Whether built, written or drawn, the work of renowned architect, theorist and educator Peter Eisenman (born 11th August 1932) is characterized by Deconstructivism, with an interest in signs, symbols and the processes of making meaning always at the foreground. As such, Eisenman has been one of architecture's foremost theorists of recent decades; however he has also at times been a controversial figure in the architectural world, professing a disinterest in many of the more pragmatic concerns that other architects engage in.
Peter Eisenman: The Latest Architecture and News
There are at least as many definitions of architecture as there are architects or people who comment on the practice of it. While some embrace it as art, others defend architecture’s seminal social responsibility as its most definitive attribute. To begin a sentence with “Architecture is” is a bold step into treacherous territory. And yet, many of us have uttered — or at least thought— “Architecture is…” while we’ve toiled away on an important project, or reflected on why we’ve chosen this professional path.
Most days, architecture is a tough practice; on others, it is wonderfully satisfying. Perhaps, though, most importantly, architecture is accommodating and inherently open to possibility.
This collection of statements illustrates the changing breadth of architecture’s significance; we may define it differently when talking among peers, or adjust our statements for outsiders.
This article was originally published on Common Edge as "How Architectural 'Theory' Disconnects the Profession from the Public."
Whatever the form—personal, theoretical, scholarly—architects frequently veer into the philosophical terrain when defending otherwise subjective design decisions. Personally, this may be justifiable. But professionally, this reliance on quasi-philosophical spin is one of the fundamental ways architecture differs from other practical pillars of society, such as law, finance or medicine. Those disciplines are based on structures of knowledge (precedent or code, economics, and science, respectively) that mediate between professional decisions and subjective judgement.
If we define “deconstructivism” (although it is not a verified word in the dictionary), it literally translates to the breaking down, or demolishing of a constructed structure, whether it being for structural reasons or just an act of rebellion. It is perhaps for this this reason that many misunderstand the Deconstructivist movement.
Deconstructivism is, in fact, not a new architecture style, nor is it an avant-garde movement against architecture or society. It does not follow “rules” or acquire specific aesthetics, nor is it a rebellion against a social dilemma. It is the unleashing of infinite possibilities of playing around with forms and volumes.
Throughout history, architects have used sketches and paintings to display to their clients the potential outcomes of the projects rattling around their minds. Since Brunelleschi’s adoption of drawn perspective in 1415, architectural visualizations have painted hyper-realistic imaginings of an ideal, where the walls are always clean, the light always shines in the most perfect way, and the inhabitants are always happy.
With technological advances in 3D modeling and digital rendering, this ability to sell an idea through a snapshot of the perfect architectural experience has become almost unrestricted. Many have criticized the dangers of unrealistic renderings that exceed reality and how they can create the illusion of a perfect project when, in fact, it is far from being resolved. However, this is only the natural next step in a history of fantastical representations, where the render becomes a piece of art itself.
Below is a brief history of the interesting ways architects have chosen to depict their projects—from imagined time travel to the diagrammatic.
When Philip Johnson curated the Museum of Modern Arts’ (MoMA) 1932 “International Exhibition of Modern Architecture,” he did so with the explicit intention of defining the International Style. As a guest curator at the same institution in 1988 alongside Mark Wigley (now Dean Emeritus of the Columbia GSAPP), Johnson took the opposite approach: rather than present architecture derived from a rigidly uniform set of design principles, he gathered a collection of work by architects whose similar (but not identical) approaches had yielded similar results. The designers he selected—Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Bernard Tschumi, and the firm Coop Himmelblau (led by Wolf Prix)—would prove to be some of the most influential architects of the late 20th Century to the present day.[1,2]
The world of architecture can be a serious place. Though the rest of the world holds quite a few stereotypes about architects, unfortunately none of them include us having a sense of humor—and perhaps that seriousness explains why one of the most popular memes involving architects isn't exactly favorable to the profession. Here at ArchDaily we thought we'd do just a little to correct that with some memes riffing on some of the profession's most beloved names—as our gift to the entire architectural profession. Read on to see what we've come up with, and don't forget to get involved with your own architecture funnies.
“Re-Constructivist Architecture,” an exhibition now on show at the Ierimonti Gallery in New York, features the work of thirteen emerging architecture firms alongside the work of Coop Himmelb(l)au, Peter Eisenman and Bernard Tschumi. The title of the exhibition is a play on words, referring to the De-Constructivist exhibition of 1988 at the Museum of Modern Art that destabilized a certain kind of relationship with design theory.
This reconstruction is primarily of language. The architects draw from archives—mental, digital or printed on paper—distant from the typical parametric and highly schematic rationales that characterized the last thirty years of design in architecture. Within the theoretical system that drives architectural composition, these archives inevitably become homages, references, and quotes.
