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Project Descriptions and Gallery


By Peter Eisenman


Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences, New York, New York (1997-In Progress)

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Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences.
1997, Peter Eisenman.

Eisenman Architects was commissioned in April 1997 to program, master plan, and design a new intermodal transportation facility combined with a new museum for the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences. The combination and interrelation of infrastructure and culture is a direct response to the condition of our times, one that brings about new relationships and viewpoints that have the potential to change the meanings of both "museum" and "terminal." Our intervention on Staten Island will blur the two, bringing about a wholly new creation.

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Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences.
1997, Peter Eisenman.

In the last several months, Eisenman Architects has prepared an extensive and all-inclusive programming packet in order to detect and serve the needs of both the museum staff and visitors and the needs of the terminal, its staff, and its passengers. In addition to the attention given to the specific functional and spatial needs of the project, a great deal of this assessment has included the specific needs of the museum in terms of the design and quality of its exhibits, educational programs, and outreach. Eisenman Architects has also created models and renderings that have created a whirlwind of attention critical for raising both public and private funds. The innovation of the museum design, coupled with the expertise of the museum consultants and exhibition consultants that we have brought to this project, will insure that this museum makes its mark on New York City, becoming one of its foremost attractions for decades.

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Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences.
1997, Peter Eisenman.

The exhibits will feature displays devoted to science and technology and the building will become a "gateway" to Staten Island, a landmark icon on the New York waterfront attracting some 500,000 new visitors to the ferry and to Staten Island. The museum is the focal point of a $180 million master plan which will upgrade the existing terminal and rationalize pedestrian access to a waterfront promenade and restaurants.



Bibliothèque de L'IHUEI -- Library for the Graduate School of International Studies, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland (1996-In Progress)


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Bibliothèque de L'IHUEI.
1996, Peter Eisenman

Architecture of the twenty-first century can no longer be seen as a mere container, but must be seen as situated beyond the metaphysical dialectics of the traditional architectural ideas of figure and ground. In order to do this, one must also abandon the traditional processes of the past located between authorial expression and standardization.

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Bibliothèque de L'IHUEI.
1996, Peter Eisenman

The new technologies of today must be integrated with an idea that incorporates the memory of the past not as nostalgia, but as living in the present. This heterogeneous condition is known as singularity, which as a process differs from individual expression in that it involves the possibility of repetition. But unlike standardization, which is a self-same mechanical repetition, singularity involves the possibility of self-similar repetition which contains an already given difference. In architecture, this difference can be described as follows. In order to preserve the singularity of objects, one must cut them off from their previous modes of legitimization, which in architecture means cutting the object off from its legitimization in function, i.e. that form follows function, or that architecture will always embody meaning. This does not mean that architecture will not function or mean but rather that it will no longer be legitimated by these conditions. This is what is meant by the already given difference of singularity.

Singularity in an object requires the denial of the traditional dialectic between figure and ground. In place of this dialectic, it is possible to conceive of a figure-figure relationship, where the ground no longer frames the object, but rather becomes part of the object itself. In order to produce a singular object there must also be a new process that is no longer legitimized by function and form. This process is similar to what Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari call the machinic, which they describe as neither the mechanical nor the organic, another dialectic which formerly described all metaphysical processes. The machinic is neither a closed process, nor a process of personal expression. Rather it stands between these two, as a process outside of authorial control which can produce, from seemingly arbitrary and value-free origins, results that contain both a memory of its process and the form of an object that could not have been predicted a priori. Our project for the Geneva library is a result of such thinking.

Following the site plan proposed by Massimiliano Fuksas, our project is the only object building that is required on the site. Because of its siting, it is required to have two fronts, one facing the United Nations on the Avenue de la Paix, and one to the south facing the Rue de Fernet. Equally important is that the building must allow for the continuation of the east-west pedestrian walk that passes on the north side of the site. Our process incorporates each of these different requirements into an object that grows in a machinic manner, rather than mechanically or organically, out of the site. The Place des Nations is located at an intersection of two types of urbanism, one in which a landscape of parks defines the spaces, and another in which these spaces are defined by "objects." Our project operates between the landscape and the object, blurring both conditions into one heterogeneous space. The library structure then acts as a hinge between the formal Place des Nations and the surrounding parks, revealing in its being the "disappearance of the object."

The program was developed by the librarian of the Bibliothèque de L'IHUEI, who states that the library should be envisioned as a functional prism (or, in our case, as a series of prisms), a combination of services capable of simultaneously answering multiple tasks, producing a relay of knowledge capable of expressing the acquisitions of the past into a new representation of knowledge with inferences from artificial intelligence.

