Composing the Whole Thing: Design Research in Peter Eisenman’s Recent Studio Teaching

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A central mode of thinking for built environment practitioners generally and architects in particular is that based on part to whole relationships, the idea that fractional relationships necessarily characterise coherent objects and building ensembles and in turn reference nature as the basis for beauty. The notion that all parts relate to a whole can be taken as one index of the limits practitioners, educators, and scholars have identified in certain modes of thinking and practice whether at the scale of the building or the scale of urban form. This paper pursues research into alternate modes of architectural design that challenge perceived limits of part-whole logics, revealing other manners of thinking that deploy specific form-generation strategies and devices and contribute to a practice that embraces complexity and in turn reveals unforeseen potentialities on the edge of design research. The paper does this through the analysis of the work of architect Peter Eisenman (b.1932). While there is evidence of this temperament at play in office projects, the paper focuses on Eisenman’s university studio teaching. Through an analysis of select university studios, the paper reveals instances in Eisenman’s teaching that promote different issues, different problematics, and singular form-composition strategies that together embrace ambiguity through such notions as partial fragment, superposition, and aggregation. Referencing published and unpublished teaching materials and student work, the paper examines Eisenman’s three-year Venice Project studio (2009, 2010, 2011) and Aggregation Project studio (2013) delivered at the Yale School of Architecture. The paper contributes to secondary scholarship on Eisenman with its focus on a little studied aspect of his work, adds to investigations in design research, and is aligned with the conference theme scholarship and theory of design research in architecture.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 1st Annual Design Research Conference (ADR18)
EditorsDuncan Maxwell
Place of PublicationSydney
PublisherUniversity of Sydney
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9780646992495
Publication statusPublished - 8 Oct 2018


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