Peter Eisenman

Peter Eisenman

American architect
Date of Birth: 11.08.1932
Country: USA

  1. Biography of Peter Eisenman
  2. Architectural Education
  3. Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies
  4. The New York Five
  5. Shift towards the Irrational
  6. Ideology and Sources of Inspiration
  7. Provocative Architecture
  8. Theoretical Approach
  9. Shift towards Nonlinear Architecture

Biography of Peter Eisenman

Peter Eisenman is an American architect, author of numerous monographs and articles, and a professor of architecture. He is also one of the founding figures of architectural deconstructivism.

Peter Eisenman

Architectural Education

Peter Eisenman received his architectural education at Cornell University, where he obtained his Bachelor of Architecture degree, and at the Graduate School of Architecture at Columbia University, where he obtained his Master of Architecture degree. He also completed his dissertation at Cambridge University.

Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies

In 1967, Eisenman founded the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies (IAUS), which he led until 1982. Throughout his career, he taught at Cooper Union, Princeton University, and Yale University. He mentored renowned architects such as Daniel Libeskind, and his architectural firm produced influential leaders in the field, including Greg Lynn, Jeff Kipnis, Mark Wigley, and Sanford Kwinter.

The New York Five

At the beginning of his career, Peter Eisenman was part of the New York Five, also known as the "White Five." The group, which included Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk, Richard Meier, and Michael Graves, was formed after a conference on the study of the built environment held at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in 1969. Eisenman's work during this period involved geometric abstract compositions and drew inspiration from the creative legacy of Le Corbusier.

Shift towards the Irrational

During a period of personal psychoanalysis, Eisenman experienced a shift in his architectural approach. He began delving into his subconscious and moving away from purely rationalistic pursuits. This led to a phase of exploration that can be characterized as deconstructivist, despite Eisenman himself rejecting clear definitions. He considered himself a post-functional, postmodern, and deconstructivist architect at different times. His refusal to adopt a fixed position is, in fact, a deliberate stance. Eisenman believes that individuals should be free to choose from the vast array of possibilities offered by the world, without constraints, and select what resonates with them at any given moment.

Ideology and Sources of Inspiration

As a deconstructivist architect, Eisenman primarily investigates architecture as an idea. His main sources of inspiration are the texts of Jacques Derrida and psychoanalysis. Collaborating with Derrida, Eisenman created the project "Chora Works," which combined literary and architectural discourse. Derrida served as the designer, while Eisenman acted as the writer. These parallel works resulted in a multilingual, polyglot "architecture of words," incorporating choreography, music, singing, and rhythmic experiments.

Provocative Architecture

Eisenman believes that architecture should be critical and impose problems rather than solve them. He challenges conventions and often shocks clients with his designs. For example, in the "Gordiola House" project, he informed the client that, according to his theory, the house's windows should not overlook the ocean, despite the client's desires. In the Wexner Center, an exhibition space for artists, it is challenging to hang paintings on the walls due to the absence of conventional walls. This forces artists to explore alternative means of self-expression within a complex context.

Theoretical Approach

Eisenman presents his research through his writings, making it challenging to understand his architecture independently of his theories. This has led some, like Charles Jencks, to classify him as a modernist who forces the world to conform to his ideas. However, Eisenman argues that his approach reveals what has always been latent in architecture but was previously suppressed. His aim is to uncover what has been repressed, giving a voice to what is considered non-functional, meaningless, and so on. He employs a method known as "reading the gaps," which aligns with the postmodern concept of folds (as described by Gilles Deleuze in "The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque"). Eisenman believes that traditional oppositions between structure and ornament, abstract and figurative, and form and function can be abolished. Architecture can then articulate itself in the "between" of these categories, without completely abandoning them.

Shift towards Nonlinear Architecture

In the 1990s, Peter Eisenman definitively moved away from his deconstructivist discourse and redirected his exploration towards nonlinear architecture. A pivotal moment was the crisis of autumn 1988 when Eisenman fully realized the "death of deconstructivism" (in part due to the influential exhibition "Deconstructivist Architecture" at the Museum of Modern Art in New York organized with the support of Philip Johnson). This led him to question "what comes next?" His new inspiration came from contemporary scientific discoveries, the concepts of self-organizing organic structures, Gilles Deleuze's theory of folds, and fractal theory.