Serialism in the architectural experiments of the 1960s



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Dr. Sandra Kaji-O’Grady, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Architecture Building and Planning, University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria 3052 Australia.

Telephone. +61 3 8344 8763 email: sko@unimelb.edu.au



Serialism in the architectural experiments of the 1960s
Serialism is a technique in which rules are given at the outset of making a creative work to regulate the permutation, combination, frequency, repetition and internal relations of multiple identifiable elements. In serialism, executive systems might be used to regulate one aspect, for example, pitch, or to fully determine formal outcomes including context and performance. John Coplans defines Serial Art in the catalogue to the 1968 exhibition ‘Serial Imagery’ as “identified by a particular inter-relationship, rigorously consistent, of structure and syntax: Serial structures are produced by a single indivisible process that links the internal structure of a work to that of other works within a differentiated whole.”1 The serial work is always multiple, yet unlike earlier art in series, such as Monet’s multiple paintings of a haystack, unification is not through a thematic model. The series poses both a unifying principle by which its elements are related and a differentiating operation by which its elements are divergent. Lacking hierarchy between model and copy, each element in a series refers to and is determined by the proceeding and subsequent element. Series and serialism have been key sites for post-structuralist philosophy, the arts and mathematics because they bring together unity and multiplicity, order and nonsense, repetition and difference.

As a generic technique, serialism is not confined to any discipline or media, but in its application emerges with a specific history within the various creative arts. This history demonstrates the impact disciplinary characteristics and modes have on a common technique. Serial methods were initiated in musical composition in the 1920s and furthered in practice and theory in the 1950s. In the late 1960s exhibitions and essays were devoted to the themes of series and serialism as artists elaborated these techniques according to the opportunities presented by the formal and historical field of the visual. In architecture serialism was neither widely adopted nor given sustained critical attention, yet there are several loosely related experiments in designing using executive procedures. These were informed by precedents in the visual arts rather than music and include John Hejduk’s Texas Houses, undertaken between 1954–1967, and his Diamond Series of 1967–1969, and the Houses of Cards begun in 1967 by Peter Eisenman. Experiments in iterative procedures are taken up in following decades by the Japanese architect, Hiromi Fujii, whose Project Similar Connotation Junction of 1975 leads to more deliberate serialism in his T-projects of the 1980s. Bernard Tschumi advances the use of regulated permutation and combination in his design for La Villette in the 1980s. More recently, the procedural methods of digital architecture have been linked by a number of architects and theorists to serial music. These recent explorations of serialism, however, disregard earlier examples in both art and architecture and misunderstand the consequences of serial methods.2 It is against the contemporary interest in serialism that the need arises for a reconsideration of the interdisciplinary history of serialism. Against the claim that serialism shares with the procedural methods of digital architecture the adoption of an asignifying origin or starting point, the argument will be made that serialism works in reverse.3 Serialism operates within and at the limits of representational systems in order to reveal, and revel in, the arbitrary foundations of signification. It produces non-semantic organizations through the subjection of elements of epistemological systems to rigorous re-ordering. Eisenman and his critics, in speaking of his recent activities, assert generative, rule-based methods produce buildings without reference to the technical or cultural history or knowledge of architecture.4 Yet the attack on representation serialism entails, requires the material and conventions of representational systems. Only against sense is non-sense apparent. Perhaps more than any other architectural moment, the serial work requires knowledge of the history and theory of twentieth-century music, art and architecture for its appreciation and this I will outline prior to examining the phenomena in architecture.

Serial methods in musical composition originate in 1923 with the ‘classical serialism’ associated with the Viennese school of Schoenberg, Berg and Webern and later Messiaen. These composers pioneered the use of numerical relations to organize notes. The word ‘series’ was used by Schoenberg to describe a “composition with twelve notes related only to each other.”5 From the 1950s, serial strategies were expanded to all aspects of musical composition including rhythm, periodicity and pitch, instrumental configurations and performance, in the compositions of Babbit, Stockhausen, Wuorinen, Nancarrow and most famously Messaien’s pupil, Pierre Boulez. Rules are rigorously conceived and followed to eliminate chance and prohibit authorial intervention. The results are somewhat unpredictable, but far from arbitrary, unlike the experiments in the aleatory undertaken by John Cage. The idea of a masterpiece and the corollary that behind every work of art lies a genius from wherein the work ‘authentically’ springs is actively questioned.

