Wednesday, 10 February 2010


So Peter Eisenman gave his lecture last night in Edinburgh University. As excited as I was by his performance in Mondays crits the lecture showed another side to architecture. He decided to try out a new lecture on us which dealt with the idea that most architecture can be defined as either Genius Loci (the spirit of place) or the Zeitgeist (spirit of the times/ ages). He described his own work thus far as being very much Zeitgeist work but then attempted to describe his latest work as some kind of combination of the two. He gave some rather grand comparisons down through the ages, comparing himself to Michaelangelo at one stage, but managed to get his point across fairly well. During this breakdown and explanation of his idea he described what he thought might be the Zeitgeist and how computers/ the media/ celebrity etc has changed us all and in turn architecture. Fair point. It was in describing his current work in the city of culture of Galicia where the holes began to appear in his argument. Firstly it was not in my opinion anything to do with genius loci. Simply melting a building into the grounds contours is not what constitutes a sense of place and his argument about using local stone(as a cladding) was weak at best. Surely the genius loci goes a lot deeper than that. Looking at the site photos and rhino models it was very obviously a project designed entirely on a computer. Having slated this approach it seemed strange to stand there and present this without reference to it. But who cares? The man has achieved everything an architect can wish to achieve and has reached a stage in his career where he can do as he pleases. When questioned by the attending academia he simply shrugged and suggested he did not really care. If he doesn't do it someone else will. Some people found this refreshing but it did not sit well with me. He practically absolved himself of all responsibility through the suggestion that he is simply trying to make a buck. Just wants to work and it is not up to him to change things. He is of course correct in saying this but it lacked balls. The Zeitgeist will always exist but its next direction can be influenced. He is of a dying age and admitted as much when describing these years as the twighlight of our spectacle culture. Peter Eisenman doesn't care though. He is riding this wave all the way to its end and at 77 I can only marvel. I have to hold my hands up and say well done but I sure as hell wont be doing it.

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