G. Alejandro Zaera-Polo – Entry Interview

This piece is an interview with the incoming Dean of Princeton University in 2012, Alejandro Zaera-Polo. It addresses his assessment of the school at this time and his vision for it going forward.

  • “In Europe, you get educated to become a productive member of society, there’s no such thing as undergraduate. […] There is a kind of ideological, if you want, conservativism in some of these schools.”

  • “Harvard was fantastic, was a great moment of discovery, and after Harvard […] I went to work in Rotterdam.”

  • “When I landed at Harvard, coming from Madrid, I thought that people were really bright, that the discussion was unbelievable, but that the projects actually were very weak, most of them.”

  • “My book […] departs from the idea that texts are artifacts. They are made to operate on a specific situation […] this is the way I write and I like it. I don’t want to write manuals. I don’t want to write things that are supposedly aimed at lasting forever and being truths.”

  • “This is where I think that Princeton could produce something truly interesting, if we were able to produce a really interesting thesis system, where people were, in some ways, constructing the blueprint of their practices in the future. If thesis is not like that, I think it is pointless to do it.”

  • “Unfortunately, architects have not been able to deliver design at a relatively inexpensive cost. So design, as we understand it now, is only delivered at very expensive costs.”

  • “I thought that Princeton students were very professional. […] You would wake up at nine, kind of work until seven, or whatever. […] I’m sure it’s not like that, but it sort of feels like that.”

  • “People were looking at eighteen other schools in the U.S. before looking to Princeton students to hire people. And, you know, from the prestige of the university and the resources available, Princeton should be the first or the second. And then I thought, well maybe actually that’s not so bad.”

  • “It’s important that you understand that your work is public. I mean, the work of architects is public. Once you do a project, it’s something that is immediately in the public realm.”

  • “That’s my job. My job is to convince the dean of faculty and the university that architecture is a different discipline and that architecture needs things that maybe mathematics don’t.”

  • “The treatment of Princeton to the students that got admitted I think is better than any other place. And they like that. I don’t like it so much…”

  • “[I am] trying to address the fact that we have nobody on a full time position investigating energy and the environment. I mean that, in this day and age, is almost embarrassing.”

  • “The attitude, the intelligence, the strategies in order to push forward a project—that’s where I think that Princeton has been successful in the past and I think that this is an area that I believe it can be developed.”



Griffin Ofiesh

Issue Editor

Joseph Bedford


Joseph Bedford

Founding Editor

Joseph Bedford


Alastair Stokes


Alejandro Zaera-Polo (Dean, Princeton University School of Architecture)


Yshai Yudekovitz