In my investigation into house I have come across a few main desires for housing: easenotease, iconnoticon, commoditynotcommodity, and appearanceprocess. This section of my investigation deals with all of these, but mostly with the fourth. Many homes are bought or sold based on appearance, "I'm a millionaire, I can't live in a trailer park!" or "That house is just another McMansion, I want something designed well." Taking the latter statement to the extreme we come upon houses that are in some ways unlivable but are designed to the nines. Based on Dillon's recommendation I've focused on Eisenman's variants to explore this issue more.
Peter Eisenman’s Houses I-VI
In this first batch of pre-Jungian houses Eisenman is saying that humanity and house collide in specific and separate ways. The uses are often separated in plan with walls and doors, but rather than separating the different uses with these tried-and-true elements Eisenman is trying to find separation through different means and in the meantime has to decide whether separation is needed at all.
House I is a series of six two-story bays. The structure consists of columns supporting beams that divide the bays. The floorplans are in the shape of a separate L for each horizontal plane or texture. There are two atrium spaces and one forms the shape of an L. This seems to be unintended rather than a deliberate decision by Eisenman as House II explores that more deliberately.
House II (above) is designed by Eisenman’s latching onto the idea of the magazine as both a vertical and horizontal element. As a result the house becomes a series of nesting Ls of air. This house still relies upon the 3x3x2 grid though. It looks like a two-level tic-tac-toe game. The house’s structure is 16 vertical posts – four on each side and four in the middle. 2-3-9-16. It becomes a 9 square grid on the outside which, when imposed onto the exterior, shows a division of space into three magazines.
In House III Eisenman begins with the 9 square grid. Top and bottom are 9 squares while each side is six. First the house is divided into three magazines, then the grid is extracted and reintroduced at a different angle into the leftover solid of the intersections of the three bays. The corners/intersections of the grid in its original placement dictate the angle of the twisted grid. A skeleton grid is erected conforming to the original orientation and the space not used by the new cube is taken over by a second cube on the original grid. The structure is complex: basically a series of window bays progressing along two axis but using the same vertical supports. This is a nesting of magazines. The three magazines from House II are implied by skeleton frame structures but they are twisted in the new use of house space.
So Eisenman is using generic space, not actually defining anything as bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, et cetera. This is him saying that house is devoid of meaning like all erections. We place meaning on and in them through the use of commodities. A house is an empty box until a bed, a kitchen, a sink, a bathroom, a couch, a television, et cetera are injected into its void space. The house itself is also devoid of site, designed to be injected into a site like commodities are injected into itself. So in a way this is an ideal house. A house as a house and not one filled with or created from latent meaning. But it actually is. It is created from the latent meaning of the process. Looking at these pages filled with iterations of plans and axonometrics – these are the latent content, these are the site. So it is perhaps design as design more so than house as house.
Where House III has one corner breaking out of the original grid, House IV starts with all four corners breaking out of the grid but instead becomes a redefinition of the grid. The space Eisenman is working with now is a true cube – 9x9 grids on each side. This is not a real breaking of the grid, rather it is an addition to the grid of one more layer. It is now a three-dimensional tic-tac-toe board and the centre space is hidden. Prominence is granted the outer edges by the shifting caused by the grid’s centre becoming smaller. The magazines are now only able to be visualized as three-dimensional elements rather than two-dimensional elements. They are cubic but only occupy the air of three cubes at once. The design, though now taller than Houses I-III, retains the sense of horizontality because Eisenman cheats, he squishes the building down and elongates horizontal cuts.
The elevations of House three start to deny the shifted grid. Because the second grid adds only one vertical element to the original grid there is no was to tell how the house is arraigned simply from the elevations.
Up to House V the structure and the constructions generally coincided – one brings the other into being and vise versa (even in house three which has two structures). In House V though, Eisenman begins with each of the four corners breaking out of the grid but soon becomes a discussion of grid. First there is one diagonal element in plan that becomes a strong vertical element in perspective – basically the house cut in half. Then the grid and the Cube are the same but the void is at a 45 degree angle and centered: this void allows a view of the grid and the houses are placed and arraigned according to the void not the grid but the grid still defines the overall cube. Then a grid is rotated out of the original grid and the cube becomes a sort of implied double-cube. Then the cube and the grid are at odds with each other while the void and the grid agree. These views of structure, of space, of multiple grids, of overlaying patterns never develop fully into a house design. (House V begins where House IV got away from breaking the grid) House V really ghosts or implies the second square of House III but using only one element.
Are these for the urban environment or not? No. The amount of space used for these houses and the lack of livable space do not conform to the density needs of an urban environment. Then does that make his process of design based on grid applicable if these are for living outside of city limits? Yes. Everything is on a grid. Farmland, states, counties. From longitudinal and latitudinal lines all the way down to property lines, grids overlay the environment we exist within. We cannot escape them. So is that where these Houses come from? Eisenman trying to redefine the grid? No, he uses the typical grid. Perhaps his application of the same scale grid on all six faces is new, but it is still just the grid multiplied and folded. This is Eisenman using the grid to its full potential rather than rethinking it. I don’t get that term, re-think. It doesn’t make sense to me.
House VI starts to have more to do with Houses I and III than Houses IV or V. In House VI Eisenman examines how far away from the original grid a design can get while still implying its precedence and existence. House I called in to question structure and the necessity of columns and beams, but left them all on the grid as a way of organizing the elements and increasing confusion. House III had two cubes – did one hold up the other, did one hold up only air, was one not structural at all? House VI begins with another unresolved element of House I – the cross. The cross is blue before Eisenman flips the cross and creates a red one of the flipped one. The two crosses are now separated by space and become a cross of air. This empty cross is the basic formational element of the building and it starts to define its own grid. The house itself inverts – the staircase is green, but the staircase on the ceiling is red; the space used in one corner of the cross on the ground floor is used in the opposite corner on the third floor. The building quickly becomes the intersection of four 3x3x2 grid-cubes and the empty cross. Spaces are then inserted into where the structures and grids line up – which implies a single, overarching grid.