All kinds of exceptional visitors have stopped by UCLA recently. Today we had Peter Eisenman in conversation with Sylvia Lavin and Michael Osman, a kind of informal peek into the trajectory of Eisenman's earlier period when he was at the cusp of his rise with Lavin leading the questions as to how he got started and where we could/should be going now. Most of the conversation unfolded like a historical sketch of his life as he travelled from Columbia to Cambridge (brief detour to Paris).
Some nuggets below (its terrible redaction but we are 1.5 weeks from final review)
After some bantering of Eisenman's extreme dislike of Decafe's installation ("I have certain visceral standards and there are certain things that get me upset")...
Eisenman: Every night I would go to Colin (Rowe) house and every night he would bring out a huge book of architecture - he would say, LOOK. So we decided to travel together in summer of '61 and I made the itinerary. When we got to Zurich, Rowe said, Enough of this, I'm going to show you architecture. So we saw the Casa del Fascio, then proceeded to go on Collins Palladio tour.
I remembered the lesson I had learned, he would sit me out in a Palladian villa in the shade and say, 'Don't come back until you can tell me something about that facade that you cannot see…' I think its important to go see Butterfield, Hawksmore etc, theres an amazing amount of stuff to see before you can "know" how to see - you have to see varied things. Thats the energy I still maintain in some form.
Lavin: Harvard, Princeton Cambridge - these "accidents" (in your career) as you call them were able to happen because the map (for doing architecture) pre-existed. But if you had to send them out today and say go out and see, what would you teach them? If you had to tell them to go out there and look for something, what would you tell them?
Eisenman: Before you can say the field is overdetermined and therefore needs to be expanded, you have to ask What is the nature of the overdetermined field. I believe that if I take a student picked at random and they come from Colombia, not Columbia but Colombia, I still think I have e irresponsibility even if they have never seen any of this, I can only teach them what I know to teach. I can say, this is overdetermined stuff, but I think we have to go see it. I think you need to have some foundation.
Lavin: But now you would not be able to use the Socratic method because the relationship between question and answer is not determined - when you walk in and say i don't like the green, you have to go see the architecture, those are moments when you already understand what the color scheme is against what is already acceptable - but now you would have to actually articulate those things.
Eisenman: You cannot photograph the experience of moving through those spaces - you have to go there to see it - the experience you have of walking through the spaces is something you cannot photograph. Take the Berlin memorial for example - you have to walk it to experience it - to experience no center, no edge, no root, every place is the same as every other place - what happens then is that that it recalibrates the relationship. I believe that the discourse of architecture today - the disjunction of the experience of being from being - that can happen in time.
Lavin: Everyones into Lessing, its a smart thing
Eisenman: I'm always into the smart thing but I always thought you thought I wasn't.
He speaks later today at SciArc and I hear there is round 2 of the conversation tomorrow morning.
A process blog and collection of stories, observations, thought experiments, photographic essays and overheard conversations in the UCLA M.Arch I program.