MG: Do you consider yourselves part of an intellectual collective of Argentine architects that have a strong and defined presence abroad? If not, could you describe why?
JA: Maybe, I don't know. I don’t think so. I think we all feel that we are our own individual Diaspora, broader than Argentina. That's the Argentine amnesia anyway. The closest thing to a nation we have is the possibility of our soccer team.
MG: Being familiar with figures such as Machado and Silvetti, or Agrest and Gandelsonas, among others, how do you think your experience is different to this earlier generation of architects that emigrated, and was their experience ever a point of reference to you when you decided to study abroad and establish yourselves outside Argentina?
JA: Now I realize, looking back, that there are cyclical Diasporas. However, I think that for us, more than the references cited, it was Columbia or New York that served as the hinge point where these things came together and connections were able to be forged. But it's weird that it's convergent. And as the machine gathers around the thing, it certainly gains momentum.
MG: What is the scope of your relationships with other Argentine architects and scholars abroad? Could you trace differences or affinities in schools of thought from the different regions of the country?
JA: I came [to the United States] to finish my last few years of undergraduate studies at SCI-Arc, and two years later I went to Columbia University for the AAD. However, none of us (Marcelo, Hernan, Florencia) went to school together. I graduated in 2000, a year before Florencia, a year after Hernan, and Marcelo was two years earlier than that. And before Marcelo was Galia. The year I graduated I won a competition in Barcelona, and moved there for a brief period. When I came back to LA, I met Hernan and Marcelo at a party in Glendale.
MG: Would you be able to discuss your professional and intellectual development in relation to your cultural and/or academic/formal background?
JA: I came to SCI-Arc in 1993 as an undergraduate late transfer, so I did my whole basic architectural military camp at the University of Buenos Aires, very Ecole Polytecnic, with its very rigorous training and its mechanical time-management-based skills. When I got the point where wanted to begin venturing on my own it became more difficult to do that sort of thing. Luckily, in my early education, I received discipline and rigor, and later, at SCI-Arc, I worked with people willing to take you the edge of the cliff.
MG: As friends and colleagues with a long history and many commonalities, how do you see your education and upbringing in Argentina playing a role in your personal work? What questions would you have of each other with regards to the influences or tensions that you may feel towards (or about) Argentina, and how it's played a role in your development?
JA: Absolutely, I mean there's a hard wiring that we Argentineans have. Someone once said, Argentineans love their dictators. In a way, it means coming to terms with your own DNA. Growing up, we were dealt with an even weirder hand than our predecessor who were thrown out of planes, drugged alive, made to disappear. Our death planes were imaginary creatures, where we didn't die, but were nevertheless repeatedly thrown out in anticipation of an unconsummated death. It’s like Polanski’s The Tenant where you jump out of the window to kill yourself and all you do is break your legs and you drag yourself back up to your apartment to throw yourself out the window and break your legs again. It’s an intangible, invisible form of violence that becomes a void. Without knowing, we inherited that void, and had to invent our own space.
MG: How strong is your connection to Argentina and do you see your work and disciplinary interests having a resonance back home?
JA: It’s strange because I left, academically speaking, like somebody that goes to war like a low-ranking soldier, and then eventually comes back as a pirate, with military skills. At the time I studied there, the school was coming out of a dictatorship and was only then beginning to participate in a more of a global construct; it was a very different culture.
MG: You've been living in LA for close to ten years now—how much do you think the influences of the city have played a role in your work? Issues such as technology? Relation to the movie industry? An embrace of spatial scaleless-ness?
JA: I think there's more sensibility, more space, and a better conflation of forces than anywhere else. I’m interested in the cultural imaginary in-between that lies within the territory of LA and its heterogeneous, non-linear, high-intensity, low-frequency environment, as well as the mediated moment that Hollywood might offer. In its fringes lies the furtive component so compelling to the city. And ultimately, its materialization is behavioral rather than formal.
Juan Azulay is the director of the 10-year old Los Angeles-based firm Matter Management. His award-winning practice ranges widely in discipline, methodology and media. Azulay received his B.Arch. from SCI-Arc and his Master of Science in Advanced Architectural Design (MSAAD) from Columbia. He is currently on the Design, Mediascapes and Visual Studies Faculty at SCI-Arc. Azulay has also taught design studios at Columbia University's GSAPP and at the ETSAV in Barcelona. Azulay's work has been featured in Arquitectura Viva, Quaderns, Oeste, Vanidad, Chronomorphologies, Architect, La Vanguardia, Espai Picasso at COAC, Abstract, Architectural Record and LA Architect and his work is part of the permanent collection of contemporary architects at the MAK in Vienna. Azulay sits on the Board of Directors of the Society for Moving Images about the Built Environment.