I THINK I MADE PETER EISENMAN GIVE UP - OOPS!

Sunday, February 21, 2010



Excerpted from Peter Eisenman's lecture at the Architectural Association, February 5th, entitled "Lateness and the Crisis of Modernity":
What you find at least with students in America, and that’s why State of the Union, basically, the people that I deal with, the younger generation, is they’re beginning to behave like computers and they begin to believe that they are a computer. They have lost a capacity to intuit and to intelligently respond to conditions in a way to develop grammars. And the grammars that they have come out of the computer. So, we’re now tied to computer programs which weren’t designed for space-time architectural environments. The algorithms were for animation, for other kinds of issues, for media, and not for producing space and time in an architectural sense. And we now have something which is a disease, the parametric process disease, which, you know, has taken over in all leading institutions.

And, I was at a review at Harvard last spring and I met a very bright student, I was on his review. And it’s a year-long project at Harvard. And I said, “what did you do?” He said, “I wrote an algorithm that could produce any x-amount of variation.” I said, “oh my god, x-amount of variation. How do you choose?” He said, “choice is no longer the issue.” Right? I said, “oh, ok”. “Any one will do.” And of course, all of these things looked like weird chicken coops, when you see parametrics operating, right? And they all look the same. And so I thought, well, here I go, I’m going to be Mr. Genius Loci, I’m going to ask, you know, “what’s the function?” Or, “what’s the site?” And so I said, “so, there’s this great parametric process.” And then he showed all of the variations, all of them chicken coop, you know, punch surfaces, Alejandro. Right? Since you’re one of the problems in this area. Well, he’s going to be teaching with me, so I’m happy that I have somebody to play with - the source of the problem. In any case, I said to this young student, “well, what was the site?” He said, “oh, it was a wonderful site in Hong Kong Harbor.” I said, “oh, that’s nice, on an island in Hong Kong Harbor.” And I said, “because it’s in this island, you can choose any one of these chicken coops, since there’s no place, in a sense, but there is.” And I said, “well, what’s the program?” I couldn’t believe it, you have to understand, a year at Harvard, right? $50k for this. And he said, “my project,” hear this, “is a golf driving range.” I said, “a golf driving range?” I said, “what kind of social program is this?” He said, “well in the east, in Hong Kong, golf driving ranges are really important, there’s no place for people to play golf, so they go to golf driving ranges.” And he said, “you know what’s amazing about these chicken coops,” sorry, he didn’t use the term, “is that you can drive the golf balls out into the bay, because there’s no limit to how far you can hit the golf balls. You can hit them through different holes. You can have different size holes. You know one makes 100 yards, 200 yards, 300 yards, etc. depending on the surface.”

And I just, I gave up. I said, “I can’t deal with this. This, to me, isn’t what architecture is about.”

Maybe none of you have that problem yet, but the State of the Union in America, we call it the University of the North, where I live, but anyway it is a disease that is certainly spreading. And students today, for example, some of the students that I know at Yale, are afraid to take courses with people like Greg Lynn and others because they don’t have the computer skills. And they say, “well if we don’t have the computer skills, how can we do a Greg Lynn studio?” So I think one should be aware of this kind of thing.

I'm flattered that somehow my work made him question the discipline's limits. The only thing I ask is that he not give up. Keep up the good fight!

NB: Excerpt taken from the mid-point of the lecture. Thanks to Volkan for bringing it to my attention.

3 Comments:

Blogger Nathaniel said...

Pretty rad. But I didn't know that architecture was one of Eisenman's concerns.

February 23, 2010 at 8:28 AM  
Blogger Ilsa said...

You (or rather your project) just made my day.

February 23, 2010 at 4:59 PM  
Blogger LLuis said...

I have a question:

Do you really think: "choice is no longer the issue"?

April 18, 2010 at 11:11 AM  

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