Lecturers || Peter Eisenman Home || Peter Eisenman: Essays
These four texts are excerpted from books which will be held on Reserve in the Art Library for the duration of the visit of Peter Eisenman.
"What I would argue is that the structure of ideas--that is any theoretical matrix, a discourse--has been as far as architecture is concerned, traditionally at a very pragmatic level. That is, we have had a history of theory in architecture, but that theory has been related to how to build buildings, how to site buildings, how buildings look. ... Questions of form are often raised outside of architecture, particularly in philosophy."
"If one says to oneself, as an architect, 'what does one do?' or 'why does one do it?', most architects would answer that we accommodate function and symbolic meaning. In the case of libraries, churches and public buildings, we accommodate society in some way. This accommodation assumes that at any one time society is known and also in some way predictable and may be translated into some discourse. My attitude has always been that this is not the case. That, in fact, one can never know at the same time what is the condition of society, its so-called Zeitgeist, and how architecture should respond to it. So that one has always had to go outside of architecture. I have had to do so in order to address the question of 'what should I do?' And I would argue that philosophy is one of the most readily available."
©1993, The Academy Group, Ltd.
"These houses [House I-VI ], therefore, attempt to have little to do with the traditional and existing metaphysic of the house, the physical and psychological gratification associated with the traditional form of house, with what Gaston Bachelard calls "the essence of the notion of home," 1 its symbolic enclosure. They intend, on the contrary, to dislocate the house from that comforting metaphysic and symbolism of shelter in order to initiate a search for those possibilities of dwelling that may have been repressed by that metaphysic. The house may once have been a true locus and symbol of nurturing shelter, but in a world of irresolvable anxiety, the meaning and form of shelter must be different. To put it another way, while a house today still must shelter, it does not need to symbolize or romanticize its sheltering function, to the contrary such symbols are today meaningless and merely nostalgic."
1 Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1969, p.5.
©1987, Peter Eisenman.
"Our work imposes a conceptual memory on the volumetric massing of an object, and in doing so attempts to subvert icons of presence, the building mass itself, with a striated network of what could be described as lines of memory. Little of the iconicity of these lines of memory comes from the traditional forms of iconicity in architecture, such as function, structure, aesthetics, or a relationship to the history of architecture itself. Rather, the iconicity of these lines comes from a writing that is indexical as opposed to iconic. An index is something that refers to its own condition. In this sense its iconic role is more one of resemblance than it is one of representation. The facade of a building, while traditionally thought to be a representation, also has the possibility to be indexical. The plan, on the other hand, while clearly indexical also has iconic characteristics. Writing attempts to suggest that both the plan and the facade can be used as indices. In order to have a writing in this context one must first make a distinction between a resemblance and a representation. A representation always refers to something external, while a resemblance also refers to internal characteristics. Representations rely on a traditional notion of memory that is linguistic and historical. A resemblance can also be understood as a simulacrum that is not based on a visual relationship. In a sense the simulacrum is a representation without resemblance or the sign of a sign. Such a condition of sign becomes an index. Thus the lines of memory act as a simulacrum rather than a representation."
©1995, Peter Eisenman
"In architecture when one draws the crossing of two lines, it produces a cross which is an obvious icon of point, centre, focus, etc. The repetition of this crossing produces a grid, which is no longer concerned with centre and focus but rather with surface, texture, etc. The grid is no longer primarily iconic but rather is also an index. As an index the grid is used in many conditions of mapping as well as in making certain reference tables where the horizontal columns are used for one kind of information and the vertical columns are used as a cross reference for other information. But in architecture when the grid becomes the plan of a city or a real building, its abstract co-ordinates become literal intersections for the simple extrusion of three-dimensional space. When this happens the secondary or relational aspects of the grid as an index becomes transformed into a primary, direct one-to-one relationship between abstraction and reality, space and three-dimensional volume, form and function. So most grid-drawn lines in architecture become iconic because of the priority of extruded three-dimensional space."
©1995, Phaidon Press Ltd.
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