The late twentieth-century has witnessed the growing awareness of virtual space, space which has always been repressed within actual space by the constraints of form-making. The tradition of architecture has based itself for the last four hundred years on the making of form. This priority gave a value to forming, while space was seen as a residue. Our library considers space as the initiating condition, and produces from this a series of spaces which can be called interstitial, space which is neither the product of a framing ground nor formed from the generation of a pre-existent figure. Rather the interstitial is a between condition, between figure and ground, between form and space. It is a result of a process of spacing which involves the transformation and recording of vectors, energy flows which have a mass, a density, and an energy.


Church of the Year 2000, Rome, Italy (1996)


The Church in the Age of Information

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Church of the Year 2000.
Photo: Dick Frank
1996, Peter Eisenman

The original concept of the church was the ecclesia, the community of Christ. The church did not require a prescribed space or building to proclaim the faith: the people were its architecture. It was only in the course of centuries that church structures became, in effect, surrogate heavens that could be entered on Sundays and feast days. The pilgrimage and its church occupy a special place in the history of the development of ecclesiastical place, serving yet another, more complex function.

The pilgrim recognized that what she or he had wished for was not to be had in either their everyday life or the local church; there was something more that was needed, something distant. The rite of the pilgrimage functioned as a remedy, to conciliate the "facts of distance" with the "joys of proximity." The pilgrimage was a therapy through space. The idea of distance symbolized needs which were unsatisfied; the pilgrimage expressed a yearning for intimacy. The architectural effect of these inverted desires and conditions was found in many pilgrimage churches. These churches sharpened the sense of desire and fulfillment by playing out the process of the pilgrimage in miniature, within the body of the church itself.

Today, air travel and media have collapsed the distance of the pilgrimage and created universal access to its experience. Again, as in the past, the church itself must provide the pilgrim's experience of distance and proximity. The name of our church becomes symbolic of proximity and distance, two routes. Therefore the actual nave of the church becomes, as it were, two side aisles, each providing passage as in a pilgrimage space of communion. These two passages, on either side of the roofless central space, are enclosed, heightening the contrasts of light and shadow, space and mass to express the distant mystery of the sacrament. Thus the church becomes two routes, one, the secular route, the other, the ecclesiastical route through the space of communion. the mass is celebrated in the chapel for daily mass, and in one of the two side aisles for Sunday mass, and in all three areas via media for feast days.

The relics are kept under the shrine in the center of the roofless shrine. The shrines of most pilgrimage churches were either totally hidden or glimpsed through narrow apertures. The opacity of the surface heightens the awareness of the ultimate unattainability (in this life) of the saint whose relic the pilgrim has traveled so far to touch. This carefully maintained tension between distance and proximity ensures the experience of praesentia, the physical presence of the holy, perceived as the ultimate spiritual reward.

The church becomes an earthly analogue to heaven. Its aim is not so much to create space as to create the feeling of still greater space. Everything is mysterious and half-hidden, yet everything is revealed; the church in its contemporary contradictions between mystery and clarity, space and mass.

The Church as Community Center

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Church of the Year 2000.
Photo: Dick Frank
1996, Peter Eisenman

The church has two components, the space of communion and the space of community. Here the nave of the church is split down the center to allow for the passage of the community through and into the church. The new nave is a community space open to the outside (similar to the roofless central space of the pilgrimage church of St. Menas near Alexandria). It also provides connection to the community center, auditorium, classrooms, and a small chapel.

The Church as Media

In the Middle Ages and the period of the Gothic cathedrals, the church mediated between the celebrant of the mass and the congregant. The congregant did not understand the Latin language of the mass, but the iconography of the church, its chapels, sculptures, carvings, tapestries, and paintings related the religious significance of the mass to the people. At this time, church architecture was a strong media.

Today, we are experiencing a cultural shift from a world in which technology and its mechanisms were the mediators to one in which information is becoming the new mediator between God, man, and nature. We can no longer ignore the change but must come to terms with it. How does the church sort through this information to relay its religious message? This project reflects this cultural shift and the effect it has on the architecture of the church, and in particular the architecture of this pilgrimage church at this place, at this time, for this particular function.

As the stained glass in the Gothic cathedrals was a major form of media, our church introduces a contemporary form of "Stained glass," a media wall in each side aisle which can be seen from both the central outdoor space and each side aisle. The media wall allows for both light and media to penetrate the body of the church, and allows for everyone to witness the sacraments during days of large assembly. the media wall is made up of panels of liquid crystals which lead us to the iconography of the church.