Serial strategies herald the abandonment of themes in contemporary music and have been compared to the renouncement of objects and figures in abstract art. As the serial ordering is mostly inaudible and occasionally unplayable, critics accuse it of being unintelligible noise, preoccupied with technical mannerisms.6 Boulez himself conceded an “uncomfortable period” before listeners would catch up.7 For Lévi-Strauss, an astute critic of serial music, there is no question of catching up since for him, listening habits run deeper—they have biological origins, and relinquishing these origins is done at the expense of communicability. Lévi-Strauss argues that while serialism resembles structuralism in its rigorous method and systematic organization, the two are opposites, since the systematic order of serial works bears no content and operates without origin or purpose. He condemns serial music as “a system adrift . . . like a sailless ship” in which the crew is subjected to elaborate protocols intended to distract them from thinking about their origins or destination.8 Lévi-Strauss’s thesis is that meaning arises from the location of a work within a field of differences amongst other bounded works. The serialist work makes of itself a field of differences and internal relations and is thus found to be “floundering in non-significance”.9

Lévi-Strauss’ intervention, curiously in a book on the myths of the Bororo, is provoked by Boulez’ infiltration of the structuralists’ world—the composer had been publishing in Tel Quel and his claims for serialism generated widespread interest amongst European intellectuals. Consequently, serial music generates two parallel, and for the next two decades, independent, considerations of the series—its uptake in the visual arts and, in philosophy, the strategic substitution of structure by series in the writings of the poststructuralists Derrida and Deleuze.10 Derrida and Deleuze agree with Lévi-Strauss’s perception of the challenge serialism poses for representation but applaud its value. For them, the series as a chain of simulacra, offers an alternative to the mimetic structure of model and copy, form and content, that dominates philosophy since Plato and renders artistic representation inferior to use and manufacture.

Serialism’s disruption of meaning is more pronounced in the visual arts and literature than music. Serialism became a theme of criticism and exhibition in the late 1960s.11 Artists including Mel Bochner, Sol LeWitt, Hanne Darboven, Karen Shaw, On Kawara, and Donald Judd experimented with serial methods. Serial Art aims to expand abstraction’s attack on representation and mimesis, at the same time as it responds to the crisis in painting engendered by formalist criticism and the exhaustion of Abstract Expressionism. Serial Art rejects the formalist conception of composition as an intuitive process directed towards meaning. Serialism was perceived by Mel Bochner and other artists as a way of overcoming the privilege of appearance and the dominant discourse on iconology, style and historical importance. What matters for Bochner is the methodology or “attitude” entailed in serialism, not what is produced through it.12

Unlike music, serial art operates outside its traditional media, with the material or elements of systems of signification and epistemological knowledge—with numerals, systems of measurement, the alphabet, words, grammars, the basic elements of geometry, dates, maps and lists, historical archives, addresses, optical systems, the color wheel, etc. For this reason one critic referred to it as “epistemological conceptualism.”13 The conventional tie between signifier and signified is severed as the serialist system produces new nonsensical combinations with the material and visual phenomena of systems of signification. The products of Serial Art, for example, Karen Shaw’s “translations” of prices on supermarket receipts into poetry, frequently overlap with the literary experiments of the Oulipo and Concrete Poets whose interest in the textual excess of language provoked similar graphic play, anti-grammatical recombination and use of repetition. Serial art and literature, like music, have been attacked for being overly cerebral, but are more likely, because of the use significant elements, to be puzzling, demanding, absurd and witty. Serialism distorts mathematical logic and systematic knowledge and takes these towards the nonsensical and the obsessive, in the process revealing the impossibility of pure logic and transparent meaning and the arbitrariness of systems of knowledge.

