Peter Eisenman Essay


* Peter Eisenman was born in 1932 in Newark, New Jersey. He studied architecture from 1951 to 1955 at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, and later at Columbia University in New York City, and concluded his academic training in 1963 with a doctoral thesis on design theory. * He worked together with Charles Gwathmay, John Hejduk, Michael Graves and Richard Meier in the architects’ group »The New York Five. At this time, Eisenman developed his principles for design theory in a number of key publications.

* At the beginning of the 1980s, Eisenman established his own architectural practice in New York, and since that time has created a number of important and diverse structures. * A recurrent topic is his thesis about an architecture of memory, from which he derives the postulate of a place-oriented or »textual« architecture, which affords the observer a unique experience, difficult to express adequately, of space and time.



* The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial, is a memorial in Berlin to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

* The Berlin Holocaust memorial was the outcome of a process which extended over a period of 17 years, moving from a grass-roots initiative to a government resolution and eventually a multi-stage competition. * Peter Eisenman won the competition and construction of project started in April 2003. It was inaugurated on May 10’ 2005, sixty years after the end of World War II.


* Generally, while experiencing a building a person walks through the building perceiving columns on the left and moving around and again there are columns on the right, so there can be a sort of conclusion about the building being symmetric, axial etc. So understanding of a buildings comes from being presence in the experience.But in the holocaust memorial, experiencing the building does not give you understanding of the monument. In this project, when we move, we do not learn anything, there is no specific path to follow, any point within the memorial is no different than any other point.The underlying idea behind the memorial was to reduce the meaning of experience because this relates to what happened in camps. The memorial intends to show the absence of meaning in the executions carried out in camps.The memorial is an analogy to experience of the camps but also an analogy to the idea of breaking down the relationship between experience and understanding.

* Often referred to as a “field of stelae,” the memorial consists of 2711 concrete stelae (95 cm x 2.37 m), with heights varying from less than a meter to 4 meters. * The stelae are separated by a space equal to the width of an individual stele, or enough room for a single individual to pass through. * The memorial is traditional in the sense of using material such as concrete, which is a common means for the construction of memorials, but it is innovative in its form and design. * There is a quality of indeterminacy to the entire field, despite what appears to be a regularly spaced grid. Regularity is only perceived when standing on top of one of the lower pillars at the perimeter or in an aerial photograph.

* Upon approaching the site, one might assume that the stelae are evenly spaced but the undulating ground surface defeats the sense of a grid, as does the actual experience of walking through the relatively confined spaces and the existence of varying views framed and obstructed by the stelae. * Eisenman relates this monument to a living memory rather than a sentimental memory as the holocaust cannot be remembered in the first, nostalgic mode, as its horror forever ruptured the link between nostalgia and memory. Remembering the Holocaust can, therefore, only be a living condition in which the past remains active in the present.

* The space of the memorial is not overwhelming in scale, the instability of the ground and unpredictability of the heights of the stelae interact to frustrate understanding of the space. * One is further confused or disoriented by the narrow alleys which are not truly perceived as straight lines, due to the varying heights of the concrete slabs and the uneven ground plane. * Perhaps even more disorienting is the fact that there are no written cues or symbols of any sort. Immediately discounting the notion that one should “read” the pillars as tombstones is the absence of any language and any apparent “right” or “wrong” direction or ending point.


* The Information Centre beneath the Field of Stelae documents the persecution and destruction of the Jews of Europe and the historical sites of the crimes. * The focus of the exhibition lies on the personalisation of the victims and on the geographical dimension of the Holocaust. * A major section of the information centre that supplements the memorial is dedicated to informing the visitor about authentic sites – even about the ones that do not exist any more for reasons of concealment during the Third Reich. * The information centre stresses the importance of authentic sites and encourages the visitation thereof.


* During the painful debates about erecting such a memorial, a major aspect of criticism was the danger of authentic sites of the holocaust losing their importance. Thus, it is vital to distinguish the different roles of authentic sites from the artificially created monument. * The more specified function was read in the resolution by the German bundestag (a legislative body) of June 1999. “With the memorial we intend to honour the murdered victims, keep alive the memory of these inconceivable events in German history ,admonish all future generations never again to violate human rights, to defend the democratic constitutional state at all times, to secure equality before the law for all people and to resist all forms of dictatorship and regimes based on violence.”

