06.05.2014, Czech Technical University, Faculty of Architecture
Apparently this horribly advertised lecture was part of Monika Mitasova’s habilitation process, I only knew about it via word of mouth, which is a shame as it was very good and quite unlike a typical architecture related presentation.
Straight away it is clear that Monika will be explaining Peter Eisenman’s views of/on critical architecture, referring almost purely to his work on Guiseppe Terragni’s Casa del Fascio that he explored in his 1963 thesis (The Formal Basis of Modern Architecture) and 2003 book on Terragni (Transformations, Decompositions, Critiques1).
The lecture was dense with information and visuals, much of which has can be found in Eisenman’s work (it was, after all, a recapitulation of his research). This mean I took hardly any notes. However, some things/thoughts that stood out:
At the post lecture question time is where it got more interesting, as it is where we started to get the opinions of people in the room and not Peter Eisenman.
I have hard time swallowing any claims of the autonomy of architecture. These views come up quite frequently under different names: elementary forms, architectural truth, autopoiesis, allusions to architecture as a distinct language, &c. Eisenman of course is very much in line with the latter of these claims, with much of his early work relating to semiotics, and much of his thinking/building revolving around Architecture, capital-A, self reflexive on the discipline.
The issue is that even if one were to take the linguistic approach, that which Eisenman uses as a basis point for architecture’s autonomy one can easily see and conclude that it actually points to the opposite. Language is dependant on externalities, it is shaped by outside forces and there is nothing fundamental about grammar2. Knowing that, it becomes difficult to argue for the fundamental necessity of certain architectural forms or concepts, it turns into just another form of reductionism justified by conventions.
So much for comments on autonomy.
One has to applaud Eisenman’s study of Terragni, it reveals the building to be an interesting topic historically (the state of the Fascist party at the at point), architecturally (it’s inventiveness and genesis) and intellectually (the potential readings of it). What particularly caught my attention was how, for a building that appears extremely stable, it is full of intended ambiguities; for example the trick of needing to open a window for it to gain a full platonic shape, making the building be in a kind of exponential limbo about it’s solidity. It seems clear, but it isn’t and can never be.
It raises interesting questions which I’ll have to consider. How to make an architecture that acknowledges the ambiguity of things? How to show the instability of any object’s self conception? Can we do it without slipping ito metaphor? It’s a very OOO thought, hence my interest in it.