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Giuseppe Terragni: Transformations, Decompositions: Critiques [Englisch] [Gebundene Ausgabe]

Peter Eisenman

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15. September 2003
Forty years in the making, Giuseppe Terragni: Transformations, Decompositions, Critiques documents and investigates two of Italian rationalist architect Giuseppe Terragni's masterworks: the Casa del Fascio (1933-36) and the Casa Giuliani-Frigerio (1939-40), both in Como. This far-reaching study -- illustrated with more than five hundred original architectural diagrams and archival photographs -- employs what Eisenman calls critical and textual reading of both buildings. He attempts to broaden the definition of the formal from a narrow aesthetic and compositional view to include first the conceptual and then the textual. It is through this idea of the textual that Eisenman begins to define an idea of the critical in architecture.

Eisenman's methodology is wholly removed from traditional approaches -- social, historical, aesthetic, functional. Instead, the various articulations and openings on the facades constitute a set of marks, notations that provide the basis for his analysis. In the Casa del Fascio, for example, each of the four sequential design schemes records the previous state, encoding the process of transformation in the final building. In the Casa Giuliani-Frigerio it is instead the process of decomposition that generates the facades. Also included in the book are an essay by Terragni and a critique by Manfredo Tafuri. In the end, it is the dual protagonists -- the architect and the author -- who together establish a new theoretical and analytical framework.


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Peter Eisenman is principal of Eisenman Architects in New York, Louis I. Kahn Professor of Architecture at Yale University, the author of a great number of books and articles, and the subject of many others, including Blurred Zones: Investigations of the Interstitial; Eisenman Architects 1988-1998.

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1.0 von 5 Sternen Wasted Effort - Don't Waste Your's 19. März 2004
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
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For a book that was 40 years in the making, it tells us little about Terragni, but a great deal about Eisenman. So much so, one wonders whether this was in fact the purpose of the book. As usual, Eisenman busies himself 'decoding' things that were never coded in the first place. Eisenman never saw a wall he wasn't willing to develop a theory about. - Often, - where none was intended by Terragni - Eisenman steps in to fill the void with his own irrational and highly subjective musings. True to form Eisenman adds a whole slew of invented words into his text. Diagrams of Eisenman's own design are selectively overlaid on photos and plans to support Eisenman's theory of the month. The usual architectural gibberish abounds. And the author grabs at any fashionable social, critical, cultural or mathematical theory available to agrandize himself (or his intellectual view of himself) and seem more intelligent than he is. In the end, he offers little or nothing (nothing useful that is) to an understanding of Terragni's work. Most interestingly, Eisenman never once documents that he finds the building beautiful. Perhaps he was so busy ratifying obscure positions, he failed to identify the underlying aesthetic ideal that Terragni surely had in mind. Thus, it is a thoroughly joyless book. One wonders how someone could spend 40 years researching a subject and fail to convey any sense of enthusiasm or delight in the Casa Del Fascio. (I read this book as part of my Master's Program researching Italian Rationalism. There are a great number of writers who have much to say about the style. Eisenman is not one of them.)
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1.0 von 5 Sternen Useful Drawings but Worthless 'Analysis' 22. Oktober 2005
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Over the years (decades actually), Peter Eisenman's "Terragni" took on something of the urban myth, an elusive, unpublished work, supposedly of great genius. Draft copies were jealously hoarded by a few insiders adding to the myth. Now, after 40 years, it appears in print, no longer only the stuff of legend, but an actuality exposed to real scrutiny. Frankly, the wait has not been worth it. Exhaustively drafted from every conceivable projection and angle, the images of the building are accompanied by a text (a `critical text', the author repeatedly informs us), that pushes the limits only of the ridiculous. For example: the plan of the Casa del Fascio, Eisenman "discovers", is a square, or rather, almost a square. In order to satisfy Eisenman's supposition, the true square, it seems, is realized only when particular window is opened fully to the 90 degree position, thereby implying a volumetric extension of the building, which then completes the so-called purity of the geometry. The fact that other windows on other sides of the building might also be opened at the same time thereby undermining the purported geometrical purity, does not seemed to have occurred to the author so blinded is he by the supposed brilliance of this, the most pretentious of studies. Numerous equally untenable speculations flesh out the remainder of this overwrought, but ultimately fruitless examination. Terragni's classical parti is studiously avoided by the author who is largely ignorant of the precepts that underlie this, the most basic formal arrangement that Terragni carried through his design. Eisenman stretches similar guesswork beyond the point of irritation as though insulting the intelligence of his readers is one of the underlying purposes of this book. In the architectural industry, asinine speculation, masquerading as theory or as philosophical inquiry, are now the norm. This particular book has been billed as Peter Eisenman's "eagerly awaited magnum opus". Certainly the Casa del Fascio is deserving of study. However, if perchance "Giuseppe Terragni: Transformations, Decompositions, Critiques" does achieve long-lasting fame, it can only be for becoming the late 20th Century's high water mark of architectural pretentiousness and unbounded historical ignorance. [One star for the drawings; zero stars for the text.]
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1.0 von 5 Sternen Magnum Obfuscation 8. April 2004
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If you absolutely have nothing better to do one day, try wading through Eisenman's prolix and heavily befogged dissection of his own crudely assembled `theoretical' positions. It is one of the failings of current architectural writing that it's authors seem compelled to make seemingly simple things unnecessarily complex. And to an intelligent reader, (i.e. one not taken in by the industry's self-laudatory stances), it is evident that few of these authors have anything worthwhile to offer real architectural or urban discourse. In the world of contemporary architectural speculation, Peter Eisenman is the weakest of the amateur-hour theorists playing word games in the quasi-philosophical sandbox. Of his many failings, the most pernicious is that he lacks the basic ability to distinguish between assumption and fact. And lacking any really systematic approach to reasoning, (quasi-Derrida one day, pseudo-Foucault the next - all, incidentally, deeply misunderstood), he takes the usual academic low road of clouding his conjectural positions in vague and deliberately impenetrable prose. Remarkably unreasonable and capricious suppositions are here presented as though a valid design methodology. Never one to be phased by a lack of substantive evidence, Eisenman merely invents a loosely-fitting diagram to substantiate his thesis. (His improbable dotted lines and diagonals may seem to suggest great import, but the careful reader will have fun spotting the many inconsistencies and contradictions in the logic that is randomly applied.) - Not to put to fine a point on it, this book is nonsense overly dressed up in obtuse semantic verbiage. There is nothing of value in this bloated and extremely tedious volume.
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1.0 von 5 Sternen Opera Buffa 6. November 2004
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Eisenman dissects the Casa Del Fascio as a pathologist would examine a corpse. In simplistic diagrams the building's parts are duly chronicled in uninspired prose. One is left with the impression that he has examined a piece of graph paper with coordinates and alignments. That the building represented human endeavor, or embodied cultural aspirations seems lost on Eisenman in this humdrum attempt at scholarship.