In Serial Art the systematic processes used are visible in the outcome and figure as the subject and medium of the work. In Sol LeWitt’s permutational wall drawings, for example, calculations and instructions needed to produce the work are presented, duplicating or decoding the work, and sometimes, in fact, are the work. The permutation of graphic elements is furthered by the regulation of spatial and temporal contexts in LeWitt’s work, for example, the gallery, the frame, the pages of a book or the time taken to draw a line might figure as elements within the serial structure. Serial art is characterised by its condensation of structure, object and concept into a tangled matrix of repetitions, variations and deviations. Bochner claims that this condensation produces “self-contained and non-referential” art.14 He justifies this solipsism as prompted by the insufficiency of reality, the artist only recognizes the self-enclosed confines of the mind.15

For critic and theorist Rosalind Krauss, the solipsistic tendency of serial art, and she was particularly concerned with Frank Stella’s Protractor Series of paintings of 1967-–1969, leads to the point where serialization itself becomes the medium and painting approaches the diagram or the condition of mathematical formula. She worries that the substitution of vision as the heuristic mode for conditions outside of the material factum of the work threatens the future of painting. For her, both the painting’s presence and the viewer’s physical presence to it are no longer part of its meaning.16 Unlike the Benjaminian loss of aura entailed by the condition of modernity and the technologies of reproduction, Krauss discerns in serialism a deliberate subversion of painting’s own aura. Her view of this as a negative condition, a loss, is inconsistent with the poststructuralist view (that she later adopts) that aura is always illusory and cultivated. Serial Art rejects the modernist idea that the work is to be completed by the viewer and puts in place a situation in which the system exceeds the viewer. This is not to say that Serial Artists ignore perceptual qualities and contexts for viewing since the paradox between visual conundrum and systematic logic is frequently at the core of the work’s success.

Architecture provides another context but one in which Krauss’s comments maintain relevance. When writing about Eisenman’s Houses of Cards, Krauss refers, however, not to her previous critical engagement with serialism in art, but to structural linguistics.17 Eisenman’s vociferous devotion to structuralist and later, poststructuralist, texts supports such a reading. Under the sway of postmodern historicism and semiotic theory, architectural experiments in the setting of executive procedures were largely misunderstood as perversions of linguistic analogy and viewed in isolation from serialism in other media. Eisenman’s insights are indebted though to conceptual art. His 1971 essay arguing for a conceptual architecture establishes the importance of artists LeWitt and Kenneth Noland in the development of his theoretical position.18 John Hejduk, architect and teacher, is of equal importance.19

John Hejduk’s seven ‘Texas Houses’, begun in 1954, manipulate a nine-square grid using procedures of combination and variation, yet without regard for the relations between the houses.20 Location in the series is only chronologically determined. Like a series of paintings by Monet they are thematically linked, yet Hejduk makes two significant advances. Without commissioning clients or site, Hejduk is at liberty to treat the division and organisation of internal space as an abstract exercise in which mathematical consistency overrides programmatic and experiential imperatives. Secondly, although the houses evince a concern with steel-frame construction, their fate was the page and the book, permitting the uncoupling of architectural drawing from building-referent. The drawings, and this is even more marked in the ‘Three Projects’ of 1967, refer back and forth to each other, rather than to an aspired whole constituted by, and to which each drawing refers. In Projects A, B and C the elements in series are not so much the alphabetically numbered projects, whose totality remains elusive, as the numerically denoted pages, each an axonometric of one of several floors.21 These first two series bear a formal resemblance to modernist examples, yet what emerges through them undermines design as a process in rational problem-solving and architecture as the aestheticisation of construction, of form following function. Where repetition and variation in the modernist method proceeds through elimination and substitution towards a final solution, Hejduk offers repetitions and variations without hierarchy, sequence, value or conclusion. These first experiments are closer to his subsequent flight into the figurative and symbolic potential of architectural drawing, than they are to the late modernist architecture of his peers.

Where Hejduk exploits the gap between drawing and building, Eisenman’s emphasis is on the gap between function and its representation. He seizes upon the historic assumption that, unlike mere building, architecture, in addition to accommodating use, represents this capacity. This suggests the possibility that conventional signs of function can be in used in ways bearing no causal relationship with physical use. The unfounded and arbitrary basis of rational thought as the basis of design procedures is exposed opening the way to alternative methods of composition.

In serial architecture, geometry operates as a kind of representational surplus manipulated according to determinative rules independently from program. Eisenman and, after him, Fujii, have claimed that geometry itself is non-referential and meaningless and favor the grid and the cube as the geometrical forms of greatest neutrality. Of course, the grid and the cube are anything but void of historical associations and the use of intersected, repeated and divided cubes and grids in serial architecture references modernist composition. It is also possible, as Fujii and Eisenman, later discover, that repetition can erode the coded meanings that accrue to geometric forms leading to a situation where the viewer apprehends only a principle governing the regulation of form.22 Eisenman makes this discovery through the labor of working on the Houses of Cards.

