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PeterEisenman

TEN
CANONICAL
BUILDINGS
1950-2000
ForewordbyStanAllen
EditedbyArianeLourie
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"Eisenman" Canon: Counter-MemoryoftheModern"Cl
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Ei.enman.Peter
Ten anonicalBuildings
I B1'-13:978-0-847 (alk. paper)
1. Po.tmodernArchitec re
2. CriticalArchitecture
n.Title.
NA2760. E452006
720.1--dc22
2007921092
1. Luigi J1.1oretti, "Il Girasole." Rome, Ita y,1947-.50.
1. Pr'ofiles of Text
LuigiMoretti,Casa"IIGirasole,"1947-50
OneofthefirstcriticalarticlestoappearinEnglishon LuigiMoretti'
Casa"IIGirasole"waswrittenbyPeterReynerBanhamin1953.Hanham'
article,published intheFebruaryissueofArchitecttf.Jral Review, labeled
Casa"IIGirasole" the defining mOnUlTIent of"Romaneclecticism,"which
wasan eclecticism thatBanhamconsidered operatedwithin theconfines
ofthe vestiges ofmodernism. Ifthe label eclecticisrn has different con-
notationstoday, in 1953itimpliedthatMoretti'sworkcould beseenas a
haphazard collection ofclassical tropes and aJ'chitectural strategieslack-
ingany single organizingprinciple otherthanhaving beenassembled by
Moretti in a single building. In this sense Banham's argumentwas pro-
phetic,thoughhisuseofthetermeclecticism, itwill bearguedhere,wa
flawed. Itis interestingto note thatas early as 1953, Banham proposed
thatmodernarchitecturehadalreadybecomeastyle,andthushe\vasable
to cite Moretti as deviatingfrom itsformal and supposed social impera-
tives. Moretti'sCasa"IIGirasole"would subsequentlyearnanimportant
citationin RobertVenturi's 1966book Complexity and Contradiction in
Architecture, acitationthatwouldbecomephysicallymanifestinVenturi's
own Vanna Venturi House (see chapter 5). One important distinction
betweenBanhmu'sconclusionandapossiblepresentreadingisthatpriorto
1968,andtherethinkingoftheideaofatextproposedbyJacquesDerI1da's
Of Gramrnatology, itwasnotpossibletoproposeatextualreadingof what
appeared to Banham to be mere eclecticism. Post-structuralism offered
methodsofanalysisandcompositionasanewlensthroughwhichtounder-
standcomplexphenomena;incertaincases,thesephenomenadefY aclear
readingaltogether,andinsteadrepresentaconditionofwhatcanbenow
calledundecidability.
2. Ca. a "Il Gil'asole,", outh elewlion.
Inthiscontext,Morettibecom neitheraneclectic
nora modernist: rather; hi work defies anyeasy
categorization. even as one of the fu t, ifrarely
acknowledged. postmodern architects. It this
condition of what can be termed undecidability
that emerges in hi Casa"Il Girasole" and will
developasoneofthedefiningthemesofthisbook.
ompleted in 195 Moretti' asa "11
Girasole" incorporated the appearanceo;
of historical allu ion in the wake of modernist
abstraction.Thisoverturetohi toryis not. how-
ever,whyCasa"llGirasoe" thefirstbuildingin
thisbook. Rather,itisbecauseCa a"UGira ole"
represent one f the first po twar buildings to
manife,t a hybrid condition of both abstraction
and literal figured representation. These simul-
taneous 'et eemi gl . antithetical position' are
ne\'er reo olved as a single narrati\"e, meaning.
orimage. Rather iti thedialectiC<'11
betweenthetwopo ition. thati questionedin a
postwarclimatethatchallengedtheinnatevalue
ofsucha dialectic.Furthermore. it could be argued
that asa"II Girasole"represent. oneofthefirst
buildingsafterWorldWarIIto theunde-
cidablenatureoftruth inattemptingtheparall I
'eofbothab tractandfiguredtrope.Iti, here
thatanideaofwhatmight be con.idered a text
in architecture might b introduced. While the
ab tractand the figured referto \yhatis u ually
. .Ca 'a "U Gira.,;ole," north elevation.
de cribedasthefOl'mal, thedistinctionsbetween
theformal andthetextualin\\"hatfollows will be
eentobeimportant.Thetermformal de
conditions in architecture that can be read not
nece.,arilyintermsofmeanin orae thetics, ut
in terms oftheir own internal consistency.
internalcoherenceinvolve'" strategiesthatha\'e
othing to do 'i\ith the Pl' ary optical a
f the aesthetic (proportion.. color, tex-
ture, )butratherha\"e to do \\iththe
interna trucLure go\"erning theirinterrelation.
