Alejandro Zaera-Polo (born October 17th 1963) is an internationally recognized architect and scholar, and founder of London, Zurich, and Princeton-based firm Alejandro Zaera-Polo & Maider Llaguno Architecture (AZPML). First rising to prominence in the 1980s with his writings for publications such as El Croquis, Zaera-Polo has had a prolific career in both the academic and professional realms of architecture.
Alejandro Zaera Polo
Have Your Say on the Landscape of Emerging Practices With the Interactive Architectural Political Compass
If you were to identify, categorize and map the 21st century’s emergent architectural practices from the world over, all on one diagram, what would it look like? Considering how the current architectural landscape consists of several different approaches, attitudes and political stances, how would you map them without being too reductive? And how would you ensure that out of hundreds of emergent practices and firms across the globe, you don’t leave anyone out? Perhaps the Global Architectural Political Compass V 0.2 could offer a clue.
Created by Alejandro Zaera-Polo and Guillermo Fernandez-Abascal, the diagram is part of an ongoing inquiry into “the state of the art in (global) architectural practice” . In 2016, Zaera-Polo explored the subject in a comprehensive essay for El Croquis titled “Well into the 21st Century” in which he set down the framework for 11 political categories that now form the compass diagram.
‘Global Architectural Political Events’ are a series of public debates organised by Alejandro Zaera-Polo & Guillermo Fernandez-Abascal that continue the investigation about the political re-engagement of the discipline, as analysed in the essay ‘Well into the 21st Century’ and the ‘Global Architectural Compass’.
Observing the architectural landscape today it’s clear that the type of work which is currently ascendant, particularly among young practices, is very different to what came before the financial crisis of 2008. But what, exactly, does that architectural landscape look like? In an essay titled “Well into the 21st Century” in the latest issue of El Croquis, Alejandro Zaera-Polo outlined a 21st-century taxonomy of architecture, attempting to define and categorize the various new forms of practice that have grown in popularity in the years since—and as a political response to—the economic crisis.
The categories defined by Zaera-Polo encompass seven broad political positions: The “Activists,” who reject architecture’s dependence on market forces by operating largely outside the market, with a focus on community building projects, direct engagement with construction, and non-conventional funding strategies; then there are the “Populists,” whose work is calibrated to reconnect with the populace thanks to a media-friendly, diagrammatic approach to architectural form; next are the “New Historicists,” whose riposte to the “end of history” hailed by neoliberalism is an embrace of historically-informed design; the “Skeptics,” whose existential response to the collapse of the system is in part a return to postmodern critical discourse and in part an exploration of contingency and playfulness through an architecture of artificial materials and bright colors; the “Material Fundamentalists,” who returned to a tactile and virtuoso use of materials in response to the visual spectacle of pre-crash architecture; practitioners of “Austerity Chic,” a kind of architectural “normcore” (to borrow a term from fashion) which focuses primarily on the production process, and resulting performance, of architecture; and finally the “Techno-Critical,” a group of practices largely producing speculative architecture, whose work builds upon but also remains critical of the data-driven parametricism of their predecessors.
As a follow-up to that essay, Zaera-Polo and Guillermo Fernandez-Abascal set out to apply the newly-defined categories to the emerging practices of today with a nuanced “political compass” diagram. They invited practices to respond to their categorization in order to unveil the complex interdependencies and self-image of these political stances. For the first time, here ArchDaily publishes the results of that exercise.
With the 2016 Venice Biennale opening this week, it seems oddly appropriate that a dispute originating in the 2014 Biennale is finally hitting the courts. On Tuesday evening, a New Jersey court document was anonymously leaked to ArchDaily and a variety of other architecture publications. It showed that Alejandro Zaera-Polo, founder of AZPML and former Dean of Princeton University’s School of Architecture, was suing his employer over the events surrounding his own abrupt resignation as Dean last year.
