Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Contrasting Concepts of Harmony in Architecture: The 1982 Debate Between Christopher Alexander and Peter Eisenman

Just an old interesting reading article i like to share.

Contrasting Concepts of
Harmony in Architecture:
The 1982 Debate Between
Christopher Alexander
and Peter Eisenman

An Early Discussion of the "New Sciences" of
Organised Complexity in Architecture 

Editors’ Introduction

This legendary debate took place at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University, on November 17th 1982. Not long before it, Alexander had given a talk on The Nature of Order, which was to become the subject of his magnum opus of architectural philosophy. The original version he envisaged was less than half the size of the final four-volume work as it now stands, but its main ideas were already formulated.
Before the debate Eisenman had listened to the tape of Alexander's talk – one of the first public presentations of the ideas in The Nature of Order. What followed was thus partly shaped by those ideas. What ensued can be said to represent an historic occasion: Alexander is presenting his basis for the New Paradigm in Architecture at the same time as Eisenman presents his competing, diametrically opposed, deconstructivist claim for such a Paradigm.
The importance of the debate has been widely recognised. Twenty years later, the Harvard Graduate School of Design republished it alongside three other seminal documents from the post-1969 period: an early piece by Alexander Tzonis on the “end of ideology in architecture”, excerpts from a 1994 conference on “De-naturalized Urbanity”, and a recent debate on urbanism between Rem Koolhaas and Andres Duany. Some people may only have heard of the 1982 encounter because Alexander said Eisenman was “fucking up the world" in a public forum; but if this is all one knows about it, one is not prepared for the generally good-natured tone of most of the exchanges.

Brief bio of Christopher Alexander:
Christopher Wolfgang Alexander (born October 4, 1936 in Vienna, Austria) is a registered architect noted for his theories about design, and for more than 200 building projects in California, Japan, Mexico and around the world. Reasoning that users know more about the buildings they need than any architect could, he produced and validated (in collaboration with Sarah Ishikawa and Murray Silverstein) a "pattern language" designed to empower anyone to design and build at any scale. Alexander is often overlooked by texts in the history and theory of Architecture because his work intentionally disregarded contemporary Architecture discourse, appealing more through methods consistent with his theories than through established practices. As such, Alexander is widely considered to occupy a place outside the discipline, the discourse, and the practice of Architecture. In 1958 he moved from England to the United States, living and teaching in Berkeley, California from 1963. He is professor emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley. Now retired (though still active), he is based in Arundel, Sussex, UK.
/source Wikipedia

Brief bio of Peter Eisenman:
Peter Eisenman (born August 11, 1932 in Newark, New Jersey) is an American architect. Eisenman's professional work is often referred to as formalist, deconstructive, late avant-garde, late or high modernist, etc. A certain fragmenting of forms visible in some of Eisenman's projects has been identified as characteristic of an eclectic group of architects that were (self-)labeled as deconstructivists, and who were featured in an exhibition by the same name at the Museum of Modern Art. The heading also refers to the storied relationship and collaborations between Peter Eisenman and post-structuralist thinker Jacques Derrida.
/source Wikipedia

If Architects had to work like Programmers

I saw this funny articles while in my senior colleague's room. Oh, and this picture here had nothing to do with the article. Btw, this is a very old article. Enjoy!

Dear Mr. Architect!

Please design and build me a house. I am not quite sure of what I need, so you should use your discretion. My house should have between two and forty-five bedrooms. Just make sure the plans are such that the bedrooms can be easily added or deleted. When you bring the blueprints to me, I will make the final decision of what I want. Also, bring me the cost breakdown for each configuration so that I can arbitrarily pick one.

Keep in mind that the house I ultimately choose must cost less than the one I am currently living in. Make sure, however, that you correct all the deficiencies that exist in my current house (the floor of my kitchen vibrates when I walk across it, and the walls don't have nearly enough insulation in them).

As you design, also keep in mind that I want to keep yearly maintenance costs as low as possible. This should mean the incorporation of extra-cost features like aluminium, vinyl, or composite siding. (If you choose not to specify aluminium, be prepared to explain your decision in detail.)

Please take care that modern design practices and the latest materials are used in construction of the house, as I want it to be a showplace for the most up-to-date ideas and methods. Be alerted, however, that kitchen should be designed to accommodate, among other things, my 1952 Gibson refrigerator.

To insure that you are building the correct house for our entire family, make certain that you contact each of our children, and also our in-laws. My mother-in-law will have very strong feelings about how the house should be designed, since she visits us at least once a year. Make sure that you weigh all of these options carefully and come to the right decision. I, however, retain the right to overrule any choices that you make.

Please don't bother me with small details right now. Your job is to develop the overall plans for the house: get the big picture. At this time, for example, it is not appropriate to be choosing the color of the carpet. However, keep in mind that my wife likes blue.

Also, do not worry at this time about acquiring the resources to build the house itself. Your first priority is to develop detailed plans and specifications. Once I approve these plans, however, I would expect the house to be under roof within 48 hours.

While you are designing this house specifically for me, keep in mind that sooner or later I will have to sell it to someone else. It therefore should have appeal to a wide variety of potential buyers. Please make sure before you finalize the plans that there is a consensus of the population in my area that they like the features this house has.

Please prepare a complete set of blueprints. It is not necessary at this time to do the real design, since they will be used only for construction bids. Be advised, however, that you will be held accountable for any increase of construction costs as a result of later design changes.

You must be thrilled to be working on an interesting project as this! To be able to use the latest techniques and materials and to be given such freedom in your designs is something that can't happen very often. Contact me as soon as possible with your complete ideas and plans.

My wife has just told me that she disagrees with many of the instructions I've given you in this letter. As architect, it is your responsibility to resolve these differences. I have tried in the past and have been unable to accomplish this. If you can't handle this responsibility, I will have to find another architect.

Perhaps what I need is not a house at all, but a travel trailer. Please advise me as soon as possible if this is the case.

Autor: unbekannt