the month of September, 1978. During this time, Lebanon was in the midst of a Civil War. The attack happened! I was born in April of that year. I had  a conversation with my father about a year ago discussing his "American  Dream" and what it meant to him to have his freedom after living in America for the last twenty-eight years.

    This project is dedicated to my grandmother, Thank you for teaching me and I miss you dearly.




    Home #1: Monrovia, CA. This is the first house that my family and I moved into moving from Qatar in 1987. Since this house we have lived together and separately in seven different homes.   


    Man on the right is Dede #1










    • Great post Aram. Greetings from Shenzhen. Aris and I just saw it and now talking about Glendale.

      Feb 21, 14 10:38 pm  · 

      Hi Orhan,

      Thank you, Hope all is well on your end. Please say hello to the team for me and hope to see everyone soon!     

      Feb 22, 14 1:44 am  · 

      Hello Aram:

      This is a very interesting project. Obviously I would love to see the movie when it is done. I admire your passion about the subject you chose. Lots of feelings are involved I am sure. I love the concept of the project, which is very near to my heart. I could share my experience with you one day, which is the same kind of essence, I assume.

                                                              Bravo Kez, Sam "76 Gas Station"

      Feb 26, 14 2:15 am  · 

      Merci Sam! I really appreciate the kind words it means a lot. I would enjoy listening to your story, maybe when your free we can grab coffee and talk. I'll see you soon!


      Feb 26, 14 2:29 am  · 

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About this Blog

The Los Angeles Biennale is an experimentation in creating a nomadic biennale on urbanism, hosted by the International Architecture Biennale in Rotterdam. This blog will cover the preparation, activities and findings from this experiment.

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