AD Classics: House VI / Peter Eisenman

 

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Unlike the previously featured Vanna Venturi House, ’s House VI includes disorientation in the work without the concept of relating it to the traditional home. The house is, in fact, anything but what one would consider a conventional house. Eisenman, one of the New York Five, designed the house for Mr. and Mrs. Richard Frank between 1972-1975 who found great admiration for the architect’s work despite previously being known as a “paper architect” and theorist. By giving Eisenman a chance to put his theories to practice, one of the most famous, and difficult, houses emerged in the United States.

More on House VI after the break.

Situated on a flat site in Cornwall, House VI stands its own ground as a sculpture in its surroundings. The design emerged from a conceptual process that began with a grid. Eisenman manipulated the grid in a way so that the house was divided into four sections and when completed the building itself could be a “record of the design process.” Therefore structural elements, were revealed so that the construction process was evident, but not always understood.

© NJIT

Thus, the house became a study between the actual structure and architectural theory. The house was effeciently constructed using a simple post and beam system. However some columns or beams play no structural role and are incorporated to enhance the conceptual design. For example one column in the kitchen hovers over the kitchen table, not even touching the ground! In other spaces, beams meet but do not intersect, creating a cluster of supports. Robert Gutman wrote on the house saying, “most of these columns have no role in supporting the building planes, but are there, like the planes and the slits in the walls and ceilings that represent planes, to mark the geometry and rhythm of Eisenman’s notational system.”

© NJIT

The structure was incorporated into Eisenman’s grid to convey the module that created the interior spaces with a series of planes that slipped through each other. Purposely ignoring the idea of form following function, Eisenman created spaces that were quirky and well-lit, but rather unconventional to live with. He made it difficult for the users so that they would have to grow accustom to the architecture and constantly be aware of it. For instance, in the bedroom there is a glass slot in the center of the wall continuing through the floor that divides the room in half, forcing there to be separate beds on either side of the room so that the couple was forced to sleep apart from each other.

© NJIT

Another curious aspect is an upside down staircase, the element which portrays the axis of the house and is painted red to draw attention. There are also many other difficult aspects that disrupt conventional living, such as the column hanging over the dinner table that separates diners and the single bathroom that is only accessible through a bedroom.

© NJIT

As annoying as the house was to inhabit, Eisenman was able to constantly remind the users of the architecture around them and how it affects their lives. He succeeded in building a structure that functioned both as a house and a work of art, but changing the priority of both so that function followed the art. He built a home where man was forced to live in a work of art, a sculpture, and according to the clients who enjoyed inhabiting Eisenman’s artwork and poetry, the house was very successful.

Architect: Peter Eisenman
Location: Cornwall, Connecticut
Client: Mr. and Mrs. Richard Frank
Project Year: 1972-1975
Photographs: Depending on the photograph: sketchygrid.com or New Jersey Institute of Technology (Architecture History Department)
References: Peter Eisenman, Houses of Cards. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987., and
Frank, Suzanne. Peter Eisenman’s House VI: The Client’s Response. New York: Watson-Guptil Publications, 1994., and University of Oregon

Cite: Perez, Adelyn. "AD Classics: House VI / Peter Eisenman" 04 Jun 2010. ArchDaily. Accessed 24 Jul 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=63267>

23 comments

  1. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    A stunningly piece of art. Such a profoundly work would not have a chance to day

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    Eisenman’s architecture wasn’t art, it was an expression of process. This formalist process ,which involved dividing the house into four quadrants and then following a set of rules, was sort of a architectural Conway’s game of life. Many of the moments within the house are extremely functional as architectural devices. An example is the upside-down staircase which serves to both show the division within the house(the axis of the house). It is also an example of the Müller-Lyer illusion. This was the architectural argument of his time, does function have to relate solely to what people do, or can it also involve the poetry of how they live?

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      One could argue that, analagous with the minimalist and process scultpure (Serra, Smith, Judd et al) preceding Eisenmans formal experiments, his work in the House Series is precisely indistinguishable from art practices. I would suggest that the moment human inhabitation occurs, form can then be critiqued as ‘architectural’ (and, on those standards somewhat unethical). This, in my opinion, does not remove Eisenman’s process from the relams of art..

  3. Thumb up Thumb down -2

    it’s hard to comment on AD classics. How many countless books and journals have had this house featured? Nothing I say about it will be unique!

  4. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Not to be snarky….but the opening (black & white) picture is not House VI. It is the perspective model of House X (for the Aronoff family in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, USA). It was never built.

  5. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    I’m surprised how many good moments the house has. The real art would have been leaving what seems like an arbitrary structural system behind and making actual decisions. This way of working seems like a “dead end street”.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    Yes ..how can we find the exact measurements of this house for it to be drawn in scale ?
    thanks for this..

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