Saturday, September 25, 2010

(Book #33) Peter Eisenman - House of Cards

A few weeks ago, I was looking through the massive architectural books collection at the Brand Library in Glendale, and found architect Peter Eisenman's book 'House of Cards'. I was very excited to discover this book, as it is extremely rare and even looking for it online proves fruitless or too expensive. The book documents Eisenman's syntaxical processes of designing six residences over the course of a decade (mid 60's through 70's). We are presented with a great many sketches, diagrams, studies, models and photographs that reenact the sequence of design of these pieces of architecture. Most of the book is comprised of these images, however there were 3 different essays spliced together to form a layered commentary of, by and against Eisenman's use of syntax in design. The writings were varied in their content, with the piece by the architect himself providing an added layer of meaning to the methodology. It was also stressed that the primary content of the book was the architecture itself, which had to be "read" in its own fashion.

As students of architecture, we are effectively taught how to read a building; Architecture "speaks" and there is something inherent and special that can be understood by experiencing it firsthand. If we cannot understand a space in person, we are left to infer the design intent from images in books. 'House of Cards' makes it clear that these homes are almost entirely about process, a logic or pattern that is established by Eisenman and the forms blossom from sketched out ideas to fully fleshed out structures. It is understandable that this generative approach would not appeal to many designers, however it does align with some of my personal design sentiments. Having finally read this book, I found it a great resource and would love to eventually find another copy for my personal collection. Alas, for now I will have to remain content in returning it to the shelves of the Brand Library and sharing it with everyone else.

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