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Peter Eisenman


Installation art by Peter Eisenman in the courtyard of Castelvecchio Museum in Verona, Italy, Entitled: "Il giardino dei passi perduti", ("The garden of the lost steps")

Peter Eisenman (born August 11, 1932 in Newark, New Jersey) is one of the foremost practitioners of deconstructivism in American architecture. Eisenman's fragmented forms are identified with an eclectic group of architects that have been, at times unwillingly, labelled deconstructivists. Although Eisenman shuns the label, he has had a history of controversy aimed at keeping him in the public (academic) eye. His theories on architecture pursue the emancipation and autonomy of the discipline and his work represents a continued attempt to liberate form from all meaning, a struggle that most find difficult to understand. He always had strong cultural relationships with European intellectuals like his English mentor Colin Rowe and the Italian historian Manfredo Tafuri. The work of philosopher Jacques Derrida is a key influence in Eisenman's architecture. He is often seen in a bowtie and a black sweater with a small hole.

Eisenman discovered architecture as an undergraduate at Cornell University and had to give up his position on the swimming team in order to immerse himself in the architecture program there. Eisenman received a Bachelor of Architecture Degree from Cornell, a Master of Architecture Degree from Columbia University's Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation, and M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from the University of Cambridge.

Eisenman first rose to prominence as a member of the New York Five, five architects (Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk, Richard Meier, and Michael Graves) some of whose work appeared in an exhibition at MoMA in 1967. Eisenman received a number of grants from the Graham Foundation for work done in this period. These architects' work at the time was often considered a reworking of the ideas of Le Corbusier. Subsequently, the five architects each developed unique styles and ideologies, with Eisenman becoming more affiliated with the Deconstructivist movement.

Eisenman's focus on "liberating" architectural form was successful from an academic and theoretical standpoint but resulted in structures that were badly built and hostile to users. The Wexner Center, hotly anticipated as the first major public deconstructivist building, has required extensive and expensive retrofitting because of elementary design flaws (such as incompetent material specifications, and fine art exhibition space exposed to direct sunlight). Its spatial grammar of colliding planes also tends to make users disoriented to the point of nausea, and Eisenman has been known to chuckle in lectures about making people vomit.

Eisenman's "House VI", designed for clients Richard and Suzanne Frank in the mid 1970's, confounds user expectations with such fun-house stunts as an exterior column that does not reach the ground, a linear notch in the bedroom floor that prevented the Franks from sleeping in the same bed, and antagonistic space planning. Suzanne Frank was initially sympathetic and patient with Eisenman's theories and demands. But after years of fixes to the badly-specified and misbegotten House VI (which had first broken the Franks' budget then consumed their life savings), Suzanne Frank was prompted to strike back with Peter Eisenman's House VI: The Client's Response, a fascinating bit of black humor and one of the most revealing documents in 20th Century architecture.

Eisenman currently teaches architecture at Yale University and has also embarked on a larger series of building projects than ever before in his career, including the recently completed Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin and the new University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

Buildings and works

USGS satellite image of the Greater Columbus Convention Center.House VI (Frank residence), Cornwall, Connecticut, Design: 1972.

Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio, 1989

Greater Columbus Convention Center, Columbus, Ohio, 1993

Aronoff Center for Design and Art, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1996
City of Culture of Galicia, Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, Spain, 1999
Il giardino dei passi perduti, Castelvecchio Museum, Verona, 2004

Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin, 2005

University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona, 2006

Peter Eisenman, Houses of Cards. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.
Peter Eisenman, Diagram Diaries (Universe Architecture Series), Thames and Hudson, 1999.
Blurred Zones: Investigations of the Interstitial : Eisenman Architects 1988-1998
Peter Eisenman, Giuseppe Terragni: Transformations, Decompositions, Critiques, New York, The Monacelli Press 2003
Peter Eisenman, Eisenman Inside Out. Selected Writings 1963-1988, New Haven-London, Yale University Press 2004

Kari Jormakka, Interview with Peter Eisenman, Datutop 14, 1991.
Interview: Peter Eisenman, Threshold, Rizzoli, 1983.