Peter Eisenman (born August 11, 1932) in Newark, New Jersey is an American architect. Eisenman's fragmented forms are identified with an eclectic group of architects that have been labeled as 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 accept. 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.
Training and tuition
As a child he attended Columbia High School located in Maplewood, New Jersey. 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. He also received an honorary degree from Syracuse University School of Architecture in 2007. He currently teaches theory seminars and advanced design studios at the Yale School of Architecture.
Eisenman first rose to prominence as a member of the New York Five (also known as the Whites, as opposed to the Grays of Yale: Bob Stern, Charles Moore, etc.), five architects (Eisenman, Charles Gwathmey, John Hejduk, Richard Meier, and Michael Graves) some of whose work was presented at a CASE Studies conference 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 notable from an academic and theoretical standpoint but resulted in structures that were both 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). It was frequently repeated that the Wexner's colliding planes tended to make its users disoriented to the point of physical nausea; in 1997 researcher Michael Pollan tracked the source of this rumor back to Eisenman himself. In the words of Andrew Ballantyne, "By some scale of values he was actually enhancing the reputation of his building by letting it be known that it was hostile to humanity."
Eisenman's House VI, designed for clients Richard and Suzanne Frank in the mid 1970's, confounds expectations of structure and function. 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, in which she admitted both the problems of the building, as much as its virtues.
Eisenman has also embarked on a larger series of building projects 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. His largest project to date is the soon-to-be completed City of Culture of Galicia in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.
Eisenman is featured in wide print and many films, including the 30 minute 2008 film Peter Eisenman: University of Phoenix Stadium for the Arizona Cardinals where he provides a tour of his recent construction.
Peter Eisenman is also the second cousin of the architect, and fellow member of The New York Five, Richard Meier.
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