* Peter Eisenman,the architect of the memorial says about its intention that “The enormity and scale of the horror of the Holocaust is such that any attempt to represent it by traditional means is inevitably inadequate … Our memorial attempts to present a new idea of memory as distinct from nostalgia … We can only know the past today through a manifestation in the present.” * The design is to turn the visit of the memorial into an individual experience that causes the visitor to reflect about the genocide. * Each individual entering the field of stelae will find him- or herself wandering alone, because the paths in between the concrete slabs are not wide enough for two people to walk next to each other. Thus, the visitation turns into an individual experience. * Lea Rosh, the initiator of the memorial stated that this meant to raise the murdered above their murderers and to raise the victims above the perpetrators.


* Looking at the historical significance of the claimed area, the memorial gains a layer of authenticity, but what is almost of more importance is the setting of the memorial in the government quarter and in the heart of the capital. * Time will show if the memorial will live up to the definition of authenticity in the sense of heritage conservation where it is understood “as the ability of a property to convey its cultural significance over time”. * For one thing is sure, that the memorial’s cultural significance is complex for being a monument to honour the Jewish victims of the holocaust and at the same time a testimony of Germany’s accounting with the past.



* The firm of Peter Eisenman and Richard Trott won the design competition for Wexner Center of Arts. * Eisenman wowed the Jury with his bold ideas for the art center, which were aimed at linking the past to the present (“Timeless Earth 1), through the use of unconventional means. * The end result became both Peter Eisenman’s first large public commission and one of the first large scale constructions of Deconstructivist Architecture. * The building is tucked in between the Mershon Auditorium and Weigel Hall both of which are home to programs that were to be consolidated into the Wexner Center.


* The literal use of the rotated grid is used by Eisenman as an extensive method of giving the architecture its own voice. * The identification of the dialectic grids stems from conditions that exist at the boundary of the site, Eisenman then grafts one grid on top of the other and seeks potential connections or ‘event sites’ at the urban, local, and interior scales. * Scalar operations are performed as a means of mediating the scale of the urban grid towards a pedestrian or human scale, lastly, the results of these operations serves as a map that is used to locate program, pathways, structure, interior forms, excavations, and views along the newly afforded possibilities of ‘event sites’ in both the horizontal and vertical planes.

* The results of these operations are visible in almost every aspect of the construction, from the module in the curtainwall, the tiling of the pavers, planters and trees on site. * To add to the depth of possibilities afforded by this excavation of the immediate condition of the grid Eisenman grafts figured scaffolding onto the site and integrates this figure into the primary circuit or pathway of the building. * The scaffolding is scaled to represent the module of the grid that is interpretable at a human scale. * The scaffold is reduced to its raw type, to the essential condition that signifies the essence of its existence that being an impermanent accessory to architecture that allows its construction, but does not necessarily shelter. * This architecture of non-shelter is aligned directly adjacent to an interior pathway within the building that does enclose and protect.

* Eisenman coupled his grid abstractions with a series of figures that would play a key role in his aim of linking the past with the present. * The most prominent of these figures exists as a reconstruction of a part of the armoury that occupied the site from 1898 until it was terminally damaged by fire on May 17th 1958. * The figure of the armoury Eisenman has presented along the south pedestrian access (the most visually accessible elevation of the building) has been reduced to a series of fragments of armoury-like forms that indicate the ‘essence’ of the armoury without reproducing any of the original intricate detail.

* Within the armoury forms the negative space carved out of the solid brick masses that make up these figures is cast with a dark tinted curtain wall, within which is an aluminum mullion pattern evocative of the use of grid. * The contrast created by the anodized aluminum of the mullions intensifies the impenetrable depth of the glass. * The lack of historical fidelity in the reconstruction of the armoury, the fragmentation of the form, and the insertion of dark glass into the voids left between these fragments seems to speak of the disjointed manner in which we reflect the past, and in turn, it serves to remind us of a past we have lost and can never return to.

* In revisiting the design devices that Eisenman used in the design of the Wexner Center for the Arts is has been possible to determine that much of the abstraction of form derives itself from co-related processes. * Initiated by a series of processes which appropriate and manipulate ‘rotate’ the coordinates of the urban and pedestrian, horizontal and vertical, and the past and the present Eisenman produces three very distinctive extensive and intensive operations of shifting, figuring, fragmenting that coalesce into an engaging ecology for the celebration of creative thought.


* In the earlier stage of his career he designed a series of houses, named as house I to house X. His House II, VI and X are most famous projects of his initial ones. * Eisenman, one of the New York Five, designed the house for Mr. and Mrs. Richard Frank between 1972-1975 who found great admiration for the architect’s work despite previously being known as a “paper architect” and theorist. * By giving Eisenman a chance to put his theories to practice, one of the most famous, and difficult, houses emerged in the United States.