The Church as Icon

What does a church look like today? Perhaps the better question is, what does architecture look like today? In one sense, architecture will always look like architecture. Buildings must stand up, they must shelter and enclose, and they must represent this function. But today the representation of withstanding natural forces no longer has the same iconic power as it did a few hundred years ago. The man/nature dialogue is no longer central to any relevant iconography for architecture. Today the imagery of media is more expressive, more changeable, than architecture can be. To maintain its cultural, social, and moral value in the face of media, architecture can no longer rely on its imagery, its iconicity, alone. What then is the iconic function of architecture and in particular the iconic function of a Catholic church? In short, the church itself must become a different form of media.

The iconography of this church is based on two parallel ideas: one, the proximity and distance inherent in the idea of the pilgrimage and the idea of media; and two, the new relationship between man, God, and nature.

In this project a form of nature is used to symbolize a condition between proximity and distance of the pilgrimage church. The most precise condition of between in nature is the condition of the liquid crystal, which is a state of suspension between the static crystal and the flowing liquid state. The following diagrams also show how the forms of the church grow literally out of the ground of the molecular order of a crystal. They represent the gradual distortion of an original crystal phase to a nematic state, which is a between phase in the molecular order before it reaches the isotropic or liquid phase.

The diagrams also represent another aspect of the liquid crystal, that of multiple layers and overlaps. These are seen as the deformations of several different layers. These are all present in the evolving form of the building and the landscape. The iconography is clear. The form of the church evolves out of the ground, out of palpable reality toward heaven and the infinite. The church as such becomes the mediator between nature and God, between the physical and the infinite.

This then is the iconographic derivation of the new pilgrimage church. The church as a model for the new relationships between man, God, and nature at the end of the millennium.


Emory Center for the Arts, Atlanta, Georgia (1991)


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Emory Center
Photo: Dick Frank
1991, Peter Eisenman

The Emory University Center for the Arts was designed to serve two constituencies: Emory students and faculty and the larger community. It's primary purpose was to teach and train students in the creative fields of theater, film, and music. Hundreds of Emory students already take advantage of course offerings and opportunities for performances in a variety of disciplines on campus. The Center was designed to enable them to converge in a single, carefully articulated building devoted to the pursuit of higher standards in the arts. The Center's fertile atmosphere permits collaboration between different creative enterprises, which is particularly important at a time when the arts draw increasingly upon each other for inspiration.

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Emory Center
Photo: Dick Frank
1991, Peter Eisenman

The architecture of the building relates to its environment, including a topographical, historical, and programmatical text. Its location at the campus edge places the Center in a position to serve as a connection between the University and the community, both through community oriented performances as well as physically providing a natural point of entry to the campus.

The historical quadrangle is based on a grid system that, when extended to the Center's site, is deformed by the topography of the ravine. The initial deformation produced by the ravine approximates a fundamental sine wave similar in amplitude and frequency to the ravine topography. These fundamental lines and their related harmonic run to the Center, affecting the site and the four "bars" which constitute the building. The harmonic lines compress and deform the continuous surfaces of the bars folding them in a multiplicity of different configuration.

The fields of force represented by the harmonic waves inflect the bars in a double way as evidenced by the small-scale and large-scale folds, and the two different scale express the multiplicity of reaction to a similar system, and compose an ever changing condition. The program comes to inhabit the folded bars providing a transition west to east from the parking or the academical spaces to the lobby, and the main performing spaces, while the performance spaces transition from north to south along a multiple level lobby.

The 186,000 square foot, $42.0 million facility contains a 1100-seat Music Hall, a 200-seat Recital Hall, a 200-seat Studio Theater, a 200-seat Cinema, performance space support, and academic space for the Department of Theater and Film Studies and the Department of Music.


Columbus Convention Center, Columbus, Ohio (1989-1993)


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Columbus Convention Center.
Photo: Jeff Goldberg
1993, Peter Eisenman

Embodying the spirit of our new and exciting age of information is the symbol of light, a new form that has guided our design for the Columbus Convention Center. While focusing on this goal, we have created a conduit between the Ohio Center and the surrounding neighborhoods, softening the unnecessarily harsh dichotomy in scale presently there. We have rebuilt High Street, respecting the scale of North Market and Victorian Village and opening the convention center to the pedestrian life of High Street by taking heavy commercial traffic associated with the center off that street. The design reflects High Street's traditionally narrow structures with articulated facades that have been extruded away from the street. Transparency and a detailed entrance further enhance the concern for pedestrian life, providing a vibrant and ongoing facility with a mutual amenity to the visitor, and the activity and fabric of the city.

