House II

Building a model offers a way to experience the physical presence of a work of architecture close hand, over time, to examine its structure, the relationship of its parts, as well as engage in the practice and ritual of construction. It also provides a platform to contemplate structures and relationships in general, what might be suggested analogically, what might be applied elsewhere.

I had no particular reason for choosing Peter Eisenman’s House II, but once I started I became wholly engaged in the process of understanding, planning, and building, and tearing down and revising and rebuilding, and with the construction and destruction came a host of thoughts that hovered but landed nowhere, returning me only to House II, its structure, the relationship of its parts, which sent me flying into thought once again.

Eisenman, in fact, intended his project to look like a model:

Built of plywood, veneer, and paint, it lacks traditional details associated with conventional houses. Viewed without the external, scale-specific referent, House II becomes an ambiguous object, which could be a building or a model.

From the PDF linked on his site. The effect is less apparent in my model. This ambiguity makes us aware of the process of design and construction, of process itself, leaving us with questions that can be answered in several ways—or can’t be answered at all. We can look forward and contemplate the final project, brought to completion and perfection. Just as much we realize neither will ever come, that finality was not the goal. Ambiguity most characterizes the house, and we have to contend with the tentative, the provisional. Perhaps we are left with the realization that perfection itself is an illusion, or if apparently obtained elsewhere has questionable value and reference.

Then we have to decide what to make of Eisenman’s comment:

The “real architecture” only exists in the drawings. The “real building” exists outside the drawings. The difference here is that “architecture” and “building” are not the same.

And think where we’re left when we take all the terms out of quotation.

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Mies van der Rohe: The Brick Villa


For Mies, architecture was neither a technical problem nor applied sociology but rather, as he wrote in 1928, using words that are as ambiguous as they are emphatic, “the spatial implementation of intellectual decisions.”

—Christoph Asendorf, “Ludwig Mies van der Rohe—Dessau, Berlin, Chicago”

The full essay, “Completing the Mies van der Rohe Brick Country House, An Odyssey” can be found at Numéro Cinq here. It is a literary essay that I hope adds some extension and insight. It looks back to the Greeks and forward to recent architecture, adding reflections on Modernism and raising questions about current work along the way.

Pictures of the model can be found after the break.

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