Formal analysi looks at architectul'e ou 'ide
f it nece<:sarily hitorical, programmatic. and
symbolicconte.'t.
Thetermtextual canbedefinedinrelation-
hi p to one of post- tructurali -m's key concepts in
theDerridianideaoftext.Den'idasuggeststhat
a text' not a ingle linearnarratiye, buta web
oratis ueoftraces. Whileanarrati \'ei .unitary,
continuou .anddirectional,atexti multivalent,
discontinuous,andnondil'ectional. Inthecontext
ofthi book. theid a ofa text, like theideaofa
diagram, helpstoinitiatea changefrom he idea
ofl' adinga work a..: a unitary ntity to under-
'tandingaworkasan und idabler suItof\"ary-
ing InmyworkonGiu eppeTerragni.for
example, theideaofa textreori nted myanaly-
:::js of a Giuliani-Frigeliofrom es en ialh"for-
malistinterpretation- toamoretextuall'eading.
Ca:::a"IIGira:::olc"
4. Ca,sa "Il Girasole, -, west elemtion.
Texts,therefore,donotdeploythesameinternal
consistencyasin theformaL
In addition to provoking formal reading,
buildings can equally be read as textual, offer-
ingdifferent modes ofreading, \vhich may chal-
lengeestablishedarchitecturalvocabularies. For
example, Alberti's superposition of the Arch of
Titus overthevemacularGreek temple-frontat
ant' Andreabecomestextual, becausethismon-
tageofarchitecturalformsfrom differenthistori-
cal periods destabilizes a singular meaning. The
textualprovokesareadingoutsideofthefacts of
an object's physical presence, orthe underlying
structures which govern its being; in the ca!';e
of Alberti's Sant'Andrea, the superposition of
historicaltropescreatesthisdistill'banceinpres-
ence thattakesthe buildingout ofthe category
oftheconventionallyformal. If theformal begin
fromaconceptionofpresencethatisbothalinear
narrative and ,,-hatcan becalled fLxed or decid-
able, then the te:>-.-tual suspends the narrative of
presence. in \\'hich a hierarchy is implicit, and
offers instead undecidable relations rather than
a single staticcondition. Itis this undecidability
of relations v.ith both historical and modernist
tropesthatMorettiinvokes toproduceaninitial
critiqueofmodernism.
Theabstractlanguagesofcubismandfutill'-
ism\veresubjectedtoacritique,whichfirst took
5. Casa "j[ Girasole,." section,
fOlm in Italy through neorealist cinema and it
unvarnished ,-iew of Italy and the detritus of
five yearsoh:ar.1\eorealistfilms likeOpen City
and The Bicycle Thief \vere a form ofempirical
existentialism,inthattheyrepresentedattempt
to move the language of abstraction toward a
languagemore associated"'ithwhatcould
beconsidered"therea1." postwarwork.
which also proposed a didactic view ofarchitec-
ure that now critiquedabstraction, evolyed out
ofsuch a neorealistsensibility. However, it is to
Moretti's creditthat Ii ttle of hisfir:5l postwar work
can beconsiderecl neorealist,justasitcannotbe
dismissedaseclectic.
he subtlety of"Moretti's critique ofmod-
ernist abstraction was articulated in his now
much sought-after magazine Spazio (Space) in
theearly1950s. Spazio followed inthetradition
ofarchitects'littlemagazines, which beganwith
Le Corbusier's magazine L'Esprit Nouveau in
1920 and Mies "andel' Rohe's magazine G, with
Theo van Doesberg and El Lissitzky, in 1923.
VV'hile Le COl'busier's magazine referred to a
newspirit,andtheGon1ies'smagazinestoodfor
Gegenstand (object) and effectively addressed
ideas about objecthood, Morelli's Spazio made
an important distinction between the object-
thingand the object ofcontainmentasspaceor
volume, An object can be seen and analyzed a
30 Catia"I!Gil'ai'ole"
6. Casa "Il Girasole, "ground-floo?'plan.
a geometricabstraction, butspaceis difficult to
analyzeasa physicalentitybecauseitisusually
definedbyotherthings.Whilespaceis aconcep-
tualentity,itscontaineris formal. Sucharedefi-
nition ofthe modeling of space was among the
issuesMorettibroachedinSpazio.
