Peter Eisenman: My work as it relates to social guilt (April 3, 1978) Part 1 of 2

Peter Eisenman proposes to discuss four cultural absences, or losses; after which he will describe his Cannaregio project for Venice that reflects these issues, and their relation to social guilt.

First, Eisenman describes the “Loss of Center.” He proposes that technology had replaced God, Man, or Nature as the center of the Industrial Revolution’s belief systems. Humanity’s obsession with machines culminated in the two great tragedies of modern civilization, the Holocaust and Hiroshima, effectively eliminating technology as a center.

Eisenman describes the “Loss of Subject.” He discusses how modernist literature disrupted narrative and eliminated the author. As an example he characterizes John Barth’s ” Giles Goat-Boy” (1966) as a demonstration of the author refusing to own the writing. Eisenman also cites James Joyce as an example of the author distancing himself from the work.

Eisenman describes the “Loss of Hero.” He discusses how, during the Industrial Revolution, Enlightenment ideas of heroism shifted from the individual to the collective. Since Hiroshima and the Holocaust, the concept of heroism has been replaced by the concept of survival, which renders problematic the value and iconography of every cultural institution, from kindergarten to graveyards.

Eisenman describes the “Loss of History.” He discusses the power, through the media, design and planning, to detach history from memory. Eisenman argues that this signals a significant change in the relationship between man and object.

Eisenman discusses the Cannaregio Town Square competition (1978) within the context of these losses. The site is adjacent to the site Le Corbusier proposed for his unbuilt Venice Hospital (1965). Contrary to conventional site planning methodologies, Eisenman describes how his approach stresses muteness.