ADRIÁN PRIETO wearing the Leo cardigan no.001. He is an architectural historian living in Vienna, Austria.
What takes you to cloud 9?
The experience of architecture is one of my main motivations to travel and to explore different countries and cities. I love visiting buildings that I am able to touch.
Is there an architect or building that you feel a particular admiration for?
I feel enormous admiration for many architects and buildings, from Palladio to Herman Czech. I especially admire the architects who are able to explore the emotional and symbolic realm. I think some Scandinavian architects such as Gunnar Asplund and Lewerentz or Viennese architects like Josef Frank and Oskar Strnad are good examples of this.
What is good design?
The result of priorities that have been correctly executed. The black watch by the Swiss brand Swatch is good design and what comes to mind. My grandmother, my mother and I all have or still wear one…there is something completely universal about it. A Patek Philippe might ease status anxiety, but a black swatch does and has everything you need.
Where do you find good design?
You can find good and bad design everywhere. Our life is conditioned by it in all sort of ways, from urban planning to every object in your house. I find it beautiful to realize something ordinary is ‘good design’. For example, the Oil Cruet, by Rafael Marquina from 1961 - the simplicity is apparent yet also provides functionality by preventing any oil drippings while using it, just brilliant. Apparently, it is one of the most copied objects, and yet only the original has the perfect proportions to make it stable and resistant.
Who do you find to be an iconic person?
Today we use the word ‘iconic’ for all sorts of things, from a building to a dessert. I don’t exactly know how it applies to a person but I would say Susan Sontag is sort of iconic. I am currently reading her biography by Benjamin Moser. Although, I still find her collection of diaries is where you experience her conscious, complex, and brilliant mind.
What should we be reading?
Coming back to Susan Sontag I would say the first volume of her diaries, Reborn, edited by her son. And Marcel Proust, Ha!
What does your house smell like?
I don’t use scents for the house. I like the feeling of fresh air and keeping the windows open. Houses have their own smells, materiality, and people living in them. Covering those smells seems unnecessary. I particularly enjoy the smell of coffee in the morning, many days I just prepare a cup for a ritualistic pleasure and the smell.
What does your house sound like?
Radio in the early morning. I enjoy listening to ‘France Culture’ during breakfast, it brings a sense of productivity. Otherwise total silence or the dishwasher.
What is dear to your heart?
My family and friends. Some beautiful memories.
What does progression mean to you?
In 2016 I visited the exhibition of Tino Sehgal at Palais de Tokyo, a group of different performers guided you through the entire space. One performer approached me and asked the exact same question. I replied, “it means nothing to me”. Honestly I don’t think progression is necessarily anything positive. It can mean we are alive and still moving, something I am glad for.
What is a rule that should never be broken?
Always trust your intuition.
What is a rule that should always be broken?
No more candy for today!
What is your favorite word in any language?
"Extrañamiento" from the verb "extrañar" which has many nuances and meanings. This word often resonates in my work and life.
What is most difficult to find in contemporary culture?
What do you find most exciting in contemporary culture?
I am intrigued by the way we use and react to digital images. It is exciting to see how digital archives are changing the course of research and providing us access to a database of material. However this access also can introduce a lack of understanding that could be a problem in contemporary culture.
The best arthouse film?
“Inside Rooms: 26 Bathrooms, London & Oxfordshire, 1985” directed by Peter Greenaway. We should not forget that it isn’t about fancy bathrooms or noble materials. It’s about the importance of claiming the bathroom as one's own-living space.
What is the most enigmatic work you have seen?
I was particularly struck some years ago in Paris by Lucinda Child’s dance company. I don't know much about dance and postmodern dance, but the materials she used to design the choreography, resulted in something beautiful and moving.
What do you still wish to learn?
Many things. I wanna learn to race a car.
What do you find humorous?
Who is an inspirational figure?
I keep the writings of the Spanish Art Historian, Ángel González García close to my heart. His poetic work has been an enormous inspiration. His book, “El Resto, Una Historia Invisible del Arte Contemporáneo” is always by my side. Read, “La meditación de los cactus”(cactus meditation), written on the use of cactus plants in modern expressionist and bauhaus interiors.
If you were interviewing a fellow historian, what would you ask them?
I would ask for their personal experiences and anecdotes. I love a good story.
What do you treasure most in your neighborhood or city?
Vienna is probably one of the most beautiful European cities. Beyond the surface you can discover an atmosphere that is truly magical. It is a hidden treasure of the East. I won’t say any in particular, people and tourists ruin everything.
What are you working on at the moment?
The quarantine has been a balsamic time for writing and reflecting for me. I am correcting my Ph.D thesis and preparing myself for the next move.
Any last words?