As one of the most revered and often reviled architects of the latter part of the 20th century, Peter Eisenman has courted controversy throughout his 50-year career, often attempting to distance himself from the work of his contemporaries and standing in firm opposition to popular trends. In this interview, Eisenman elaborates on his beliefs about architecture and the new direction he has taken in recent years – while simultaneously pulling no punches when discussing the work of others, including Rem Koolhaas, Richard Meier, and even his younger self.
The interview is a shortened version of the latest of three interviews with Peter Eisenman (from October 2003, June 2009, and February 2016) that comprise the upcoming book by Vladimir Belogolovsky “Conversations with Peter Eisenman.” The book, published by Berlin-based DOM Publishers will be presented during the opening days at the 15th Venice Architecture Biennale in late May this year.
No matter what you think of it, these days there is no denying that a celebrity culture has a significant effect on the architecture world, with a small percentage of architects taking a large portion of the spotlight. Questioning this status quo, Vladimir Belogolovsky's new book "Conversations with Architects in the Age of Celebrity" interrogates some of these famous architects to find out what they think of the culture which has elevated them to such heights. In this excerpt from the book's foreword, Belogolovsky asks how we got into this celebrity-loving architectural culture, and what it means for the buildings produced.
We will be publishing Nikos Salingaros’ book, Unified Architectural Theory, in a series of installments, making it digitally, freely available for students and architects around the world. In Chapter 13, Salingaros begins to conclude his argument by discussing its counterpart, explaining how post-modern theorists such as Peter Eisenman came to eclipse the ideas of Christopher Alexander – and why Eisenman’s theoretical hegemony is not based upon sound architectural thinking. If you missed them, make sure to read the previous installments here.
Natural and Unnatural Form Languages
The concept of living structure, and the support for the theory offered by both direct experience and science, offers a basis for designing and understanding architecture. This platform is a sensible way of approaching design and building, because it is beholden neither to ideology, nor to individual agendas. Moreover, it should be contrasted to the irrationality of other schemes that currently appear in and seem to drive architectural discourse.
Following Moshe Safdie’s selection to be the next AIA Gold Medalist, the American Institute of Architects’ (AIA) and Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA) has announced Peter Eisenman, FAIA, as winner of the 2015 Topaz Medallion. Eisenman, known for a lifetime of scholarly work and his long associations with Princeton, Harvard, Cooper Union and Yale, will be honored for his global impact on architectural education after more than 60 years of teaching.
“There are probably very few schools of architecture where Peter is yet to have lectured,” wrote Marlon Blackwell, FAIA, in a recommendation letter.
Fundamentals, the title of the 2014 Venice Biennale, will close its doors in a matter of days (on the 23rd November). From the moment Rem Koolhaas revealed the title for this year’s Biennale in January 2013, asking national curators to respond directly to the theme of ‘Absorbing Modernity 1914-2014’, there was an inkling that this Biennale would be in some way special. Having rejected offers to direct the Biennale in the past, the fact that Koolhaas chose to act not only as curator but also thematic co-ordinator of the complete international effort, was significant. This announcement led Peter Eisenman (one of Koolhaas' earliest tutors and advocates) to state in one interview that “[Rem is] stating his end: the end of [his] career, the end of [his] hegemony, the end of [his] mythology, the end of everything, the end of architecture.”
As a student of architecture, the formative years of study are a period of wild experimentation, bizarre use of materials, and most importantly, a time to make mistakes. Work from this period in the life of an architect rarely floats to the surface - unless you're Zaha Hadid or Frank Gehry, that is. A treasure trove of early architectural drawings from the world's leading architects has recently been unearthed from the private collection of former Architectural Association Chairman Alvin Boyarsky. The collection is slated to be shown at the Kemper Art Museum, Washington University, St. Louis, as a part of the exhibition Drawing Ambience: Alvin Boyarsky and the Architectural Association from September 12th to January 4th, 2015.
Take a look at the complete set of architects and drawings for the exhibition after the break.
BANAMID Architecture Research Institute in collaboration with AN.ONYMOUS will hold the third International conference from the “Contemporary Architecture: Iran and the World Dialogue” series in Tehran, Iran. The conference, titled “From Autonomy to Automation: The Work of Peter Eisenman” will focus on the defining legacy of Peter Eisenman spanning across 50 years of his intellectual and professional body of work. The conference will trace the evolution of Eisenman’s work over time and will examine its imprint on the contemporary discourse of architecture.
In this in-depth article on Design Observer, Belmont Freeman examines the resurgence of interest in the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, Peter Eisenman's radical, theory-based school that existed from 1967-1985, and questions: what has been the Institute's legacy in the 30 years since its demise? Read Freeman's thoughts in the full article here.
The conference will focus on Peter Eisenman's long and outstanding oeuvre.Thematization of almost 50 years of his theoretical and educational work and almost 25 years of his full-time architectural practice is seen here as vital to the understanding of both the past and the presence of contemporary architecture. From the questions related to Renaissance heritage to the problems associated with disciplinary autonomy and the digital, the conference aims to provide a space for a critical debate among architects and theorists.