Each of the Houses of Cards is sequentially numbered as a series, yet no overarching procedure is evident, rather there are aspects of serialism in Eisenman’s use of strategies of repetition and difference within each work. This is evident in the retrospective diagrams of all but the last house published in Artforum in 1981.23 Unlike examples found in serial music or art, in which each element is of equal status, the axonometric drawings ranged across the page are conceived within a process of development towards a final state. Houses 1—VI proceed from a cube, a primary state, through a process of transformation to a more complex divided volume which is nominated as the building and the process is restarted for each house. These are not so much exercises in permutation as sequences demonstrating the cumulative effect of iterative and additive procedures. As demonstrated by the “flicker film” of House IV presented at the 1973 Triennale, Eisenman conceived the sequence of drawings as akin to cinematic frames depicting unfolding motion.24

Where the flicker film pursues an idealized linear trajectory, the matrix of procedures shown in the presentation of House IV, demonstrates paths leading to multiple outcomes, the course bearing the greatest number of successive operations leading to House IV itself. After House VI, Eisenman expressed dissatisfaction at the teleological and linear nature of the process of beginning with a simple cube and through various interpositions arriving at a complex form. The techniques used in the first six houses are close to serial art, particularly in their solipsism, but remain compositional in the sense that they pursue the internal history of the object from a pure origin or ground zero. Eisenman suggests a process of “decomposition” which begin with a “heuristic approximation of an end” and involves “a minus vector returning to the ground zero which is now the object.”25 In decomposition the object and the process occupy the same time and space. Decomposition involves a succession of “discrete serial units” or “pieces as a series of fragments” with “a strong sense of immanent order” yet the pieces in this process would not be perceptible in the resultant object.26 The houses undertaken after House VI test these decompositional strategies. House X begins with four el-shapes conceived as a “set of limits, an end point not an origin.”27 Unlike the supposedly neutral cube, the four el-shapes imply for him a history of transformational moves.28 From these els he poses alternative configurations that do not correspond to the previous configuration but which have an aspect that looks like the result of a transformational process. House X is, he tells us, a “series of traces” which “refer in a sense forward to a more complex and incomplete structure rather than backward to a unitary, simple, and stable structure.”29 House X demonstrates the limits of this process since in the last stages Eisenman reverts to traditional compositional tactics of elaboration. He introduces openings and structural elements, pulls and pushes the quadrants away from and towards the center, and experiments with framing or not framing the glass els that occupy the center.

Despite the limitations and inconsistencies in Eisenman’s method his is one of the most significant experiments in architecture of the post-war period. Much as he might be criticised for abandoning the rules when it suits and for publicly reconstructing the design process to conform to theoretical ambitions, the Houses of Cards constitute a concerted attack on design as a rational and object-oriented activity. When Eisenman abandoned decomposition for what he referred to as the “archaeological” and textual method of the next decade, critics such as John Whiteman applauded the move.30 Whiteman praised him for giving up a single sense ambition for “more difficult conceptions of symbolism, such as metaphor and metonymy, where the logic of the material and the logic of meaning are allowed to be disjoint rather than coherent in some way.”31 For Whiteman, the increase in complexity in the houses of the previous series “reflects the strain of the ambition to achieve architectural sense within pure and singular order.”32

Eisenman’s Houses of Cards look strained if conceived as a search for pure order, but understood as a condensation of geometric order in an incessant and senseless iteration, akin to Serial art’s disruption of meaning, it can be seen that their straining is exactly where they succeed. Through the formulation of the design process as a series of moves without foundation or purpose but pursued with obsessive rigor, Eisenman produced architectures of chattering and disturbing nonsense. The Houses of Cards are more difficult and important than his later work. This moment in architecture, like its correlative in music and visual art, does not herald some kind of disciplinary end as its more melodramatic critics and advocates would have it. Nor is it the more benign problem of audiences “catching up”. Rather, the possibility of an architecture that is a fictional construct without necessity, depth or teleology becomes admissible and in this admission certainty must be abandoned. Other design methods are simply that, no longer truths.

