Peter Eisenman

- Between method and madness-


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Diagrammatic matters III.Finding form III.II .Foreword II .I .Preface III .Contents Contents I .III .Some generalities Notes Bibliography Books Webpages 3 5 7 9 9 10 10 12 12 12 13 15 15 15 |3 Contents | Theory of architecture 1: contemporary theory .Placing Eisenman III.Concluding remarks IV.Estrangement IV .In-depth study? IV.I .II .

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|5 Foreword | Theory of architecture 1: contemporary theory . Secondly.Foreword This essay is an attempt to discover and to unravel the architecture of Peter Eisenman. But as the scene plays we can see some interesting connections between the two. dr. connections that will shed a light on the difficult matter and even proposes unexpected perspectives on the subject. a deconstructivist and a historical theorist. Bernard Colenbrander for the opportunity of researching one of the most interesting architects of the twentieth century . however of equally importance is the (possible) connection between the architecture of Eisenman on the one hand and the theoretical scheme of Antonio Monestiroli on the other hand.I . the architecture that established his name as a young my opinion one of the most mistaken and unexposed architects of that time. At first sight this comparison seems odd. I would like to thank prof.

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Preface It is no secret that the architecture of Peter Eisenman is difficult to grasp . the houses. these houses (houses I . His journey through the world of architecture and philosophy is still ongoing and has seen lots of changes. As we will see. I will mainly focus on his first works. inevitably break with his earlier work.2 Due to the complex nature of his architecture and in the interest of this essay. twists and bends. while he initially started off on a different foot .let alone to see the big picture of his oeuvre at first sight. His architecture is often . |7 Preface | Theory of architecture 1: contemporary theory .referred to as deconstructivistic1. however.if not always .X) will be an intricating journey on their own.II .one could say that the turn to a deconstructivistic architecture is an unseen.

Image 1: House II axonometric projection Image 2: House II axonometric transformational diagrams Theory of architecture 1: contemporary theory | Placing Eisenman 8| .

. or complex. the wall.. a real building.) has to become a collective legacy in order to exist.. Style.) The aim of the process is to find a law.”3 “(. there is no architecture. as to arrive at the pure. Eisenman’s architecture doesn’t pass the test for the usage of the term ‘style’.”11 He goes on and says that “the language is constructed as a system of representation (.) that recognizes whether he has achieved a style in his work. a general rule that will combine each of the partial moves or stages into a continuous uninterrupted sequence (. such as the beam.) but an end in themselves. it combines the earlier described approach of form and his way of thinking in formal laws within his architecture.. while remaining on the outer edge of the perceptual experience. he points to the fact that one should be able to see the house as an ordered whole.of that same architectural object. that may or may not be present in the final design. “(.as pointed out earlier . Style is shared language (. In the process ..especially that of the earlier houses (House I . They are in a way the soul of a building.) the diagram is the possibility of fact . we can say that it defines their identity. (.”12 Surely the architecture of Peter Eisenman qualifies for the ‘correct’ application of the term language.. Also . however Eisenman doesn’t want to be recognized as a ‘style’.”10 The explicit and repeated use of his ‘formal language’ and the application of the diagram makes Peter Eisenman an interesting case when seen through the eyes of Antonio Monestiroli.. by going through the process of the transformational diagrams in a reverse sequence. conceptual starting point of the rectangular box. as well as in the theoretical architectural discourse.) should not be confused with language.”13 In The Metope and the Triglyph he writes “The style (.”7 The diagram therefore can be seen as the motive for the building and at a general level..) This law of development is formal and should be independent of any functional interpretation.. However. Language can be based on a personal viewpoint. Finding form is one of the essential themes that one can discover in the oeuvre of Eisenman and also what distinguishes him from other architects.) It is the community (. which is formal is derived from the great linguist Noam Chomsky.) of the sense of buildings.Finding form “Architecture is representation of itself as construction responding to a purpose.”5 This struggle between form and function is of course no stranger in the architectural history.he makes use of so called diagrams. where Eisenman says that it is important to conquer the function and to purposely depict the function wrongly... This may sound complicated. in the built environment. the column. it should not be personal.. He defines language as the “simple elements of architecture and their use in construction. William J.) forms are no longer a ‘means toward an end. Therefore the architect must aspire to define a fact the process itself forms the process ...”4 The architecture of Peter Eisenman .it is not the fact itself..”6 “It can never be free of value or meaning (. or elements. (.. Curtis writes that Eisenman “(. Monestiroli says that “Style and language are distinguished from each other by their varying degree of generality. when describing (the underlying symbolism of) House II..’ (. (.”14 This is precisely the point where Eisenman’s architecture becomes difficult. it is not isomorphic with it... The notion that this is a complicated and somewhat contradictory effort can be noticed in an interview between Hans van Dijk and Eisenman.Placing Eisenman III. He also says that “without function. but what he tries to do is to ‘unlink’ the function that architecture may represent from the appearance . These diagrams are the building blocks of his designs and his way of thinking...I . “In each of the stages of this process in which the goal is to arrive at a set of shapes.) argued that such buildings as ‘House II’ (1969) were explorations of basic formal syntax and the logical structure of space... R. while style cannot.form .”8 This way of thinking and actually describing the architectural process as a general law. even the conviction of an architecture that should be able to draw out the potential power from within the architectural configuration itself.) In order to become style it must be recognized by a society. |9 Placing Eisenman | Theory of architecture 1: contemporary theory .. the diagram as a generator is a mediator between a palpable object. but (.III . the stairs and the window.Eisenman makes use of forms that have their own unity. and what can be called architecture’s interiority. Monestiroli makes a hard case for the application of the term ‘language’ and accompanying with it ‘style’. and at the same time it is a system of representation of a world of forms that has its own unity.) unlike traditional forms of representation.. analyzing the houses results in distinct usage of particular architectural objects...9 It influenced him in a way that further distinguishes him from other architects..IV) is based on the idea.) while it explains relationships in an architectural object. instead he continuously denies to be part of a style.

