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jueves, 1 de septiembre de 2011


de Peter Eisenman

Kenneth Frampton

It is fitting that this house was completed just before the publication of Charles Jencks's influential survey, The Language of Post -Modern Architecture (1977), for if anything presaged the advent of postmodernism it is surely the Frank House, numbered by the architect as part of a didactic series. Coming into being after nearly four decades of the functionalist modern movement, when the ideas of the European avant-garde were disseminated in the United States, House VI was part of an effort to bring this tradition to closure by self-consciously departing from the socially ameliorative and liberative promise of the original movement toward a more formal, post-humanist attitude.

In this regard House VI participates in the postmodernist ethos since there is little evidence here of the utopian thrust that is still implicit in the late New Deal work of certain European emigrés. One thinks in particular of the early partnership of Walter Gropius and Marcel Breuer or of the later collaboration between Serge Chermayeff and Christopher Alexander. This utopian line begins to lose its conviction in the 1960s, in part, at least, due to the neo-cubist aestheticism of the so-called New York Five, of which Eisenman was a prime mover.

In certain respects House VI may be seen as an extremely subtle reinterpretation and synthesis of the work of two seminal avant-garde architects of the prewar period: the Dutch De Stijl architect Gerrit Rietveld and Italian Rationalist GiuseppeTerragni. One particular work by Terragni haunted Eisenman throughout his early career, namely, the Giuliani Frigerio apartments completed on the shores of lake Como in 1939-40.

House VI emerges out of a fusion between two equally radical yet somewhat antithetical concepts, on the one hand Terragni's preoccupation with layered-rotational space, lying just behind the outer face of the building, and on the other Rietveld's ultimate exercise in centrifugal composition, his canonical Rietveld-Schroeder House built in Utrecht in 1924. House VI appears as an amalgamation of the two concepts in that the stair hall of the Giuliani Frigerio block is condensed, so to speak, into the cross-axial plane of House VI. This aspatial planar gesture denies, as it were, the core of spiralling space, taken from the Rietveld-Schroeder House, that would otherwise account for the pinwheeling dispersal of its elements around the periphery of House VI.

Aside from this deliberate conceptual disjunction, House VI asserts itself as a minimalist work that, like the artworks of such artists as Sol Lewitt, Donald Judd, Ad Reinhardt, and Barnett Newman, insists on its own factual formal autonomy, renouncing the potentially expressive figuration of functionalist form. Yet while Eisenman systematically denied the utopian promise of the International Style architecture of the 1930s, he was equally distanced from the theosophic modernism of painters like Piet Mondrian and Kasimir Malevich. The cosmogonic, primary colors of Dr. Schoenmaeker's Christosophy have been replaced in House VI by indexically coded green and red stairs, the former serving quite literally to connect the floors of the house, the latter being a mirror image suspended over the dining hall as an inaccessible, Escher-like anti-stair.

Eisenman writes of this inversion with all the syntactic rigor of a serial musician unwilling to make pragmatic concessions to Norbet Weiner's "human use of human beings," a view that still prevailed in the sixties as an ameliorative aspiration. In the mid-seventies Eisenman wrote of turning the space of his houses inside out and of thus beginning the experiential narrative of the concept from the center outward. This is the ostensible rationale for painting the interior of House VI white and the exterior gray, implying that one is outside when one is inside and vice versa. In this way the house is elaborately color-coded so that one may perceive the white cruciform planar elements of the interior penetrating to the exterior and so on. Experientially, the building is as much about "absences" as "presences," with vertical, floor-to-ceiling windows and interior slots standing for absent walls and vice versa.

This dichotomous prescription favors the axonometric projection adopted by the prewar avant-garde, a form of projection that conveniently allows one to distance oneself from the spatial experience of the object. Through this heuristic device combining both the orthogonal and the diagonal projection, Eisenman sustained the process of binomial subdivision that appears to have determined the formal order of the house. Hence the provision of glass slots in the walls, floors, and ceilings, which create a kind of virtual architecture, a desiccated house within a house, unparalleled in contemporary production except perhaps in the metamorphological approach of the Japanese architect Hiromi Fujii.

Perhaps in no other building has Eisenman arrived at such a dense orchestration of impacted form, comprised simultaneously of precisely interrelated planes, transparencies, volumes, and masses. In this sense the work is unique and deserves to be ranked with the equally canonical works from which it derives its inspiration and possibly with other pioneering minimalist pieces of a very different genre, such as Mies van der Rohe's Farnsworth House of 1951.

La información procede del libro American Masterworks editado por Kenneth Frampton y David Larkin y publicado por Thames and Hudson.

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