View Full Version : Eisenman Speaks

February 25th, 2003, 03:51 PM
Architect faults trade center competition

By: Brooke R. Stoddard , Special Writer *02/25/2003

Peter Eisenman contends his team was undone by the New Urbanism movement.

* Architect Peter Eisenman, a member of one of seven architectural teams that competed in December to design redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, told a Princeton University audience last week that he knew from the start his team would not be one of the two finalists in the contest.
* Mr. Eisenman is known for designing the Wexner Center for the Visual Arts in Columbus, Ohio, and the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.
* For the World Trade Center site, his team, which included Richard Meier & Partners, Gwathmey Siegel & Associates and Steven Holl Architects, proposed creating a five-building matrix arranged at a 90-degree angle and connected by three aerial bridges.
* "The project was doomed from the start," Mr. Eisenman told 100 students and faculty in Princeton University's McCosh Hall. "We submitted our credentials and truly we never thought we'd be selected."
* Mr. Eisenman argued his plan did not win strong public approval because it took a direct stand against New Urbanism. New Urbanism is a growing movement of architects and municipal developers based on the idea that the most sustainable communities are those built according to conventional standards.
* "Our first idea was to not put the street grid back," he said. "The two schemes selected were the only ones to restore the street grid."
* The team also spent too much time planning subterranean transportation for buses and rapid transit lines, Mr. Eisenman said.
* "It seemed to me that the winning schemes paid little or no attention to this," he said.
* Mr. Eisenman also blamed New York City officials for turning a serious architectural competition into a popularity contest based on public opinion, and he criticized the media for oversimplifying each team's plan.
* "The biggest mistake the city made was asking anyone to vote on such a project," he said. "The media condenses projects and doesn't show anything but images."
* Believing his team had developed the most creative, meaningful plan but disappointed it did not reach the final round of competition, Mr. Eisenman hopes to continue promoting its original concepts.
* "I don't really like talking about this project anymore. I've talked it to death," Mr. Eisenman said. "I love our project. I'm going to publish it with the ideas I think are important."
* Most of all, Mr. Eisenman laments what he described as the overall failure of the World Trade Center competition.
* "I think it's sad for New York and sad for the country because the idea posed a lot of hope and not a lot of answers," he said.
* In reaction to questions from the audience about what he learned from the competition, Mr. Eisenman replied that no architect should enter a competition expecting to win.
* "You can't allow one's narcissism and one's ego to dominate," he said.
* The lecture was sponsored by Princeton University's School of Architecture.

©Packet Online 2003 *

February 25th, 2003, 04:33 PM
From an LA Times article:

Competitions like this are "a high-stakes poker game," says architect Peter Eisenman, who was part of a group that didn't make the final two. "You need to play hard. It's an expensive night out. If you're not prepared to lose, don't play."

And part of the game is that, while you whisper about the competition, they whisper about you.

Eisenman won't discuss Libeskind by name, but there is no love lost there. He says the New York competition was set up with too much public input -- from families of the victims, the Port Authority, the trade center leaseholder and from the man in the street.

"You can talk to the public, but I don't think they should say what books should be read, or what is good art or music," Eisenman says. He has seen the designs sent to him by "Joe Everyman," and they're as heavy-handed as the artwork after Sept. 11 that depicted a crying Statue of Liberty, a reminder of why you should "never pander to popular taste."

"You're dealing with an important memorial," Eisenman says. "How do you make those decisions so you don't get kitsch banality?"

It's a dig at Libeskind, of course, who has made himself accessible to everyone, and who has said, "The public is always right."

February 26th, 2003, 02:58 PM
Thanks for sharing Christian, one of my classmates went to the Princeton presentation. By great coincidence he ended up seated directly next to Peter Eisenman. This classmate of mine is probably only 17 or 18 but even looks a bit young for his years... He's quite bright and talented, just happens to look very young. Anyway, he told me how, when he saw Eisenman come walking over, he was surprised when he sat down in the empty seat beside him. He said that Peter immediately struck up small talk with him asking him if he was a student, etc. When my classmate informed him that he was an Architecture student from Pratt, Peter Eisenman pulled a Jeckel & Hyde on him and replied with snobbery and astonishment, "How in the hell did you get in the door!" and turned seated with his back half turned to him, not speaking again until he was called to the podium. This is doubly insulting considering our design studio professor is a former student of Eisenman's from Cooper Union as is our
department head. For the record, Princeton University has a lecture share arrangement with Pratt and a Pratt student ID will get you in to any of the lectures given by Princeton's architecture department. Princeton even promotes them with announcements on the events bulletin board in our architecture building. Apparently Eisenman is unaware of this arrangement. I know probably 6 or 8 people that have met him, known him, or been a student of his. The opinion across the board from every single person that has offered their opinion (and many do) is that he is the most pompous, arrogant, self aggrandizing megalomaniac you will ever meet in your life. He considers himself, without reservation, to be the greatest of all great men and is quite fond of letting everyone who comes in contact with him know of his personal measure of himself.

In contrast, I've heard only the kindest things about Richard Meier. I understand he is suppose to be one of the most approachable people who is warm to everyone. As a, for what it's worth, I'm much more impressed by Meier's work, as well. I've also heard nice things about Steven Holl, though I'm not as crazy about his designs.

February 28th, 2003, 07:24 PM
That's interesting but it should not affect one's judgement of his work.

February 28th, 2003, 08:15 PM
It fits the image I have of Eisenman (very negative).

It sounds like he not only did not expect to win, but he had no real desire to win. *He knows his ideas tend to clash with reality.

March 1st, 2003, 06:31 AM
Or rather common taste.