Serialism is not, however, simply a critique or negative of representation and composition. In place of the singularity and self-containment of structure, the serial produces multiplicity and expansiveness. Serialism demands not only that we recognize the ways in which say, Hejduk’s Texas Houses or Eisenman’s Houses of Cards constitute a series, a series that even now might be continued, but to see that there are, as Deleuze says, always more than one series. The serial form is “essentially multi-serial”.33 Not content with the series as a linear organization of repeated deviations considered in isolation from other series, Deleuze insists that there are always multiple series and that these are constantly on the move, transforming themselves, intersecting with each other, diverging and generating further series. It is a vision promoting consideration of the serial operations observable between different works of art, different artists and between the serial productions of different mediums and disciplines. From this point of view, the linear interdisciplinary history of serialism I have given here might be re-written to trace the ripples travelling in other directions. Another history of serialism might work from Eisenman’s serial architecture to the artists who saw his diagrams in Artforum or from LeWitt’s linear serial drawings to the music Laurie Anderson composed when she approached these as a score. An other history might abandon disciplinary boundaries altogether, placing emphasis on the hybrid forms fostered by the serial method, for example, LeWitt’s collaboration with Lucinda Childs in the performance Dance (1979) and Hanne Darboven’s practice of performing and recording her compositions in addition to exhibiting them as visual pieces in art galleries.34

It might be concluded that in its open-endedness, mobility and technical neutrality, serialism belongs to no medium or period, nor single history, but productively up-ends all systems and practices of knowledge. Yet while the serial method or technique can be articulated outside of individual works and across disciplines, the specific disciplinary histories and chosen media, to some extent determine its potential and effects. No two serial works are identical and the impossibility of repeating the same is at the very heart of the concept of series. Serialism uncovers the impossibility of a purely conceptual structure and demonstrates the contingency of representation upon a material condition threatening to explode it from within. Serialism as a term and a practice is unstable for it is always being tested in new uses, be they in the arts or in critical attempts at theorization.

In the face of the recent appropriations of serialism as the parent of procedural methods in digital design, its relation to epistemological systems must be re-asserted. Common ground for the spread of serial techniques can be found in the philosophical context in which Art generally has been framed as representation in the history of Western thought. It is both within that context and against it that each of the arts has found serialism strategic and productive. The paradox of the critique of representation carried out by serialism is that it must only be partially successful. Its capacity to reflect upon representation can only be carried out through the material of representation, at the same time maintaining these as systems without foundation. In this sense, Hejduk and Eisenman exercised their critique of architectural meaning from within the loaded contexts of architecture’s history, geometry and presentation techniques.




1 J. Coplans, Serial Imagery, Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, CA, 1968, p. 11.

2 Jeffrey Kipnis, for example, likens Eisenman’s use of computers in the design process to the serial compositional processes of Schoenberg and Boulez. [J. Kipnis, ‘P-Tr’s Progress’, El Croquis, Special Issue: Peter Eisenman, no. 83, 1997, p. 41]. Markus Bandur makes a larger claim for “the similarity of the aesthetic appearance in musical serialism and deconstructivist architecture.” An otherwise useful account of serial music, particularly the part played by composers in Germany, Bandur unfortunately reduces serialism to an aesthetic and misreads its intentions and effects [M. Bandur., Aesthetics of Total Serialism: Contemporary Research from Music to Architecture, Birkhäuser, Basel, p.75]

3 Eisenman has spoken of his quest for ‘asignifying’ form, an indistinct and malleable envelope derived from parameters of site and program that is elaborated through repeated manipulations. The term ‘asignificant’, taken from Deleuze, refers to neutral matter prior to and outside of systems of representation. [P. Eisenman, ‘Processes of the Interstitial’, El Croquis, no. 83, 1997, pp. 21–35].

4 P. Eisenman and A. Zaero-Polo, ‘A Conversation with Peter Eisenman’, El Croquis, no. 83, 1997.

5 Schoenberg quoted without source in P. Boulez, Stocktakings from an apprenticeship, trans. S. Walsh, Clarendon Press, Oxford, 1991, p. 234.

6 Nicholas Tawa’s chapter ‘Insular Modernism’ repeats many of the criticisms made by numerous non-serialist composers of the period as well as adding to these his own and can be seen as fairly typical of the opposition serialism received, particularly in America were it was viewed with suspicion as European. [N. Tawa, American Composers and their Public: A Critical Look, The Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, N. J., 1995, pp. 172–203.]

