الأحد، 15 يناير، 2012




The Deconstructivism is not an architectural movement that gained many adherents in Japan. The image of a building (de)composed of recumbent walls, protruding beams, twisted columns, broken roofs, as if it had been hit by a cataclysmic event, did not seem to be popular among the Japanese, whose buildings have been periodically destroyed by earthquakes, tsunamis and typhoons. This was coupled with the financial meltdown that hit the archipelago in the mid 90's, as well as the devastating effects of the Kobe earthquake. In this context, I was surprised to find this building in Tokyo by Peter Eisenman, one of the leading theorists and exponents of Deconstructivism.


The Deconstructivism is a trend that originated in the early 80's and as part of the Postmodernist movement (which also included trends such as Historicism and High Tech), opposed to the principles of Modernism. Interestingly, Deconstructivism also distanced from Historicism, understanding the relationship with the surroundings in a more abstract and less iconic way.
Housing project, IBA, Berlin, Peter Eisenman. The neighboring neoclassical building's height is reflected in the subtraction carried out in the volume's corner.
Deconstructing means taking a basic object, de-compose it into its primary parts, subject them to a series of analytic movements and geometric transformations, product of relationships or influences from the surroundings, and then re-compose a new product that expresses this transformation process. It was an exercise similar to Cubism in painting, adding a fourth dimension to the architectural object, which is the time variable (Le Corbusier included the time variable as the path the user had to walk in order to perceive his buildings. The deconstructivists included time as the transformation of the building on itself).
Eisenman. Diagrams for the House III
"It's not due to the simple fracture or fragmentation of an object that we reach to deconstruction, since this would not question its structure but on the contrary, would damage it, and harm, in my opinion, would not have another purpose than a decorative effect. It is about revealing the internal geometric tension inside the building itself, something that was always latent, until it was discovered by the architects; it is not about demolishing or dismantling a work, by contrast, is an architecture of deviation and reorganization " .
Jorge Glusberg
Aronoff Center at the College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning (DAAP), University of Cincinnati. Peter Eisenman, 1988-1993
The Decosntructivism received important influence from the Russian Constructivism of the 1920's, but not for its social concept (the Soviet artistic movement had an important socialist base), but basically at the level of formal conception. Constructivism explored the relationship between volume and surface, thus taking pure elements and, under the influence of external forces, gave them dynamism and energy, a concept that Deconstructivism would take for itself 60 years later.
Iakov Chernikhov Studies. Via Architecture MNP
See here a video of the conception of the Tatlin Tower, a symbol of Russian Constructivism.

Deconstuctivism was also influenced by literature, especially the writings of Jacques Derrida, creator of the literary movement called deconstruction, and who, through his friendship with Eisenman, had an important conceptual contribution for the architectural movement. In fact, descontructivists such as Koolhaas and Libeskind have had a journalistic or literary base before venturing themselves into the architecture.
One of the first architects to follow this design process was Bernard Tschumi in his successful project for the Park de la Villette, and so were Peter Eisenman, Morphosis and Coop Himmelb(l)au. In conjunction with these "analytical Deconstructivism" came another facet more artistic and subjective, while not strictly Deconstructivism, get results similar spatial results, and therefore several authors have included them in this movement. They are, among others, architect and sculptor Frank Gehry, Enric Miralles and Zaha Hadid.
The result was a very dramatic, dynamic and scenographic architecture, sometimes very symbolic, others much more sensorial. It was not about the user finding beauty in architecture, but he/she would receive stimuli that would transmit stress, chaos, disruption, overlap, instability, conflict, all reflecting the society in which they lived. The building was to be understood as part of a set and a set of parts at the same time.
Berlin Holocaust Memorial. Peter Eisenman
The result was also a denial of the postulate "form follows function" (emblematic of the functionalism of modern architecture), emancipating itself in a formal freedom above any functional restrictions. However, it was excessive, often creating useless , inflexible, difficult to maintain, blandly unproductive spaces for a purely decorative purpose.
Library Wexner Center for the Visual Arts and Fine Arts. Notice how the column goes off the roof to get close to the floor, contradicting the classical structural principle of the column and causing a feeling of imbalance.
The use of CAD/CAM software was instrumental in developing these ideas, primarily because it allowed advanced structural calculations that would enable to support and prevent the collapse of steep walls and columns, which, paradoxically, appeared as be collapsing. Secondly, the computer was essential to built both the building's structure and coating, often made up of unique and not repetitive pieces.

