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Deconstructivism, in the Work of Peter Eisenman

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Deconstructivism, in the Work of Peter Eisenman
Art and Architecture

ABSTRACT
Deconstructivism is the packaging of ideas emerging from Modernism, Post modernism, Postavant-garde and Poststructuralism, to create a new architectural fashion. A Deconstructivist idea, an idea regarding both art and architecture, seperates, severes, breaks, fragments, but that at the same time, reconstitutes the bits and pieces gained in the process into a comprehensive principle, a controlled chaos. Just like any movement, the effect of Deconstruction on both art and architecture is somehow similar. Comparing 2 pieces, one artistic and the other architectural, you can see how art and architecture are closely related and affected by one another. The thing that arouses the debate "Is Architecture an art form?".

It is important to mention that in 1984, with the construction of the first deconstructivist project "Parc de la Villette", Deconstructivism first became art.
Going back to the origins of Deconstruction, it is a philosophy discussed by the French philosopher Jaques Derrida who had a big impact on architects and artists. Derrida was a friend of architect Peter Eisenman, which made the latter a pioneer in Deconstructionism.
Eisenman drew some philosophical bases from the literary movement Deconstruction, and collaborated directly with Derrida on some projects. He is known for his strong interest in architecture theory; architecture as a conceptual, cultural, and intellectual enterprise. He is best known for his series of Deconstructivist houses 1-->10. Each houses had a different thematic, but they were concerned not with meaning in the social sense of the world or the cultural sense, but in the "architectural meaning."

Deconstructivism, in the Work of Peter Eisenman
Deconstructivism is the packaging of ideas emerging from Modernism, Post modernism, Postavant-garde and Poststructuralism,to create a new architectural fashion. The Deconstructivist theory, in both art and architecture, is all about separating, breaking, severing, and fragmenting, but at the same time, reconstituting the bits and pieces gained in the process into a comprehensive principle, a controlled chaos.( Noever, P. (Ed.). (1997). Architecture in Transition (Between Deconstruction and new modernism) (pp. 7-13). Munich: Prestel) It is highly influenced by modernist movements such as minimalism and cubism. Just like any movement, the effect of Deconstruction on both art and architecture is somehow similar. Comparing 2 pieces, one artistic and the other architectural, you can see how art and architecture are closely related and affected by one another. The thing that arouses the debate "Is Architecture an art form?". Many refuse that notion, considering that it is of much higher value than art. Architects' ego makes them refuse to accept themselves as artists. However, I believe that architecture cannot be achieved without art. It is not pure art for sure, but a big part of it is affected by the art movements and artists in the field.

Going back to the origins of Deconstruction, it is a philosophy developed by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida who had a big impact on architects and artists. Derrida’s theory examined words and studied how the arrangement affected the meaning. "To [simply put it], deconstruction seeks to expose, and then to subvert, the various binary oppositions that undergird our dominant ways of thinking (Reynolds, J. (n.d.). Internet encyclopedia of philosophy. Retrieved June 5, 2014)." In addition, " The notion of a direct relationship between signifier and signified is no longer tenable, and instead we have infinite shifts in meaning relayed from one signifier to another." ; the idea that will be seen in Eisenman's work.( Guillemette, L. (2006). Deconstruction and différance. In Sign. Retrieved June 4, 2014) Eisenman had a personal relationship with Derrida as his friend, so he was influenced by his theoretical practices specifically Deconstruction, even though his approach to architectural design was developed long before he became a Deconstructivist. He drew some philosophical bases from this literary movement, and worked directly with Derrida on some projects including an entry for "Parc de la Vilette" competition in which Deconstructivism first came to public notice.

The winner design for this competition was that of architect Bernard Tschumi. The latter explains, “When I first met Jacques Derrida, in order to convince him to confront his own work with architecture, he asked me, ‘But how could an architect be interested in deconstruction? After all, deconstruction is antiform, anti-hierarchy, anti-structure, the opposite of all that architecture stands for’. ‘Precisely for this reason,’ I replied!”( Deconstructivism: 7 Wonders of the Postmodern Architecture (n.d.). In Web Urbanist. Retrieved June 4, 2014)
Back to Eisenman, he has thus become a pioneer in Deconstructivism. He is known for his strong interest in architecture theory; architecture as a cultural, conceptual, and intellectual enterprise. Thus, he believes that we need to change the concept of architecture as a service, as an accommodating profession, as one that people "grow used to", inhabit. We should question the habit, upset the balance, cause a stir.( Noever, P. (Ed.). (1997). Architecture in Transition (Between Deconstruction and new modernism) (p. 40). Munich: Prestel) This is what he has done in the Wexner Center building and many other projects. Art critics hated his Wexner Center because it provoked them to think again about the relationship between a painting and the space of the painting. You cannot hang easel-paintings on the walls of this building. As a result to that, artists started talking about recontextualizing art, just like genuine art had always been. Michelangelo's work for example was in a context, it was not to be put in a museum. Artists used to work in situ. Art was in situ. That's what artists nowadays are starting to reconsider.

From 1967 to 1978, Peter Eisenman designed a series of 10 Deconstructivist houses, each of a different thematic, of which four were built. These houses were the start engine of his fame. Through them, he experimented with geometry and the essence of Deconstructivism.( Peter Eisenman: Ten Houses (n.d.). In CCA. Retrieved June 4, 2014)
House I, 1968, is a perfect cube dissected and associated with an ideal scheme where the columns and windows are placed. The columns are either the intersection of two planes(when it is to be used as structural), or a simple void that completes the grid( this is where the column becomes virtual and not structural). Here, we relate this idea to the original philosophy of Deconstruction( the relation between the signifier and the signified). In addition, in house I, the idea of superposition or juxtaposition is introduced.
House II, 1969-1970, was the result of shaking a cube through a series of shifts. This house reached the abstract condition Eisenman wants in his architecture. The surrounding landscape(snow) helps give it it's pure architectural form. The architecture of the house is easily related to models of De Stijl or Terragni.
House II

In House III, 1971, Eisenman applied the mechanism of rotation which is very obvious when looking at the building. This rotation was considered as a novelty back then. It could be thought that this idea of rotate-and-interlock came from nature, or from the work of artists, or that he was only thinking of formal mechanisms...

Houses IV and V were less elaborated projects with the same concept of a cube undergoing certain mechanisms.

House VI, 1975, is about a complex tripartite division of the cube. Eisenman here examines how far away his design can get from the original grid, while still implying its existence. The building is the intersection of four 3x3x2 grid-cubes and an empty cross where spaces are inserted into where the grids and structures line up ; which implies a single, overarching grid.

Houses VII and VIII and IX were less elaborated projects with the same concept of a cube undergoing certain mechanisms.
House X, 1975, in my opinion, is the masterpiece among all 10 houses. Too bad it was not built due to a conflict between Eisenman and the client. Here, the cube is the result of four quadrants that gravitate in L-shapes over the axis that divide the cube.

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