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Critical Texts Anthology

These texts are excerpted from books which will be held on Reserve in the Art Library for the duration of the visit of Peter Eisenman.

1) From Sanford Kwinter, "The Eisenman Wave" in Eisenman Architects: Selected and Current Works . Mulgrave, Australia: Images Publishing Group, 1995, p.7.

"It is difficult to say which is the more impressive career accomplishment: to have generated an endlessly renewed trail of agitative hypotheses over a 30-year period, or to have eschewed nearly all the comforts of consolidation -- and the inevitable complacencies -- afforded by conventional, repeatable "successes" such as the production of "great" buildings or the development of a signature style. In both these respects, Peter Eisenman differs not only from other architects of his own generation...but from nearly all other architects working today."

"When Eisenman's work began in the early sixties, it was, and remains to this day, a primarily tactical enterprise: its force from the outset was drafted from that of the enemy -- classicism -- but was also turned aggressively against it. The Eisenman parti has always been to deploy mobile entities such as historical circumstances (holocaust...), situations (death of God...), and idea-moments (generative grammar...) against the ethos of established orders and places, reversing the age-old bourgeois victory of values of domain over values of time. Eisenman's task has been to develop a practice that, to borrow an expression from Foucault and Nietzsche, would come from outside -- a new type of modernist adversarial practice to be launched from a placeless but volatile "steppe," home of disembodied fluxes, raw will to power, and the destabilizing forces of historical change. ... Like the autonomous, fluid, nomad civilizations who made legendary assaults on sedentary cultures, Eisenman's practice is assembled and articulated in movement and in the spirit of movement. Both operate through invasion, disruption, and the release of temporarily trapped forces into free motion and recombination."

1995, The Images Publishing Group Pty Ltd.

2) From Rosalind Krauss, "Death of a Hermeneutic Phantom: Materialization of the Sign in the Work of Peter Eisenman," in House of Cards. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987, p.180.

"House X, Eisenman's most recent work, is totally involved with this process of dispersal. There, for example, one encounters it in rooms with transparent (glass) floors and ceilings, and opaque (windowless) walls. The plane on which openings normally occur is thus transposed to the planes that are expected to be visually solid. And the effect of this transposition is two-fold. The first is that a certain kind of somatic shock is delivered to the viewer. He is made to experience, through his own body, the fundamental opposition in an architectural language between closed and open fields. The second effect is the view of other parts of the same building produced by the transparent planes themselves, in which other sets of oppositions are manifested. The space in which the viewer finds himself is, then, one whose perspectives run vertically and diagonally through the system of the house rather than horizontally in relation to the viewer's normal plane of vision. Through this changed perspective, the occupant is forced to experience the space as a linked set of opposing terms--to encounter "the room" less as an entity than as one part of a system of differences."

1987, Peter Eisenman.

3) From Alejandro Zdaera-Polo, "The Making of the Machine: Powerless Control as a Critical Strategy," in Eleven Authors in Search of a Building: The Aronoff Center for Design and Art at the University of Cincinnati. New York: Monacelli Press, 1996, p.31-32.

"In the Aronoff Center there is a new formulation of Eisenman's antimodern technique to enforce coherence between the field and the object, the figure and the background. Perhaps more importantly, it is one of his first attempts to redefine the background as a figure, to initiate a dialogue of figure-figure. The most important evolution with respect to his previous projects, and especially to its closest predecessor, the Wexner Center, is the use of fields that are no longer abstract but rather are determined by objects already occupying the site. Within Eisemnan's overall project, the Aronoff Center becomes the inflection point between the research developed before the Wexner Center, which was based on the tension generated between different fields, and the later phase, where accidental, singularized, coherent, but differentiated fields without relationships to external territories constitute the basis of the work. ... The Aronoff Center is an attempt to construct a singularized field of artificial specificity out of its contextual relationships, a "bottom-up" process performed through the encoding of accidental qualities of the site/program as indexical traces. These traces are then transformed through a set of geometrical operations into the web that constitutes the building's structure. ... The techniques developed in the Center prefigure the later work and coincide with the beginning of Eisenman's use of the computer as a design tool that makes available a more complex geometry than the orthogonal grid characteristic of his early work."

1996, Monacelli Press.

4) From: Kenneth Frampton, "Eisenman Revisited: Running Interference" in Peter Eisenman: Recente Projecten = Recent Projects. Edited by Arie Graafland. Nijmegen: SUN, 1989, p.61.

"In the Biocenter project, on the other hand, found objects (the existing chemistry buildings) and a scientific paradigm are convincingly interwoven together, important in a work where the energising drive behind the figure is the DNA pattern itself. As a result Eisenman's recent penchant for reinventing sites and hypothetical histories [Ed's Note: as in Wexner Center ], seems to be momentarily relinquished. Instead we encounter a figurative architecture, -- a new 'speaking' architecture -- whereby through a felicitous exchange, an architectonic construction is brought to reflect the most profound building system there is, namely, that of life itself. Moreover through this 'con-fusion' of nature and culture, the exigencies of science-envy are momentarily sublimated, in a singular work that stands outside representation, except, in so far, as it represents the Faustian triumph of science; the alarming ability to 'invent' life in perpetuity. For once Eisenman's perennial anxieties about ideology, his struggle, as it were, against functionalism, history and aestheticization are redeemed, as it were, by the genius of the post-Humanist mind."

1989, Kenneth Frampton.


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