This clearly becomes apparent when we dig deeper in his oeuvre where he makes a sudden change. which you call alienation or lack of feeling.although implicitly . The non-vertebrate structure is an attempt to express that change in the cosmology. It is not merely a stylistic issue. In this light a clear reference to the very era he wanted to distinct from emerges. the application of columns and stairs is distinctive to say the least. the use of the diagram or grid has always been intricately linked with (the elements of) nature. It is no secret that Eisenman always pushes the envelope and thereby going as far as he can in alienating the dwellers of his houses . Theory of architecture 1: contemporary theory | Placing Eisenman 10 | ..22 Also his way of dealing with the forces of nature i. was reflected in a change from the vertebratecenter type of structure to the center-as-void. It seems that the use of the diagram is something that is perhaps as old as the history of architecture itself. Famous examples are . This is a remarkable effort since it basically goes against the mainstream of Eisenman’s own seen typical for Eisenman’s work. Palladio. so that the meaning becomes intransitive. the perspective on nature and the forces of nature. When man began to study himself. or the alienation that man feels. III. especially in classical times. that is form itself.. Here we find .15 However this statement does not have much content when compared with the history of the use of the diagram in architecture.) attempts to enclose all meaning within the form. technique and history. or one that goes against feeling.) accordingly he is initially drawn to concentrate his attention on the only objective material provided by architecture. “(. The second aspect is the different approach to the actual meaning of the use of the diagram. This is also an important moment seen from the perspective of Monestiroli. Eisenman sees it to be ordered accordingly to specific laws internal to architecture and not derived from notions outside itself.III . he says that “Michel Foucault has said that when man began to study man in the 19th century. where he uses the diagram as a generator for the (initial) design and the description from the former quote.of course .Estrangement Even though I won’t go into (all) the people who have influenced Eisenman or played a (sometimes major) role in his development.”18 “Eisenman (. first the strikingly similarities between the earlier described method of Eisenman. I think that in using a diagrammatic approach .21 This is the third point where we can draw an interesting parallel between Eisenman and Monestiroli. ‘readable’ patterns for the untrained always inevitably implicitly opens up the door for speculation. Cesariano and Serlio as well as the writings on architecture from philosophers like Plato and Aristotle.) simulacra (representations of representations).) no longer controlling artifacts. (. nature. Eisenman has stated in The end of the classical: the end of the beginning.”16 Here two aspects stand out. he began to lose his position in the well as Eisenman . The loss of center is expressed by that alienation. set apart from the universe where anything goes. I want to name one in particular. The representation of the fact that man was no longer the center of the world.”20 Even five years earlier (1977) he stated in the interview with Hans van Dijk that estrangement or alienation is the central theme in his work. Also we found a resonance of the ‘formal language’ . it involves much more aspects than there can be distinguished at first glance.Diagrammatic matters The use of the diagram is a matter of a different kind. Michel fact he even goes as far as to refer to them as intruders of the house. who claims that architecture should contain analogies within its language.let alone let the diagram be the generator for the entire process .”17 “(. That distance.”19 Thus we can see a clear statement of the (forming) Eisenman of his supposed ‘break’ with history. although he continues his line of thought. This philosopher has had a great impact on the personal development of Peter Eisenman as well as on the houses.the application of the diagram by architects as Vitruvius. Considering form in its syntactic capacity. or pattern. [it] is one of the means of making the world orderly. Instead he creates somewhat of a chaos or disorder. However. Eisenman does not use the diagram in order to create orderly patterns or in other words.. there was a displacement of man from the center.II .have used the diagram as a “formal taxis..e. The application of the diagram in the design (process) as well as defining the design process itself is something that is distinctive about Eisenman.all three! (Where the use of the diagram or grid clearly can be understood as a (form of) technique). the end of the end that modern architecture did not succeed in breaking with the tradition of architecture where architecture always referred to something outside architecture itself. They .. with its obsessive consistency... When Eisenman talks about his inspiration(s) for House X. may have been merely a natural product of this new cosmology. What happens is unexpected and ambiguous.

