Peter Eisenman’s P/A award-winning design for the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art and Planning incited controversy from the start. Lauded by the jury for its conceptual rigor and integration with its George Hargreaves–designed landscape, the design also raised questions of appropriateness. As juror Adèle Naudé Santos observed, “This is precisely one of the building types that requires a certain kind of neutrality, flexibility, and future open-endedness. This is an enormously particular and highly personal statement.”
Nor has the building fared well since its completion in 1996. A recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education recounts why the building’s EIFS cladding (chosen over the original tile finish for budget reasons) already needs replacement. Post-occupancy evaluations of the building have also revealed significant lighting, acoustical, and wayfinding problems with the interior.
Nevertheless, the building stands as a landmark in design and construction technology. Over the project’s seven-year gestation, computer-aided-design software shifted from being a drawing to a form-making tool, enabling architects to create (and engineers to calculate) far more complicated structures than ever before. And the building’s complex spaces demanded that the contractors use lasers to locate points in the middle of the volume, a technique that has since become common in construction.
Eisenman will long be remembered for his contributions to architectural theory. But his long-term contribution to architecture may rest less with the forms of his buildings and more with the methods developed to make those forms. Deconstruction, it turns out, may have been about construction after all.