It was Moretti's article "Valori della
Modanatura,"(The Value ofModeling)in Spazio
6 (1952) that challenged the modernist concep-
tionofspace.Thearticlesuggestedthatsurface
had thecapacityto be modeled in sucha wayas
to create a dialogue between volume and flat-
ness, and therefore that the modeled surface
could engage the affective potential of light
and shadow. The article challenged the boxlike
abstractions ofmodern architecture by raising
theissue ofprofile, which is articulatedthrough
bothhardedgeandfiguredform.
Profile is the edge of afigure-in other
words,howasurfaceinarchitecturemeetsspace:

7. Casa "Il Girasole, "second-floor' plan.
the edge ofa volume seen against the sky is a
literal profile. This means that all architecture,
because it is three-dimensional, will have some
sort ofprofile. While in architecture a profile is
the edge ofa plane or the edge ofa surface, it
is also eithertheedge ofthe containingsurface
orthe edge ofthe exteriorspacein relationship
tothecontainingsurfaceoftheinterior. In either
case,profiletendstobetheresultoffiguredform,
whichinturnproducesshadows.Morettiwasnot
referringto a literal profile perse butto a con-
ceptual profile, which was made thematicin the
design.Morettimadeprofilethematicinhiswork
by suggesting that profile becomes more than
justtheedgeofa three-dimensional volume and
insteadservestoquestiontheclarityofboundar-
iesbetweenedgeandvolume.InMoretti'sterms,
profileis nota narrativedevice, revealingshape
or figure, but rather can be disassociated from
any shape or figure; this disassociation is not
81
"II
-
8. Casa uIl Gimsole, " plan.
merely a line but can be, for example, the dark
edgeofcastshadows.Bycallingattentiontopro-
file in architecture,Morettisuggestsitsroleasa
markerofundecidablerelationshipsandengages
spaceasanobjectforclosereading.Ashierarchy
andsingularityofmeaningaremadeproblematic,
therhetoricbecomestextualratherthanformal.
The idea ofspaceasvolumewasillustratedin
Spazio byMoretti'sseriesofcastmodelsofhistor-
ical buildings,churches, and villas. Morettibroke
with the conventions of architectural models by
representinga building'sinteriorspaceasa solid
volume and dispensing entirely with its exterior
enclosure,structure,facades, oranyotherindica-
tionsofanexteriorskin.Thesevolumetricmodels
seemed to deny a relationship to the exterior.
Rather, they embodied space itself, conceptualiz-
ingspacebyturningvoidintosolid.Inthehistory
ofarchitecture, analysis usually begins from the
geometric,andfromelementsthatcanbetouched
.,
i_
'I
--...
9. Casa uIl GiTasole,"roofplan.
and defined physically-linear elements such as
structureand walls-andsubsequently broaches
thespatial,thatwhichiscontainedwithinphysical
boundaries. The history ofarchitecture has been
largely defined by this progression from object
or geometry to space. Moretti's models inverted
this convention by taking space, rather than its
enclosingsurface,asastartingpointfor analysis.
OntheonehandMorettidealswiththeedgeofthe
surface-itsprofile-andon theotherheengages
volume without surface in these model studies.
Moretti's notion of profile and space, as articu-
latedin his volumetric models, raises formal and
conceptualissuesthatrefuseresolutionasasingle
narrative or meaning. These models prefigure a
radically new diagram ofspace that Moretti fur-
therdevelopedinCasa"IIGirasole."
The first impression of Casa "II Girasole"
is a dynamic tension between volume and edge.
The cut in the center ofthe front facade is the
Casa"I1 Girasole"
10. Casa uIlGintsole," northwest corner.
firstpostwaruseoftheaedicularmotif,whereby
a spatial division occurs between two solids,
which nevertheless remain related across its
void.Moretti'suseoftheaediculecomesoutofan
historical tradition, from the Palladian window
to Carlo Rainaldi's Santa Maria in Campitelli.
Moretti'sfacade cannotbeconsidereda pastiche
of history, however, because he uses historical
motifs in a new way. The aedicule divides the
planarsurfaceofthefacade ofCasa"IIGirasole"
intotwovolumetricpieceswhich,thoughpaired,
arenotidentical, nordo theiredgesalign across
thevoid. Thephysicalityofthefacade is equally
ambiguous, in that it appears to be a cleft
volume when viewed frontally, butwhenviewed
obliquely, the facade becomes attenuated atthe
edges,resemblingascreen.
The tension between the facade seen as a
screen and as a volume is further developed at
the corners of the facade. Ifthe corner was a
dominant motif of the neoclassical, and if the
frontal pictureplanewasadominantmotifofthe
modern, then Moretti's Casa "II Girasole" uses
elementsofeachwhilebreakingwithbothtradi-
tions. ThecornersofCasa"II Girasole"aresites
offracture: boththefrontand rearfacades over-
hangthemainmassofthebuildingasthinscreens,
separatedfrom themain volume ofthebuilding.
