Overlooked Talent: Peter Eisenman

So I know that most people with a significant interest in architecture will know of Peter Eisenman. He is known even better in academic circles.

What concerns me is his lack of prominence on a larger scale. I consider him one of the most important architects and architectural thinkers of the past 50 years. His work — both physical and intellectual — paved the way for much of the best architecture of today and influenced many of today’s most prominent architects, from Frank Gehry to Rem Koolhaas.

Eisenman was one of the first we-ll-known architects to practice the sort of highly intellectualized architecture that Rem Koolhaas and others practice today. He helped to invent deconstructivist forms as methods for more powerful forms of expression in buildings. He sees buildings not as simplistic shells for functionality, but as active elements within our lives. His buildings actively challenge their users to think and experience and think in different ways.

The idea of the active design is the forefront of architecture — it is the architecture practiced by Thom Mayne, Steven Holl, Rem Koolhaas and, to a slightly lesser extent, Diller Scofidio + Renfro. It is still somewhat divorced from the public realm, but that is to be expected of radical ideas. Its influence, however, cannot be understated.

But whereas many architects practice ‘active design’ in a rather bounded, stiff manner — Rem Koolhaas, for instance, seems to skirt historical forms nervously, as if frightened of acknowledging or referencing them — Eisenman’s architecture is one of confidence, borne of a thoughtful and knowing master.

Eisenman's Wexner Center at Ohio State

It’s tough to beat that. And yet this building, along with most of Eisenman’s others, is tragically unrecognized by most outside of academic architectural circles. It is for that reason that I label Eisenman an overlooked talent.

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