7 P. Boulez and M. Foucault, ‘Contemporary Music and the Public’, trans. J. Rahn, Perspectives of New Music, no. 24, Fall-Winter 1985 (1983), p. 12. This is an interview originally published in CNAC magazine.

8 Lévi-Strauss, ‘Overture,’ in The Raw and the Cooked: Introduction to a Science of Mythology: I, trans.J. and D. Weightman, Jonathan Cape, London, 1970, p. 25.

9 Lévi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked, p. 23.

10 The status of the serial in post-structuralist philosophy, particularly in the work of Deleuze and Derrida, is a subject deserving sustained attention that can only be touched upon here. Deleuze’s Difference and Repetition (1968) and The Logic of Sense (1969) offer two related arguments for considering the serial form. The first text, arguing that difference is an originary condition and effect of repetition, uses the serial form to describe the relations between different elements constituted through the force of repetition. The second text, arguing that sense is an attribute of propositions that Platonism overlooks, claims that sense develops internal paradoxes that take a serial form. Seriality features in Jacques Derrida’s texts primarily in his attempt to rethink how language and meaning function in the wake of Structuralism. Derrida engages with examples of serialism in art and architecture in ‘Cartouches’ (1977–78), his review of the work of artist Gerard Titus-Carmel and the essay ‘Point de folie—Maintenant l’architecture’ (1986), an essay written on the occasion of the exhibition of Bernard Tschumi’s design of the Parc de la Villette at the Architecture Association. Of particular interest is Derrida’s recognition that series are at once temporal and spatial and that, in addition to the kinds of series constituted by positive elements or markers, there are series made up of spaces, voids, intervals and gestures. For the chains of interruptions, hiatuses or absences at work in texts he invents the neologism “seriature”, a series of erasures, as developed in the essay ‘At this very moment in this work here I am’ for the anthology Textes pour Emmanuel Levinas (1980).

11 The first group exhibitions which showed serial works were in New York and include “Ten” (Dwan Gallery, 1966), “Systemic Painting” (Guggenheim Museum, 1966) and “Primary Structures” (1966, The Jewish Museum). The following years saw the exhibition “Art in Series” (Finch College Museum,1967) and “Serial Imagery” (Pasadena Art Museum, 1968). The catalogue essay to the exhibition “American Sculpture of the Sixties” (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1967) by Lawrence Alloway is titled ‘Serial Forms.’ A great deal of serial art work has featured in retrospectives on the art of the period including a number of smaller shows focussed on seriality including “Repetition” (Hirschl and Adler Modern, 1989), “Series and Sequences” (National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1992). “Multiple Images” (The Museum of Modern Art, New York,1993), “Sequence and Narrative” (Susan Sheehan Gallery, 1995), “Drawings, Structures, Relations” (I. C., New York, 1995), “Systematic” (1997), “The Serial Attitude” (Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, Mass., 1997) “Sequences” (Editions Schellman, New York, 1998) and “Afterimage: Drawing through Process and Primarily Structural” (Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, 1999).

12 Mel Bochner, The Serial Attitude’, Artforum, vol. 6, no. 4, December 1967, p. 28.

13 Robert Pincus-Witten used the term “epistemological Conceptualism.” Serial Art is also termed “cool-art” (Irving Sandler), ‘systemic art’ (Lawrence Alloway and Nicolas Calas) and “ABC art” (Barbara Rose). Serial art was sometimes referred to as a sub-genre of minimalism and conceptual art, broad approaches which themselves were given several names.

14 M. Bochner, ‘Serial Art, Systems, Solipsism’, Arts Magazine, Summer, 1967 revised version reprinted in Minimal Art: A Critical Anthology, ed G. Battock, E.P.Dutton, New York, 1968, p. 102.

15 Bochner, ‘Serial Art, Systems, Solipsism’, p. 102.

16 R. Krauss, ‘Stella’s New Work and the Problem of Series’, Artforum, December 1971, p. 44.

17 Eisenman had considerable intellectual support from Rosalind Krauss who writes that over a period of ten years they were in “critical, intellectual tandem” and intermittently came together for direct discussion. [R. Krauss, ‘Death of a Hermeneutic Phantom: Materialisation of the Sign in the Work of Peter Eisenman’ in Houses of Cards, P. Eisenman, Oxford University Press, New York, 1987, p. 25.]