Knowing the nihilistic, anti-human qualities of Eisenman's superficial approach to design, and the ever-mutable "logic" in his work, this is no surprise. He lacks any intuitive understanding of space or scale and a lifetime of pretentious writing has not equipped him for the serious task at hand. Ever since Eisenman indulged himself placing columns in the middle of a client's dining table, he has gotten away with his preposterous intellectual gimmickry, passing it off as "challenging", the stock-in-trade excuse for ridiculous and contrived design. [Interestingly, when it came to his own apartment, Eisenman handed off the work to another firm who produced a fairly cozy design. This hypocrisy shows a lack of sincerity in his unrefined speculations, and no thinking person should ever take Eisenman seriously again.]

This lowbrow rhetoric has served as a handy tool for the mediocre academic whose primary audience is susceptible students. But Eisenman's shaky credibility is rapidly and thankfully waning, the result of absurd quasi-intellectual hypotheses which produced crude buildings, no single one of which has achieved enduring respect. Revisionist histories already marginalize him as a sideshow huckster, an irritating distraction from more meaningful debates developing elsewhere. Worried about this legacy, and trying to curtail a widening flow of criticism about his crumbling oeuvre, the Terragni book supposedly was his pitch to more lasting fame. But this bumbling attempt at scholarship fails as a serious academic study more rapidly than his buildings failed as credible works of architecture.

Eisenman never understood the crucial difference between diagrams and buildings. This lethargic and unperceptive book offers tedious quantities of them in lieu of keenly observed criticism. For an exercise that occupied some 40 years of his life, there's very little to show for it. Ill equipped for incisive inquiry, he offers one-dimensional reporting. For Eisenman, the dubious theorist who's act endorsed nihilism and alienation as though they were virtues, history will probably deny this sad and foolish man a favorable mention. Reading this rather desperate attempt to reinvent himself as a historian, one is tempted to feel sorry for him looking back on a wasted career. But considering the lack of sincerity in Eisenman's work and his disregard for our shared environment, sympathy is hardly a suitable reason to bother with this inept dissertation today.
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1.0 von 5 Sternen Uninformative 26. April 2004
Von Ein Kunde - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
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Little more than a series of diagrams applied to plans and elevations of two Terragni buildings with excessive but uninformative commentary by Eisenman. This book attempts to justify the building as a `text' that can be read if, like Eisenman, you can only see buildings and spaces as intellectual constructs rather than the material, physical phenomena which all structures and their environments do become. Sure, ideas are important as generators, but they are not the primary purpose of architecture nor its intended end result. They never were and never will be.
In the introduction, Eisenman notes that he started this work over 40 years ago. He goes on to say that it is a work he mightn't have written today. Indeed looking at the simplistic way in which he has reduced a building merely to a series of diagrams, one can't help agreeing with him and feeling that this monumentally superficial book should never have been published at all.
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