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Performalism, Yasha Grobman, Eran Neuman

                        EISENMAN’S PALLADIO DIAGRAMS: SOMATIC SPACE AS A FORM OF AFFECT

                        Pablo Lorenzo-Eiroa 

                    Eisenman’s sophisticated methods and processes of form generation should be understood as the presentation and performance of architecture, rather than form as representation. Therefore, representation is under question. According to Panofsky, the space of representation has been striating modern space since the Renaissance. Perspective measures distance and collapses it in the surface of representation: as a conceptual Kantian structure that organizes space and  interrupts the perceptual iconographic perspective cone. Panofsky presents other structuralist analyses as interfaces that create matrices between problems, such as Perspective as Symbolic Form or his History of the Theory of Human  Proportions. But in Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism, he demonstrates the relationship between the Gothic floor plan and Thomas Aquinas’s Theological Summa, which share a structural organization. While the Gothic plan is formed  by autonomous and repetitive spaces that are related in a top-down organization, as an analogy, the Summa proposes, in terms of hierarchy and subordinated titles, a discriminated organization of thoughts. On the other hand, Andrea  Palladio, also concerned with problems of structure, was part of the North Italian Humanists of the Cinquecento and openly resisted perspective and representation.

                     Palladio’s Chiericatti Palace (1565) forces the frontal view to resist perspective by interrupting the “perspective cone effect.” The space is structured by the movement of compressed layered sequential spaces in a disproportioned nine square grid. Once one enters the loggia space through a stair, two columns meeting at a 45 angle index the overlapping of a portico space; at that point one recognizes that the previous space of the stairs was actually the space of an implied portico displaced into the loggia. These formal problems become performative: once one continues to enter the first interior space, it reads as a vestibule, but once in the following space on the same central axis, one is outside again in the back loggia-portico. This means that the vestibule was in fact the central space of the palace, compressing and distorting an originally circular space, the center of the nine square grid. Therefore, the series of preliminary optic based -perceptual- readings of an ideal organization are negated by a haptic experience and a consequential conceptual interpretation. The spaces present a physical compression against the main circulation axis; but also an accumulation of memory that somatically (psychological memory at the level of the organ) projects bodily affection in the transition between spaces, overlapping alternatively real and implied spatial organizations. These series of unconscious somatic experiences produce involuntary inertias that are projected between rooms by a psychological expectancy that is deceived by the unanticipated compression of the series of spaces. These displacements demand a mental re-composition of the spatial organization enhancing affect and implying a metaphysical condition. Palladio’s strategy reinforces a logic of the whole underlying a projection of man’s applied reason as a meta-structure. We may relate this case to the Humanists conceptions of logic of the time, as Panofsky’s analogy between Gothic space and the Theological Summa.  

The temporal and institutional links between Wittkower’s Palladian villas diagram, Rowe’s PalladioLe Corbusier diagram, Hejduk’s Texas Houses and Eisenman’s Houses series, may provide an axis of reference that engages deep structure and suspends the problematic icon-(o)-graphic stylistic trend of deconstructivism. Eisenman’s use of Wittkower’s Palladio diagrams can be read as a strategy that redefines post-structuralism as a continuity of structuralism, yet his concern with the metaphysical project, and his shift from reading Derrida to Blanchot, separates him from other contemporary radical formalists. His resistance to the perceptual in exchange for the conceptual is manifested in the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, his World Trade Center sketch, or even his MAK solo exhibition in Vienna. But the conceptual is even more determinant and important in his formal sophistications, such as the Hamburg Domplatz, by unmotivating architecture signs; the Church of the Year 2000 for Rome motivating the void and activating affect and haptic experience; or the Max Reinhardt Haus for Berlin, transforming a type. Therefore he brings deep structure to the foreground being critical of the mediums within which he works. Eisenman presents a different extended definition of form according to the set of problems that his projects propose, suspending representation in favor of presentation, and proposing processes and methodologies also questioning metaphysics of presence to the deepest and most stable canons of architecture.

 Pablo Lorenzo-Eiroa is an Assistant Professor at the Cooper Union School of Architecture. He is an architect based in New York and Buenos Aires and he is interested in conceptual problems, deep structure, formal structure and instability as a resistance to the perceptual. He is currently working on a book of Eisenman’s installations to be published in 2008.