* Situated on a flat site in Cornwall, House VI stands its own ground as a sculpture in its surroundings. * The design emerged from a conceptual process that began with a grid. Eisenman manipulated the grid in a way so that the house was divided into four sections and when completed the building itself could be a “record of the design process.” * Therefore structural elements, were revealed so that the construction process was evident, but not always understood. * Thus, the house became a study between the actual structure and architectural theory. The house was effeciently constructed using a simple post and beam system. * However some columns or beams play no structural role and are incorporated to enhance the conceptual design. For example one column in the kitchen hovers over the kitchen table, not even touching the ground! In other spaces, beams meet but do not intersect, creating a cluster of supports.

* The structure was incorporated into Eisenman’s grid to convey the module that created the interior spaces with a series of planes that slipped through each other. * Purposely ignoring the idea of form following function, Eisenman created spaces that were quirky and well-lit, but rather unconventional to live with. * He made it difficult for the users so that they would have to grow accustom to the architecture and constantly be aware of it. For instance, in the bedroom there is a glass slot in the center of the wall continuing through the floor that divides the room in half, forcing there to be separate beds on either side of the room. * Another curious aspect is an upside down staircase, the element which portrays the axis of the house and is painted red to draw attention.

* There are also many other difficult aspects that disrupt conventional living, such as the column hanging over the dinner table that separates diners and the single bathroom that is only accessible through a bedroom. * Eisenman was able to constantly remind the users of the architecture around them and how it affects their lives. * He succeeded in building a structure that functioned both as a house and a work of art, but changing the priority of both so that function followed the art. * He built a home where man was forced to live in a work of art, a sculpture, and according to the clients who enjoyed inhabiting Eisenman’s artwork and poetry, the house was very successful.


* Michael Graves arrived in Princeton in 1962, when university offered him first ‘real’ job. * He had worked briefly for architect George Nelson in New York before spending two years at American Academy in Rome, a sojourn which was to have the most profound influence on his mature architecture. * Michael Graves and his two firms have received over 200 awards for design excellence in architecture, planning, interior design, product design and graphic design. Graves is the recipient of the 2001 Gold Medal of the American Institute of Architects. * Michael Graves is considered as one of the five architects, known as ‘New York Five’, which includes (Eisenman, Graves, Meier, Hejduk and Charles Gwathmey.)


* Michael Graves house in the university town of Princeton, New Jersey, is a highly personal work by an architect best known for large-scale projects. * The residence is being renovated from a ruined warehouse. So Graves often address his house as ‘warehouse’. * Modest in scale and virtually invisible from the public street, the ‘Warehouse’ is nonetheless a symbol of Graves’ passionate belief in an architecture which is both natural and humane. Its quiet grandeur reflects his final rejection of the machine aesthetic of the Modern Movement. * The house is a personal statement and a private retreat, where Graves keep the furniture, pictures, books, sculptures and other objects accumulated during a lifetime of collecting. * Graves like John Soane, sees his house as a place to display his collections, which will one day be available to the interested public. John Soane’s museum house has always been an inspiration for Graves.

* The warehouse is an L-shaped building, consisting of a northern wing and an eastern wing. * The original north wing, hidden from the street, had large doors where trucks regularly disgorged loads of household accessories. * The later wing, at right angle, was much narrower. It was here that Graves first made his home. He installed a kitchen and bathroom and lived like a student at first. * In mid eighties with his practice booming, he tackled the northern wing, bringing in other members of his office to assist and began work on the garden. This second phase of work took four years and was followed by a year of work in the kitchen wing. * The formal inauguration of house take place in 1992, when a conference of US Governors took place in Princeton and Graves held a garden party for the Governors’ spouses.


* The exterior has a quiet monumentality, which derives from the vernacular barns and farmhouses of the Italian countryside. * Graves have rejected ‘canonic’ classicism in favour of a freer and more ‘natural’ approach to design and stresses that the house is intended as a practical place to live rather than a monument, despite his long term plans to preserve it and possibly house an archive of his work there. * The elevation of the house cannot be read in terms of conventional classical design. Informal and vernacular in inspiration, they equally have an almost Cubist abstraction which suggests connection with Graves’ earlier houses.

* The chimney stack in particular, is a boldly expressed sculptural design. * The unity of house and garden is key theme. Graves seeks an idealized landscape, recalling those he loves to paint in Italy, and planting is subordinated to an overall architectural intent. The warm and slightly irregular texture of the stucco, contributes greatly to the overall effect of the exterior. * Highly sculptural in treatment and rigorous in its exclusion of ornament, the Warehouse looks beyond replication and more genuine ‘traditionalism’. * The entrance court at the house is a dynamic and yet comfortable space, open to the sky and preparing guests for the relatively low and intense entrance hall. * The dining room looks into this space, which has an agreeable ‘inside/out’ quality.