18 P. Eisenman, ‘Notes on Conceptual Architecture: Towards a Definition’, Casabella, no. 359–360, 1971, pp. 51–57.

19 Eisenman is commonly portrayed as a lone voice amongst the prevailing postmodern historicism of the period, his closest allegiances being with modernists Terragni, Corbusier and Rietveld. Paolo Portoghesi, for example, describes Eisenman’s research during the period of designing the Houses of Cards as conducted “in a total vacuum” and compares his endeavor to the activities of a “condemned man in his cell” tormented by his own shadows. [P. Portoghesi, Dopo l’architettura moderna, Bari, Laterza, 1980, p. 123 cited in M. Tafuri, ‘Peter Eisenman: The Meditations of Icarus’, trans. S. Sartarelli in Houses of Cards, P. Eisenman, Oxford University Press, New York, 1987, f. 5, p. 187.] This was despite Eisenman’s very public acknowledgement of his debt to Hejduk in directing the exhibition of Hejduk’s seven houses in 1980, the year of designing House El Even Odd. Eisenman wrote a critical essay for the catalogue, one of the few undertaken on a contemporary architect.

20 See John Hejduk, John Hejduk: Seven Houses, Catalogue 12, The Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, New York, 1980.

21 J. Hejduk, Three Projects, The Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture, New York, 1969.

22 See H. Fujii, ‘Deconstruction through Differentiation—Metamorphology, Desemiotization, Traces and Deconstruction’, The Japan Architect, September1985, p. 24–27 and H. Fujii, ‘Architectural Metamorphology’, Oppositions, no. 22, 1980, pp. 15–23.

23 The houses are published under the title ‘Transformations, Decomposition and Critiques’ in Artforum, no. 19, March 1981, pp. 48–51. The Houses are: House 1 (actually a toy museum); House II (1969–70), commissioned by and constructed for the Falk family in Hardwick, Vermont; House III (1969–71) for the Miller family in Lakeville, Connecticut; House IV (1971) unbuilt; House V (1972) unbuilt; House VI (1972-76) is for the Frank family as a weekender in Cornwall, Connecticut; House VII, undated, takes the form of a text; House VIII (1975) unbuilt, House IX, there is no House IX, House X (1975–1977) House X, commissioned by the Aronoff family for a site in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, but not built; House IIa (1978) for the Forsters in Palo Alto, California, but not realized; House El even odd (1980) and Fin d’Ou T Hou S (1983).

24 Comprising one thousand frames of the drawings with a blank frame interspersed between each image he hoped to achieve an effect of motion and pulsation. The apparent linear process of the series of moves made by each successive diagram proved, however, to not be linear at all since continuity eluded the film. Intervals between stages in the building’s transformation emerged as inconsistent and the sequences were jerky. It is telling though that Eisenman envisioned a legible, continuous and linear unfolding in time

25 P. Eisenman, ‘The Futility of Objects: Decomposition and processes of differentiation’, Lotus International, no. 42, February 1984, p. 66–67.

26 Eisenman, ‘The Futility of Objects’, pp. 64–65.

27 P. Eisenman, House X, New York, Rizzoli, 1981, p. 56.

28 Eisenman, House X, p. 56.

29 Eisenman, House X, p. 48.

30 In subsequent projects Eisenman introduced arbitrary as well as contextual “found” texts into the design process, for example, the Columbus city grid in the design of the Wexner Center for the Visual Arts, Columbus, Ohio (1980-86) and literary texts such as in the Romeo and Juliet Project for the Third International Exhibition of Architecture, Venice Biennale (1980-86).

31 J. Whiteman, ‘Criticism, Representation and Experience in Contemporary Architecture: Architecture and Drawing in an Age of Criticism’, The Harvard Architecture Review, vol. 6, 1987, p. 140.

32 Whiteman, ‘Criticism, Representation and Experience’, p. 140.

33 Deleuze, G., The Logic of Sense, trans. M. Lester with C. Stivale, Columbia University Press, New York, 1990 (1969), p. 37.

34 Hanne Darboven’s Wende>80< (1980–81) was made by assigning a note to each numeral, then calculating a numerical account of each date in a year and then composing the sequence of numerals/notes as a score. The score was exhibited as 416 pages and is recorded on 11 long-playing records (an edition of 250 was pressed).


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