September 1, 2006
Peter Eisenman answers a few questions on architecture, inspiration, and process—using his thumbs.
Job description: Educator, architect, father, husband, confidant, thinker
Current projects: Two 55-story high-rise buildings in Jakarta; 200 housing units in Barcelona; two new railroad stations flanking Pompeii, Italy; a new multiuse center for Rutgers University; and an ongoing project in Santiago de Compostela, Spain
First step on a project: Meet the client, look at the site, understand the program, and then relate it all to the kind of thinking we do here
Last step on a project: Photography, publication, writing about the overall theoretical matrix, understanding what I learned, listening to client reactions, watching people use it, modifying things the client realizes need to be changed
How do you break a creative block? I have no creative blocks.
Why do you do what you do? Because I love it, I’m good at it, and I don’t know
anything else I would love and could do that I would be good at.
Mentors: Percival Goodman, Colin Rowe, and Manfredo Tafuri
World-saving mission: I don’t believe architecture can save anybody. Architecture is about the continued evolution of culture, and it continues to operate as a critique of culture as it evolves. All I want to do is participate in that critique.
First act as ‘design czar’: I hope there will be no such office. I have enough trouble being design czar of my own office.
Dream team: The best dean is Robert Stern, the most intelligent person I know is Jeffrey Kipnis, the best architect is Rem Koolhaas, the best young architect is Greg Lynn, and the best editor is my wife, Cynthia Davidson. I had never thought about it, but if I had that team, I’d go a long way.
Office chair: It’s an old dumb wooden chair from the 1930s.
Office sound track: The air-conditioning
Most useful tool: The telephone, no question
Best place to think: The shower, early in the morning
Current read: Michel Houellebecq’s The Possibility of an Island, and Jane Leavy’s book on Sandy Koufax
Old standby: I’m a hypochondriac, so George McCormack, who was my doctor for 40 years, because if you’re a hypochondriac and you constantly think you’re going to die of something, you need the doctor to tell you you’re still alive.
Something new: I’m writing an essay on the New Subjectivity. I also have a new house in Connecticut, and I’m going to buy a car.
Guilty pleasure: Oh, I love watching pornography or reading erotic literature.
Favorite space: The Piazza Ducale in Vigevano. My favorite church is probably Santa Maria in Campitelli, Rome, by Carlo Rainaldi, or his church in the Piazza del Popolo.
Underrated: I would say education and culture are undervalued.
Overrated: Oh, no! I could name a list a mile long but I’m not about to say one word!
Learned the hard way: It doesn’t pay to always be honest.
Dream job: A rabbi came to me recently and said, “I want you to consider the possibility of a radical sacred space for the twenty-first century.” That would be interesting.