Thecornerisalsoshadowedbyanundecidability
asanassemblyofconcretesolidsandvoids. This
developsfrom theideaofprofilethatMorettiput
forward in Spazio, yetthe layered character of
the facade creates a different understanding of
profile. Casa"II Girasole"is no longera building
whereprofilecanbesaidtodefineacontinuity,as
would bethecasein classicalarchitecturewhere
profile and shape were one and the arne thing.
Oneoftheimportanttheoreticalpropositionsset
into playatCasa"II Girasole"is thattheprofile
doesnotequatetotheshapeofthebuilding.
33 Ca"a"I!Gira!:'ole"
Another theoretical proposition resides in
theproblematicofthecorner: Casa"II Girasole"
doesnotpresentaclearlysubjectiveviewofthe
object, seen perspectively as Greek space, nor
does it offer a frontal view as modern Roman
space. Itis somethingother,and makesanargu-
ment ofits otherness, similar to the manner in
which Adolf Loos disarticulated the exterior
envelope from inner volumes. For Moretti, the
play of solid, void, and edge are simultaneous
conditions. Thus Casa"II Girasole" is one ofthe
firstdidacticexamplesoftheideaoftheprofileas
breakinguptheregularoutlineofthemodernist
box: themodernistenvelopeis confrontedbyits
oppositeintheideaofcontainedvolume.
Inmodern architecture'sfree plan, columns
wereusuallythesamesizeandshapeasfunctional
grounding elements. At Casa "II Girasole," the
columns become figured, changing shape and
size astheymovethroughthebuDding, signaling
difference. Thepairedvolumesandpairedsetsof
columnsspeakto aformal orderthatis different
from an abstract or neutral column grid. The
pairing of the columns creates a play between
symmetries in two different axes while at the
same time disrupting an abstract nine-square
gridandaplaidgridofservantandservedspaces.
Inthis,Moretti'splancritiquestheuniformityof
space in the free plan. The importance ofthese
two forms ofnotation lies in the breaking down
of historical continuity, which for Moretti was
the Renaissance villa, the baroque palazzo, and
the nineteenth-century h8tel-de-ville. This is an
evolutionoftheideaofthewhole asa consistent
relationship of parts, as would be the case with
anyideaoftypetoaconditionnolongerdescribed
byadominantwhole.
ThematerialityofCasa"IIGirasole"lodges
anothercritiqueofmodernistabstraction.Material
hereis used rhetorically, butnotin thetradition
offormal rhetoric,asmaterialin andofitself,nor
foritspurelyphenomenologicalvalue,asinPeter
11. Casa "Il Girasole, "fl'Ont facade profile.
Zumthor'suseofstoneorwood. Rather,material
functions hereas notation,articulatingdifference
inamannerreminiscentofLoos'sturn-of-the-cen-
turyVienneseinteriors.Loosjuxtaposedmarbles,
granites,woods, metals,andstuccostoarticulate
theiriconic value as individual materials. Loos's
interiorsarenotabouttherichnessofthemateri-
alsbuttheirjuxtaposition.
The lobby ofCasa"II Girasole" is a riot of
materials-metal,stone,glass,wood-thatobeys
nostructuralorcompositionallogic. Nodominant
material system can be discerned, and there is
no governing color palette. The use ofmaterial
is both notational and didactic, to call attention
to the possibility of material as text. Material
elementsreferbackandforthtooneanother,yet
they do not represent anything other than the
merefact oftheirexistence. While thiscould be
considered a form ofneorealism in architecture,
in theirrefusal to refertoanyexternalsystems
34 Casa"IIGirasole"
12. Casa uIl Gimsole, "base ofwest facade.
of material meaning, the materials function
textually.
The stonework of the base takes on a
notational quality in its use of fal e rustica-
tion, varied patterns, and sculptural motifs. In
Casa "II Girasole," the "rusticated" base turns
outto be a play on rustication. Rusticationin a
Florentinepalazzofollows alogicofmass:heavi-
estatthebaseandincreasinglythinneratupper
levels. Counteringthis convention, the rustica-
tionatCasa"IIGirasole"harkensbacktoGiulio
Romano's sixteenth-century Palazzo del Te in
Mantua, whose paper-thin rustication does not
look like stone and whose keystones seem to
drop out oftheirholding positions, questioning
how the stone arch is structurally supported.
The state of suspension between support and
collapse,betweenheavyandpaper-thinrustica-
tion,callsthematerialityofstoneintoquestion.
