alan balfour
Cities of Artificial Excavation
Cities of Artificial Excavation
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Cities of Artificial Excavation:
Publish date: 1994

Article:: Documents of a Creative Process - Alan Balfour
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Cities of Artificial Excavation The Work of Peter Eisenman 1978-1988 New York : Rizzoli International, 1994

Between the houses projects of the 1970s, which established Peter Eisenman as a leading architectural theorist, and his most recent, computer-aided explorations of complex geometries lies a destinct phase in his work, a series of theoretical projects competition submissions, and public commissions called the Cities of Artificial Excavation. This book is the first publication to document this important stage in Eisenman's career, when he not only turned his attention to the relationship between architecture and site but also reassessed, through the technique of scaling, the very idea of composition in architecture.

Cities of Artificial Excavation: The Work of Peter Eisenman, 1978-1988 presents four of the most representative and best documented of the artificial excavation projects: an urban design scheme for Cannaregio West in Venice (1978); a housing project near Checkpoint Charlie in Berlin (1980-1981, partially realized 1982-1986); a design for the University Art Museum at California State University, Long Beach (1986); and a garden for the Parc de La Villette in Paris designed in collaboration with Jacques Derrida. Each project is presented through the architect's drawings and models, over 200 images in all, more than 150 of them in color, most from the collections of the Canadian Centre for Architecture. Each project sequence begins with a theoretical text by Eisenman, then goes on to a project history describing the site and explaining Eisenman's design strategy. The unprecedented publication of complete series of conceptual drawings not only illustrates Eisenman's design process in detail, but also traces the transformation, through drawing and model making, of his architectural discourse.

The catalogue includes a prefatory note by Phyllis Lambert, director of the Canadian Centre for Architecture; an extensive introductory essay by curator Jean-Francois Bedard, placing the artificial excavation projects in the context of Eisenman's oeuvre; and essays by Kurt W. Forster on the idea of artificial excavation, by Frederic Jameson on Eisenman as a modernist and postmodernist, and by Yve-Alain Bois on Eisenman's changing drawing techniques. Other essays discuss each project in depth: K. Michael Hays applies the theories of Benjamin, Barthes, and Freud to an analysis of the Cannaregio and Berlin projects; Alan Balfour uses the Long Beach project to trace Eisenman's design methods; and Jean-Louis Cohen examines the philosophica aspirations of the La Villette garden. In an interview with the contributors Eisenman discusses the complexities and paradoxes of his authorial stance and its influence on his design strategies. A postscript by Arata Isozaki brings a personal, non-Western perspective to this phase of Eisenman's career. The book concludes with a chronology and a selected bibliography of the Cities of Artificial Excavation.

Published on the occasion of the exhibition Cities of Artificial Excavation: The Work of Peter Eisenman, 1978-1988 shown at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal from March 2 to May 29, 1994.