Aronoff Center at the College of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning (DAAP), University of Cincinnati. Peter Eisenman, 1988-1993. Photo courtesy of Fusion of horizons

However, not surprisingly, these factors unnecessarily increased costs many times to satisfy the whims of architects, who were so focused on their philosophy and conceptual theories that they forgot the needs and feelings of the users.
"One time, I realized that in a project, a door was only 40 cm wide. When the client came to me complaining, I just told her, 'Ma'am, this is not a common door, is a door for you to enter on your side '. The client left very satisfied . "
Peter Eisenman
Peter Eisenman

Peter Eisenman began his career in the late 60s, very close to modern architecture. Along with Richard Meier , Michael Graves, Charles Gwathmey and John Hejduk, formed the group known as the "New York Five", for their work in search of the roots of Modernism, particularly the work of Le Corbusier, or simply "The 5 White "for their predilection int the use of that color in their works.

At first, Eisenman worked their projects based on transformations of architectural elements, dividing volumes in planes, planes in grids, grids were rotated to reach a transformed product.
House IV. Peter Eisenman, 1972
Later, in the stage to which the project reviewed in this post belongs, the proposals show the trace of the transformation sequence, so you can appreciate not only the product but the design process.
NUNOTANI HQ Building. The company was bankrupt in 2000 and the building was abandoned.
In this regard, the noted architect Rafael Moneo, Eisenman's personal friend, made ​​a sharp criticism of this design method:

"... In fact, the process breaks out, begins with a diagonal movement giving rise to multiple readings and the deployment of a syntax that can be rigorous, but the first movement, the original impulse is something unexpected, arbitrary, something that is entirely in the hands of the architect. (...) Thus, despite the fact that Eisenman is trying to provide a rigorous manipulation of the architectural language, he is forced to admit that the first impulse is gratuitous, without any connection to the outside world in which the architecture will be built. "
Indeed, Eisenman's work in recent years denotes greater subjectivity in the process and a result which does not necessarily express the transformation process.
Eiseman Project for the Jubilee Church in Tor Tre Teste, Rome, contest finally won his cousin Richard Meier. I wonder what kind of rite could be held there, because celebrating a mass would be extremely difficult.
Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, Berlin. Peter Eisenman, 2005. Designed to cause distress effect on the visitor.

Koizumi Sangyo is a manufacturer of lamps and lighting equipment. For this project, the company headquarters in Tokyo, Eisenman worked along with Kojiro Kitayama, who is the half brother of Tadao Ando (yes, the world is a handkerchief). In fact, in the late 80's early 90s, there was a good relationship between Eiseman and Ando, ​​and the latter introduced him to his brother.
Koizumi Lighting Theater is 8-storey complex. In the first 5 floors, is the exhibition of products, while in the last 3, are the offices.
Elevation and section.
Kitayama designed a concrete box, a typical Japanese office block. Eisenman used this structure as context and "attacked" it with a series of small cubes rotated in various directions in space. Features of this clash of geometries are evident both inside and outside the building.

"Instead of a single author, there are two authors who do not cooperate together, but work separately, to deny the notion of a uniform composition. Working separately, they blurred the signature of the author, the author's hand."

For both proposals to meet, it was necessary to have a unitary structure to house the different parts and form a single project.

"A structure houses the external elements that are stapled to it. They have no purpose in themselves, nor in terms of place nor in terms of functional program nor with the relationship established with the host structure. They are the result of an arbitrary decision. "
Plants and exterior view.
Therefore, despite the dynamic appearance of the fractured surface, it is possible to perceive a geometric order when walk around the building. Or, said in the opposite way, despite being a clear and rational grid as a basis, this never becomes repetitive and is different on each floor due to those elements that pollute it.

A large atrium of monumental proportions gets us into the building. Some bridges cross diagonally space, not only to give some this 5-story space a human scale, but also as a prelude to the looming spatial distorsion.

"Just as the introduction of a grain of sand inside an oyster produces a pearl, then the introduction of abnormal elements can occur causing the transformation of internal and external spaces of a structure. A graft can also change the nature of a traditional office building . "
This grain of sand is referred to a series of three-dimensional Ls which, in order to make more apparent to this overlap, use pastel pink and green colors, chosen along with the painter and theorist Robert Slutzky and typical architecture of Eisenman's projects at the end the 80s (although, truth be told, this color combination is not so popular today).

"The cubes in L embedded in the structure leave a mark, the scar of a wound."
Conceptual diagrams.
Here, Eisenman makes a reference to the literature of deconstruction.

"No floor is completed, there is always a textual opening elsewhere, above or below. Each space is part of a misunderstood text, in which there is the possibility of multiple reading. And at every level of evolution the signs create the conditions that determine the texts and make them readable. "

This project received an Honor Award American Institute of Architects AIA in 1991.

  • Eisenman 1960/1990. Conceptual architecture for Textual Architecture. Fabio Ghersi.

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