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Conceptual Architecture: Interpretation and the Notion of 'Affect' in Peter Eisenman's Architecture

Part 1 Dissertation 1999
Paul Conibere
University of Westminster | UK
A perennial problem that exists for some forms of architecture and art is that responses to work are often other than that intended by the architect or artist. This study is concerned with work of a conceptual nature, work that is purportedly conceived without undue concern for traditional perceptual or aesthetic concerns, and a type that could be seen as being fatally flawed if it engendered the 'wrong' response.

The work of Peter Eisenman is the main focus of the dissertation, in particular his Aronoff Centre for Design and Art at the University of Cincinnati (1990-95). Eisenman's quite unique approach to architectural design and the theoretical writings that accompany each of his projects are seen as an ideal subject for study into conceptual work. Ideas of the arbitrary and the 'machinic' in Eisenman's work are claimed to require a new view on interpretation and architecture as 'affects'. The notion of 'affect' is said to give a priority to the experiential or perceptual in the finished piece at the expense of the conceptual origin.

What is the significance of such a transformation (if indeed it can be recognised)? More importantly however, can 'affect' be seen as a genuine theoretical position or is it merely a contingency measure?

In answering these questions I have sought to investigate and elaborate upon a previously recognised correlation between Eisenman's work and that of conceptual artists, Sol LeWitt in particular. The introduction of conceptual art raises issues of value in respect of the finished piece. That is it would seem that in work of a conceptual nature, the 'idea', can only be hindered by the existence of a final piece. The question that often arises is why, given the conflict it causes, bring the 'idea' to a physical reality? If, as is usually the case, it is deemed necessary to realise the object what, if anything, should accompany the work to facilitate its understanding?

Selected Bibliography

Camus, Albert (translation Justin O'Brien), The Myth of Sisyphus, Penguin Books, London 1975 (Originally published as Le Mythe de Sisyphe, Gallimard, 1942)

Davidson, Cynthia C. (ed.) Eleven Authors in Search of a Building, The Monacelli Press, New York 1996

Evans, Robin Translations From Drawing to Building and other Essays, AA Publications, London 1997

Harrison, Charles & Wood, Paul (ed.) Art in Theory 1900-1990, Blackwell Publishers, Oxford 1992

Krauss, Rosalind The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1985

Paul Conibere

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