May 16th, 2003, 06:39 PM
May 18, 2003

3 BR Apt.; Mostly Renovated...

Text and interviews by AMY BARRETT


Peter Eisenman, his wife, Cynthia, and their two sons have lived in a 2,000-square-foot apartment in Greenwich Village for the past four years. But Eisenman, who became known in the 70's for building spare, cubelike houses, has done almost no work on it himself. ''I don't necessarily need or want to live in my own environment,'' he says. ''I mean, my head is not what I want to live in.''

I use the NordicTrack every other day for 20 minutes. I don't listen to music or watch TV while I do it. I count to myself. I count to 25; I count to 25 backwards, that sort of thing.

Favorite outfit
I'm not a fashion architect. I don't dress in Ralph Lauren and Gucci. When I buy a suit, I buy it at J. Press. I have a blue blazer that I wear 80 percent of the time.

Who designed the apartment
I put Cynthia in charge of the project, and we let a former student of mine do it. And I'm very comfortable with it.

Favorite piece
My Rietveld chair. I bought it in Holland and carried it back on the plane. I sat it in the seat next to me. People thought I was nuts. The books and CD's are on it because I don't want anyone else sitting on it.

His household chores
I feed the cats. And I'm the shopper. I love shopping. I can run out three times during the weekend to shop.

How often they entertain
We might have one or two friends over, like Richard Meier might come over for dinner. But we like being very intimate. No big parties.

Worst thing about the apartment
We don't have enough bookshelves. I have 10,000 books in storage, and we have books piled everywhere. It really bothers Cynthia, and it bothers me because she gets bothered.

Favorite author
Thomas Pynchon

Morning routine
I get up around 5:30 or 6. I read. My best time to think and read is between 5:30 and 7. I take a shower at 7 and make my son's breakfast at 7:15. Then I walk my younger son to school and get to work by 8.

Typical breakfast
I'm very good at oatmeal. The real kind, not instant. With milk.

Favorite artwork in the house
I have a Piranesi drawing that I bought three years ago rolled up under my desk. And I love it.

Top renovation priority
Fixing up the bathrooms. We just ran out of gas before we finished them.

Favorite appliance
Appliances? I don't know how to use appliances. I mean, I use the coffee maker. But that's it.

Favorite team
My father went to Rutgers, and I grew up in New Jersey, so I'm a great Rutgers fan. I have season tickets.

Favorite architect
Le Corbusier, clearly, but that's an obvious one.

Favorite restaurant
Chanterelle. We go every year for our anniversary.

Favorite city
New York. Because it's got the most existential anxiety that I know.

Music he listens to most
I'm a big Wagner fan. But I don't listen to a lot of music.

What he'd love to build
A skyscraper. I'd like to try my hand at it one day.

Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company

May 16th, 2003, 08:19 PM
So did his Mies wanna-be in Germany fall through? I thought he was going to get his skyscraper. What's the story with that?

It was quite nice.

May 16th, 2003, 08:50 PM
Probably abandoned, which seems to be the fate of many of his projects - including this one:

Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences,
New York, 1997 - work in progress.

I haven't heard of either for so long.

September 25th, 2003, 02:25 AM
Three Members of New York Five Discuss Architecture at 92nd Street Y

September 24, 2003

Three of the celebrated Modernist architects known as the "New York Five" took part in a panel discussion and forum at the 92nd street Y on September 22.

Richard Meier, Charles Gwathmey and Peter Eisenman were on hand for the sold-out event, which drew over 900 people to the Yís Kaufmann Concert Hall. The architects were joined by Alan Ritchie, a partner of Phillip Johnson, and John Diebboll, a partner of Michael Graves. The discussion was moderated by author Michael McKenzie.

Besides setting the record straight that they were not self-named ("The New York Five is a term invented by Paul Goldberger. We had nothing to do with it," said Eisenman") the group presented recent work, discussed the increased public focus on architecture, and shared their predictions for the future.

"The reason weíre here is because we believe architecture changes the world," said Eisenman, stressing that architecture should move forward, not stagnate into copied styles. Meier, discussing architecture as an artform, showed his enthusiasm for the positive movements in this regard: "Iíve never seen so many wonderful, talented people doing such amazing work," he gushed.

The architects also shared their thoughts on the World Trade Center, for which Meier, Eisenman and Gwathmey (with Steven Holl) submitted a competition design that lost to Studio Daniel Libeskind.

The group called for a more thorough public review of the current plan. "There hasnít been a critical debate about the merits and the demerits," Eisenman exclaimed.

Meier criticized Libeskindís memorial plan, saying it was too narrowly focused. "I think itís a mistake to think that one memorial is going to reach everyone," he said.

Meanwhile, in response to the inclusion of David Childs and SOM into the plans, Eisenman showed disappointment. "If I had won the competition and been put through what has happened to the scheme, I would have resigned," he said.

Leaving the event, Meier seemed happy with the results, and encouraged at the public interest in the field: "I think it was excellent," he said. "Weíre not just talking to architects. Weíre talking to a public that is interested in architecture," he said.

Sam Lubell


September 25th, 2003, 10:58 AM
Meanwhile, in response to the inclusion of David Childs and SOM into the plans, Eisenman showed disappointment. "If I had won the competition and been put through what has happened to the scheme, I would have resigned," he said.

I guess Libeskind's reputation from Berlin for staying the course is well deserved then.

September 25th, 2003, 02:59 PM
Exactly. Good thing they did not win. Not that is deserved to either.

I am disappointed they did not submit to the memorial competition though, of the entire proposal it was their strongest aspect.

September 27th, 2003, 10:31 AM
Look, I thought "Team New York" had the best proposal. Despite that, I think Eisenman is just sore that he did not win.

He could be a little more gracious.