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


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