The resignation itself was demanded* by Princeton University President Christopher Eisgruber after Zaera-Polo was accused of plagiarizing parts of a text he produced for the “Elements of Architecture” exhibition curated by Rem Koolhaas at the 2014 Venice Biennale. From the start, Zaera-Polo has denied that his texts violate Princeton’s academic code of conduct, but nevertheless agreed to Eisgruber’s demand. In the documents leaked Tuesday, Zaera-Polo criticizes the actions taken by Princeton both before and since his resignation, arguing that they have damaged his reputation. He is thus suing them on four charges: “breach of contract,” “breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” “tortious interference with contract and prospective economic advantage,” and finally “trade libel.”
The story will undoubtedly receive a lot of attention, given that it involves a controversial dispute between an internationally renowned architect and a university with an international stature. But the real story behind the dispute is not about Alejandro Zaera-Polo’s academic conduct or Princeton’s handling of its staff contracts; instead, it has everything to do with our expected standards for architectural research.
As the first month of 2016 draws to a close, we decided to tap into our network and ask an esteemed group of architects, critics, theorists and educators to tell us what they are looking forward to this year in architecture.
What are you looking forward to in architecture this year?
The world of architecture is small. So small in fact, that Rem Koolhaas has been credited with the creation of over forty practices worldwide, led by the likes of Zaha Hadid and Bjarke Ingels. Dubbed “Baby Rems” by Metropolis Magazine, this Koolhaas effect is hardly an isolated pattern, with manifestations far beyond the walls of OMA. The phenomenon has dominated the world of architecture, assisted by the prevalence and increasing necessity of internships for burgeoning architects.
In a recent article for Curbed, Patrick Sisson dug into the storied history of internships to uncover some unexpected connections between the world's most prolific architects. With the help of Sisson's list, we've compiled a record of the humble beginnings of the household names of architecture. Where did Frank Gehry get his start? Find out after the break.
This past October Alejandro Zaera-Polo abruptly resigned from his position as Dean of Princeton’s School of Architecture amidst plagiarism rumors. The resignation, requested by University President Christopher Eisgruber, was the result of Zaera-Polo's removal of citations from his contribution to the “Facade” section of the Elements of Architecture exhibition at the 2014 Venice Biennale.
Claiming the rumors to be “demonstrably false,” Zaera-Polo has issued a “clarifying statement” outlining the purpose of his Biennale text to be polemic, and nonacademic, therefore it did not breach “any moral, ethical, or other applicable standards.” An email in support of Zaera-Polo sent by Rem Koolhaas to Eisgruber three days before the resignation has also released, denouncing any wrongdoing from Koolhaas’ perspective as the Biennale’s director.
Read Koolhaas' email, Zaera-Polo's clarification statement and a response from Princeton in full, after the break.
Alejandro Zaera-Polo, the head of Alejandro Zaera-Polo & Maider Llaguno Architecture, today announced that he is stepping down as the Dean of Architecture at Princeton University's School of Architecture. Zaera-Polo was appointed to the position in 2012 having been a visiting lecturer at the school since 2008, but stepped down in order to devote more time to his research and professional activities. He will continue to serve as a professor at the school, and his predecessor Stan Allen will take up the role of Acting Dean until a permanent replacement is found.
From September 29th to December 8th, the exhibition dedicated to the work of Toni Cumella will be open. His works in ceramic have been utilised by architects such as Enric Miralles, Alejandro Zaera-Polo, or Jean Nouvel. These collaborations made his material became part of the image of Barcelona, being part of the construction of La Sagrada Familia, and the restoration of Casa Batlló and Parc Güell.
Focusing on the 4 main fabrication processes in use at Ceramica Cumella – extruding, casting, pressing and revolving – Shaping Ideas presents the work of Toni Cumella and the application of his ceramics in some of contemporary architecture’s most significant projects.
The Processing Environments symposium is organized by the Architectural Association in collaboration with the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and sponsored by the Bilbao Municipality and the Institut Français in Bilbao. It will take place next 19th June at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.
The symposium is directed by Maider Llaguno and Clara Olóriz and some of the invited speakers are Alejandro Zaera-Polo (ex FOA, currently AZPA), Juan Herreros, Iñaki Begisitain, Eva Castro & Alfredo Ramirez (Groundlab), Philippe Rahm, and Efrén García Grinda & Cristina Díaz Moreno.
The admission is free.
More information and the complete program after the break