commenting on the house .and in fact his ideas about the world and reality of things.and other . Also the use of the red stairs in House VI . These . marked red. instead of standing firmly on the ground .column/beam intersection at red staircase | 11 Placing Eisenman | Theory of architecture 1: contemporary theory .or at least what architecture supposed to be .acts characterize the conception that Eisenman has about architecture . Image 3: Wexner Center photograph Image 4: House VI . Suzanne Frank has written a book.When we consider the Wexner Center (1989) we can see a column hanging.of which the somewhat odd. thereby estranging the visitors who are confronted with this distorted image of reality. it is an upside down stairs.a clear disregard for the force of gravity. which functions only as to divide the building and provide the house with symmetry.

or study.In-depth study? As becomes clear. history and technique are also just frameworks to work in. is that most theorists often refer to certain use of style to place a certain architect or architectural movement in a general frame (for comparison). To use a quote from the philosopher David Hume. The same goes of course for language. can not be understood as the same for the other. is just a first survey where we have been able to see the big changes in his work. history (and technique) are therefore more susceptible to interpretation and can be paralleled to art.II . It is (therefore) vital in the best interest of this essay to realize that the use of both terms is based on the assumptions made by Monestiroli.Some generalities Some remarks that can be made however. his central themes and the connection(s) between Eisenman and Monestiroli. It can therefore be said that this analysis. Nature. history and technique on the other.IV . The application of the terms language and style is not without assumption. function only to illustrate the generalities of this study. What style is for the one.I . in a somewhat simplistic overview. his houses (House I-X). however I came to the realization that even this demarcated area is a lot to discus in such a short time.” I think this can also be said about architecture and the references towards nature. Theory of architecture 1: contemporary theory | Concluding remarks 12 | .Concluding remarks IV. Next to that it is also important to realize that the use of the terms are also bound to assumptions made by the theorists who refer(red) to them. Nature. the architecture of Eisenman had many different angles and difficulties when analyzing it and trying to describe it in general terms. I implicitly made the assumption that this would be a fairly demarcation of the study at hand. while the former are (mere) abstract schemes. A further in-depth study is essential to fully understand the oeuvre of Eisenman. The difference between language and style on the one hand and nature. where interpretation is perhaps all there is. One thing this is general though. I have started out saying that this essay will (mainly) focus on his earlier work. IV. the correctness of the usage of the terms. is that the latter (sometimes) directly can be seen and actually understood when one looks at an architectural object or configuration. history (and technique) where it is up to the spectator of the architectural stage to see these analogies and to interpret them in a way Monestiroli does. individually as well as collectively is of course debatable. “Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.