* The Library is placed such that it behaves as connecting area between Living room and East garden. * The library has a sense of verticality and highly architectural in treatment, like a street of colonnaded buildings. * Skylight enlightens the volume of the library from the top.


* The house is close to Graves’ office, but he occasionally works in here and keeps a small functional study room on the first floor. * He often expresses himself in the delicate, enigmatic water colours he paints, on his tours. * Study room is lit by the square window on the front wall.


* Graves’ living room is equally made for comfort rather than mere show. The relatively low floor to ceiling heights in the building – dictated by the original structure – have been cleverly utilized to produce interiors of some intensity. * Alcoves to the living room are distinctly Soanean in form, but reflects the dimension of original store rooms used by Princeton students to store everything from books to grand pianos. * A terra-cotta-colored wall sets off furnishings that range from antiques to chairs designed by Michael Graves.


* The dining room is lit by tall metal framed windows which look onto the courtyard which seems to form a natural extension to the space. * The chimney-piece has an austerity which is more Modernist than Classical. * Many of the accessories in this room were sold as Grand Tour souvenirs a century ago. Michael designed the glass-and-metal centerpiece vessel for Steuben (Manufacturer of handmade art glass and crystal).


* The Warehouse is a highly personal building, which expresses not just Michael Graves, master builder, but equally Graves the sceptic and questioner of orthodoxies, whether modern or ‘traditional’. The house is clearly both modern and traditional. * If its plan is essentially Classical and its use of light and shade specifically Soanean, the easy flow of the spaces and the essential informality of the building provide a reminder of its architect’s roots in the Modern movement * The Warehouse is indeed, a clear statement of a lively traditionalism which remains a powerful strand in contemporary American design. * Its quiet beauty is the work of a man who has played a key role in reshaping the face of architecture in the late twentieth century.


* Michael Graves was commissioned in 1990 to renovate and design an extension to the Denver Central Library. * Sitting adjacent to Denver Art Museum, the Denver Central Library stands as the 8th largest library in the United States. * The 405,000 s.f. addition to the existing library allows for the original building designed by Burnham Hoyt in 1956 to maintain its own identity. * So much so that Graves’ addition and the original library are two parts in a larger composition that are connected by a three story atrium. * The expansive atrium serves as a new main entrance that becomes the main focal point for visitor orientation and circulation to either wing of the library.

* For a post-modern building, the interior of the library is fairly conservative when it comes to the decorative aesthetics. * Most of the spaces appear as traditional library spaces composed of natural wood evoking a sense of grandeur and extravagance. * Only in the reading rooms is there any trace of the post-modern aesthetic. * One begins to understand the abstracted colonnades, vaulting, and colorful painting creating more of a fun learning environment rather than a stark, serious library space. * In addition to the extensive literary collections, the library functions as a community gathering space consisting of multipurpose rooms, meeting facilities, shops, a café, and a special “museum-like” collection on the American West. * The Denver Central Library sits affixed in Downtown Denver as not only an academic institution, but as part of a larger cultural epicenter.


* The Maritime Xperiential Museum is an iconic structure that draws its inspiration from sea-going vessels and thus embodies the stories contained in the exhibits and programs presented inside. * Throughout the day, the shadows and dappled light cast by the ribbed frame will enliven the interior exhibits. * The interactive exhibits and the circular 300-seat Typhoon Theater, provide a wide variety of experiences for visitors. * The exhibit focuses on the maritime Silk Route, which historically stretched from Southeast Asia to Oman. Geographically, Singapore is an important part of this history. * The Museum is set back from the water’s edge by an esplanade with a covered pedestrian loggia that allows visitors to enjoy the view of the mainland across the bay.

* At night, when viewed from the water, the glass facade of the Museum will reveal the brightly-lit interior, becoming a beacon on the water and a landmark on the horizon. * West of the Museum, a small marina will display examples of sailing vessels, a tourist attraction in its own right, which lends an air of authenticity to the museum complex. * The Museum and Marina are thematically linked to the adjacent outdoor Marine Life Park and form a rich tourist experience focused on the sea, marine life and maritime experiences. * Along the waterfront at the base of Universal Plaza is the Showplace Theater, with large stone steps creating a seating area for 2,000 people. * With views across the bay to the main island, this is the location of the Crane Dance, a nightly sound and light show in the water that epitomizes the fun and drama of Resorts World.

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