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Columbus Convention Center.
Photo: Jeff Goldberg
1993, Peter Eisenman

We have been able to solve one of the most persistent problems in convention center design -- diagrammatic clarity. As most any visitor to a convention center knows, because such buildings are so large, so neutral, and the concourses so homogeneous, one never quite knows where one is. This problem is usually addressed with a clumsy and unsightly abundance of signage. In our scheme, differences in forms clearly distinguish the various exhibition spaces and parts of the concourse. The strengths of the scheme are accomplished without relying on unsatisfying quotations from Columbus' past, or images typically found in "generic" convention halls. An entirely new form gives a unique and powerful statement to Columbus' ambitions and aspirations as a city of the future, identifying it truly as a city of discovery.

Our design is simultaneously suggestive of the rail yards that once occupied the site, nearby highway ribbons, and overlays of delicate fiber optic cables that represent the information age. The oddly mysterious forms in our convention center are not new to architecture. They have always existed in buildings, but the tradition of the monumental in architecture, with its commitment to a search for ideal symbolic forms, heretofore neglected the poignancy and significance of these "between" forms. It is in this sense that the building becomes a refreshingly new and yet appropriate symbol for the age of information. The Center embodies the very spirit of the shift ushered in by the information age, a spirit that distinguishes the present era from our techno-mechanistic past. The contract to design and build the Center was awarded by a unanimous jury decision in a competition sponsored by the Franklin County Convention Facilities Authority.


Aronoff Center for Design and Art, Cincinnati, Ohio (1988-1996)


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Aronoff Center.
Photo: Jeff Goldberg
1996, Peter Eisenman

The initial phase of our work at the University of Cincinnati was to develop the program for the College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning so as to reorganize the existing 145,000 square feet of the building and build an additional 145,000 square feet of exhibition, library, theater, studio, and office space. The challenge of this project was to create a program for the facility consisting of old and new space which will become the cultural focus for the College, the University and the community. It will unify the four schools within the College thereby encouraging optimal interdisciplinary exchange and alleviating the extreme overcrowding presently experienced by administrators, faculty and students.

In addition, the University charged us with improving the quality, quantity and accessibility of the facilities and equipment of the College.

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Aronoff Center.
Photo: Jeff Goldberg
1996, Peter Eisenman

Developed from within the place itself - the site, the existing building, and the spirit of the college - the work was to find the building in the site. Its vocabulary comes from the curves of the land forms and the chevron forms of the existing building setting up a dynamic relationship to organize the space between the two. We worked together with the students, faculty, administrators, and friends of the College so that the building was not a monument to architecture, but rather an evolutionary process of work which everyone can say "was created by us."

The project is going to challenge and change the mode by which the College educates students. We can no longer train people to design the superficial and the inconsequential. Design disciplines have a far more important role in our age of information that is dominated by media, than ever before.

Therefore, we need to rethink, for a unique college, what it is they do, how they do it, and why they do it. This means that we had to rethink what a building has to be to house such activity. The building is to be a model for this kind of leadership. The building should express an attitude about society and about design's role in the society, and how the College will meet that challenge.


Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio (1983-1989)


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Wexner Center.
Photo: Jeff Goldberg
1989, Peter Eisenman

The initial phase of our work at the Wexner Center was to develop a program and a site master plan. Instead of selecting obvious building sites on the campus, we decided to create a site, locating the building between proposed sites and existing buildings. The Center can be described as a non-building--an archaeological earthwork whose essential elements are scaffolding and landscaping. The scaffolding consists of two intersecting three-dimensional gridded corridors which link the existing performance hall and auditorium with the new galleries and arts facilities being constructed. One arm of the scaffolding is aligned with the campus grid, the other scaffolding is aligned with the City of Columbus street grid which is 12-1/2 degrees askew. Hence, the project both physically and symbolically links the campus and the city beyond. But it does not do so in a wholistic, unifying way because the building itself is fractured and incomplete looking. Instead of symbolizing its function as shelter, or as a shelter for art, it acts as a symbol of art as process and idea, of the ever changing nature of art and society.

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Wexner Center.
Photo: Jeff Goldberg
1989, Peter Eisenman

This technologically advanced and architecturally innovative building connects the University academic community with the Columbus community by the introduction of a new central axis. In the great nineteenth century tradition the Center is a fusion of landscape and the language of building. This new building is a minimal intervention between two existing and adjacent campus buildings. The central circulation spine of the new building resolves the two existing geometries of the city and the campus.

The purpose of the Visual Arts Center is to provide for avant-garde and experimental arts; it is not meant to be solely a repository for traditional art. The building will contain permanent, temporary, and experimental exhibition galleries, performance space, a "Black Box Theater," a Fine Arts and Graphics library, a Film Center, studio spaces, administrative space, a cafe, a bookstore, music practice rooms, a choral hall, exhibition storage, and preparation areas.

The contract was awarded on the basis of an unanimous jury decision in an invited limited international competition.



1998, Peter Eisenman


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