Eisenman, Peter

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EISENMAN, PETER (1932– ), U.S. architect. Eisenman was born in Newark, New Jersey, and studied at Cornell (B.A. 1955) and Columbia universities (M.A.), receiving a second M.A. and Ph.D. from Cambridge University in England. He taught at Cambridge, Princeton, Yale, Harvard, Ohio State, and the Cooper Union in New York, where he was founder and director of the New York Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies (1967).

Unique among modern architects, until 1980 most of Eisenman's work was in theoretical writing and teaching. During this period in his career, he was the leader of a group known as the "New York Five," which included John Hejduk, Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey, and Richard *Meier. Eisenman Architects was established in 1980.

Eisenman's thought is often associated with that of postmodern philosophers Noam *Chomsky and Jacques *Derrida as well as Friedrich Nietzsche. Eisenman co-authored Choral Works with Derrida. His architecture is sometimes viewed as a text that emphasizes concepts such as fragmentation, and in the case of the Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe (Denkmal), opened in 2005, irreparable loss. His work thus avoids the use of traditional compositional elements familiar to architects as well as pure aesthetics. Eisenman has noted: "You cannot have an architecture that doesn't relate to cultural issues, whether they be philosophic, artistic, musical, filmic, psychological. I think that there is no question that architecture moves culture in the same way that other disciplines do, but it is also affected by and affects other disciplines."

Eisenman experimented with ten house designs between 1960 and 1980, each one being numbered in sequence. Eisenman, with associates Richard Trott and Laurie Olin, designed the Wexner Center for the Arts (1983–89) at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. The building serves as an early example of Eisenman's concept of deconstruction in architecture. The structure contains a white spine that links pre-existing buildings with new construction and was designed on a series of grids that attempts to link symbolically the city of Columbus with the university campus. Among his other designs, which mirror the principles of deconstruction but with added computer engineering in the 1990s, can be found the Emory University Center for the Arts (1991); the Arnoff Center for Design and Art at the University of Cincinnati (1996), which mirrors the Wexner Center with a spine bringing together pre-existing structures; the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences, with its use of vast curved "fluid fractals"; Cardinal Stadium in Phoenix, Arizona, which features a retractable roof, retractable side, and the field that has the capacity to move in and out of the structure in order to grow natural grass. The City of Culture of Galicia is a monumental project in the Spanish city of Santiago de Compostela. The 810,000 square feet project also includes a history museum, a library, a landscaped forest, and a theater for ballet, opera, and symphonies. From an aerial perspective, the City of Culture appears as a series of structures highly integrated into the Galician landscape.

The architect's most controversial project was the Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, finished in 2005. The project, from its inception in 1988, featured two competitions and a long and often bitter debate in German society about the need for such a monument.

While Christine Jackob-Marks' design was selected from the 1,200 submissions of the first competition of May 1994, it was vetoed by German Chancellor Helmut Kohl. In 1997, 25 artists were asked to send in revised proposals. Among the four finalists was a joint project by Peter Eisenman and sculptor Richard Serra. The original conception of the team was to create a "field of memory," and it envisioned 4,000 concrete pylons of varying sizes, laid out like a field of wheat and progressively sinking below ground level. Serra later removed himself from the project and after an intense debate the parliament finally decided on June 15, 1999 on the revised Eisenman plan. The design reduced the number of pylons to 2,700.


A.E. Benjamin, C. Davidson, P. Eisenman, and L. Fernandez-Galiano, Der Denkmalstreitdas Denkmal?: Die Debatte um das "Denkmal für die ermordeten Juden Europas:" eine Dokumentation (1999).

[Stephen C. Feinstein (2nd ed.)]

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