Moretti inverts the conventions of rusti-
cation by putting heavy stones on thin stones,
incorporatingstonyblockswithinwindowopen-
ings, or cutting rusticated stone in chevron
13. Casa "Il Girasole, "entrance.
patterns that deny their structural logic. The
sculptedremnantofahumanlegisincorporated
into a window jamb as ifa relic from an early
classical sculpture had found its way into the
fabric of Casa "II Girasole." This historicizing
motiftriggers a thought about the past, but it
is notaimed ata nostalgic oradulatoryremem-
brance. Rather these sculptural elements are
archaic and anarchic, as if the arbitrariness
of everyday life, as portrayed in neorealist
film, informs what Banham might consider the
arbitrary, whimsical, and unsystematic use of
materials. The sculptural leg has no meaning
and could be considered purely arbitrary, but
this is an order ofarbitrariness divorced from
an expression of will, historicism, and expres-
sionism. Moretti's calibrated arbitrariness calls
attentiontoitsown conditionasarbitraryin an
internal referencingthatis textualratherthan
purelymeaningful.
Moretti's Casa "II Girasole" uses histori-
cal motifs to make a critical commentaryon the
formal coherence of architecture. Historicizing
35
..II
14. Casa ullGiTasole, "rusticated base ofwest facade.
references such as the aedicular motif of the
facade and the rusticated textures of the base
point toward postmodern practices, yetatCasa
"II Girasole" these belong to a wholly different
order. Such conditions make Casa "II Girasole"
both formal and textual; certain formal coher-
ences are emphasized and simultaneously dis-
placed. In Casa "II Girasole" Moretti does not
thematize proportions, materials do not cohere
into narrative, and the masses of the build-
ing remain a series of juxtaposed volumes and
screens, ifnot random notations, which replace
the formal conventions ofthe plan. Many ofthe
possible readings are undercut by other read-
ings,andthereforedo notprovideanysynthesis.
If thenotion ofa textposits thebreakdownofa
decidabilityleadingtoclosureorsY11thesis, then
thetextualinarchitecturesuggestsabreakdown
in thenotion ofthemeaningful organizationofa
singlenarrative.
Casa "II Girasole" has many possible con-
tingent readings as a textual work; it does not
sustain a single, dominant view ofarchitecture,
which may explain one reason why Moretti's
workhasgonealmostunnoticedin theinterven-
ing years. Moretti's Casa"II Girasole" rewrites
the conditions that suggest architecture itself,
andwhichthisbookargues,relatecanonicbuild-
ings to close reading. While Moretti's building
transitionsfromtheabstractionsofmodernismto
a sensibility more closely related to neorealism,
itproposes methods ofclose readingofa differ-
entkind, methodsno longertied to modernism's
formal lexicon butratherto an undecidability of
the text. Casa"II Girasole" is the first and per-
hapstheearliestexemplarofsuchadiscourse.
.
CLEMSON UNlVERSI1Y UBRARV
46 Casa"11 Gil'asole"
31. Casa "ll GiTasole, " axonometTic view.
Lt
4 "II Girasole"
SS. Casa uIl Girasole," axonometric view.
290 Bibliography
1. Profiles of Text
LuigiMoretti,Casa"IIGirasole."Rome,Italy,1947-1950.
Banham, Reyner. "Casa del Girasole: Rationalism and Eclecticism in Italian Architecture."
Architectural Review 113 (February 1953): 73-77.
Bucci, Federico and Marco Mulazzani. Luigi Moretti: Works and W'ritings. Translated by Marina
deConciliis. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2002.
Eisenman, Peter. "Luigi Moretti and the Culture of Fragments." Area 74 (May/June 2004):
170-181.
Eisenman, Peter. "La Casa 'II Girasole,' Moretti visto da Moretti. Rome: Palombi, 2007.
Finelli, Luciana. Luigi Moretti, la prornessa e il debito: architettu1"e 1926-1973. Rome: Officina,
1989,2005.
Moretti, Luigi. "Valori della Modanatura." Spazio 6 (1951-2). Translated by Thomas Stevens as "The
Values of Profiles." Oppositions 4 (October 1974): 109-139.
Moretti, Luigi. "Strutture e sequenze di spazi," Spazio 7 (1952-3). Translated by Thomas Stevens as
"The Structures and Sequences of Space." Oppositions 4 (October 1974): 109-139.
Stirling, James. "'The Functional Tradition' and Expression," Perspecta 6 (1960): 88-97.
Venturi, Robert. Cornplexity and Contradiction in Architecture. New York: Museum of Modern
Art,1966.