(november 1980). 62. p. Amsterdam. (Schelling. Thames & Hudson Ltd. het afscheid van de klassieke rede. Rizzoli International Publications. London. 1802. William. ‘zonder functie geen architectuur maar van belang is het overwinnen van de functie’. New York. 22. (“(. Nine lectures in architecture. 2005 p. Mouton. 16 Tzonis. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology.. 17 Eisenman. “interview peter eisenman. who also used the nine-square grid as an underlying principle for his transformations.” OASE.” wonen-TA/BK. London. Noam. no. 18 Eisenman. 12 Ibid. 8. “eisenmans huis x. New York. Modern architecture since 1900. Peter. “interview peter eisenman.Notes II .27. p. 1999. John Hejduk and Daniel Libeskind are ‘part of. Nine lectures in architecture. (1982) p.) a number of contradictions gradually emerge in the later work (. The Metope and the Triglyph.. no. Antonio. The Poetics of Order. History. Hans. Inc.) the communicational notion of vertical layering. 2 The emerging complications within his own theory and his formal system are well pointed out by Hans van Dijk. p.Estrangement 20 21 The 1982 debate between Christopher Alexander and Peter Eisenman. ‘zonder functie geen architectuur maar van belang is het overwinnen van de functie’.al... “Nature. Eisenman. 1993 p. Rizzoli International Publications. 14 Monestiroli.565. van. III. | 13 Notes | Theory of architecture 1: contemporary theory . 1986 p. Peter. p. Thames & Hudson Ltd. no. Forms of Analogy in Architectural Language.Finding form Monestiroli.. London.J. 2007.. Syntactic Structures. 1988) 4 Eisenman.) with the more traditional notion of centrality: it develops aspects of both a sequential progression of space but it at the same time an investigation of centrality. SUN Publishers. 14.. Zaha Hadid.Preface 1 A term that refers to an architectural movement where architects such as Peter Eisenman. p. Hans. One of his major works is his Syntactic Structures: Chomsky. Phaidon Press Inc. 10 Curtis. Inc. 21/22. 9 Noam Chomsky is known as the founder of the so called generative grammar. p.R.. Rizzoli International Publications. House X. Peter. Diagram Diaries. 8. House X. The Philosophy of Art. Re:Working Eisenman. House X.. Hans. (november 1980). New York. (. 103.Diagrammatic matters 15 It is only in order to name the design method(s) of John Hejduk. the Academy Group Ltd.III . Hans. “eisenman/hejduk.” wonen-TA/BK.II . 21/22. 30. Peter.. 8. 1982 p. 13 Ibid. which has had a profound influence on linguistics.. New York. Inc. Dijk. 21/22. Alexander (et. 28. 3 III. 6 Gilles Deleuze about the diagrammatic painting of Francis Bacon. van. Die Philosophie der Kunst. (november 1980).. Antonio. 22 Dijk.. who obviously inspired and infuenced Eisenman. 1982 p. Peter. 2005 p.. Peter. p. 8 Eisenman. Technique.) which finally result in the ‘explosion’ of the system itself. 14. London. 10. SUN Publishers. 1957. Massachusetts. New York. 15-16. architectuur halverwege amerika en europa. no. 1982 p. Dijk.” wonen-TA/BK. J.W. van. Rizzoli International Publications. F. a one-way linear concept (..23. 24. Inc.” wonen-TA/BK. Rem Koolhaas..’ A term that is originated by the philosopher Jacques Derrida.) Classical Architecture. Antonio.I . 98. 5 Dijk. House X. van. no. 11 Monestiroli.. 7 Eisenman. (november 1980). The Metope and the Triglyph. 19 Ibid.. 25.”) III. Amsterdam. See also: Eisenman. 1999. 1982 p. Diagram Diaries. Peter. 21/22.

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Eisenman.” wonen-TA/BK.Monestiroli. . The client’s response. Hilde. . Alexander (et. ‘zonder functie geen architectuur maar van belang is het overwinnen van de functie’. 1982.Curtis. . <http://books.).Tzonis. (1982).” wonen-TA/BK.2010 . New York.> reviewed 1. Michael. 2005. Webster’s new explorer dictionary and thesaurus. van.Hays. 1999.) Classical Architecture. no..Webster. Peter. Peter Eisenman’s House VI. 2007. Inc.18. (1997) William. SUN Publishers.” OASE. New York. Watson-Guptill Publications.“Katarxis 3: New Science. . London.” wonen-TA/BK. Antonio.Dijk. Hans.2010 | 15 Bibliography | Theory of architecture 1: contemporary theory . “interview peter eisenman. New Architecture?”. Rotterdam. “Nature. London. van. van. . Thames & Hudson Ltd. J. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology. ‘Dat is architectuur’. no. (2002). 1994. History. Suzanne. . Architecture. Peter. 2000.Eisenman. < 21/22. (1996).Dijk. sleutelteksten uit de twintigste eeuw. The MIT Press. The Poetics of Order. The Metope and the Triglyph. Antonio. (november 1980). 2005. . New York. Merriam. no. (2001).. “eisenman/hejduk. (november 1980).Dijk. since 1968. (1999). . Springfield. . Rizzoli International Publications. Nine lectures in architecture.Frank. Hans. 21/22. het afscheid van de klassieke (2005). Hans.Bibliography Books . Re:Working Eisenman. Technique. the Academy Group Ltd. K. (1987). “eisenmans huis x. (2004).. (november 1980). . Massachusetts. (2001).“Google books”. 62. House X. Federal Street Press. no. Peter. New Urbanism.Eisenman. Amsterdam.htm> reviewed 1. Forms of Analogy in Architectural Language. 1986. Theory. . (et. Diagram Diaries. Uitgeverij 010. 1993. 2009.18. Modern architecture since 1900. London. (2003). Phaidon Press Inc. (2006).. . 21/22.R. architectuur halverwege amerika en europa.katarxis3..Heynen. Webpages .


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