Aronoff Center for Design and Art
University of Cincinnati
Peter Eisenmans program here was to
re-organize 13,400 square meters of existing space and add 12,000 square meters of new
space, including a library, theater, exhibition space, studio space, and office space.
This was to unify the University of Cincinnatis schools of Design, Art, Architecture
and Planning. Eisenmans work is part of an ambitious campus master plan with work
(some in progress) by Frank Gehry, Michael Graves, Pei Cobb Freed, and Venturi Scott Brown.
came to public notice as part of the "New York Five" (Meier,
Hejduk, Graves, Gwathmey, and Eisenman) of the 1970s. Known primarily for being a theorist,
Eisenmans later forays into the built world have been greeted with a rather wide
variety of opinion.
Ohio seems to love
him, commissioning work in Columbus and Cincinnati at a generous rate. However, were you
to come of age looking at nothing but heavy, gridded, often oppressive and bleakly-toned
sandstone, you might love someone who tilts a grid and paints it pastel, too.
complain of the "disorienting" sensation of his tilted planes, to which Eisenman
That is what I have always been trying to do--to
displace the subject--to oblige the subject to reconceptualize architecture. We have
actually to change the relationship of the body to architecture. The body has to send
messages to the brain saying wait a minute, something that I need to adjust to,
something that I need to understand is happening to me.
Eisenmans "displacement" is
particularly acute in the Aronoff center. I had no organizational understanding of the
building, and wandered around like a confused freshman, looking for any orienting or
central area. Since I visited in the summer, I did not have a chance to see how it was
used by throngs of adventurous students.
Of the forms of the Aronoff Center, Eisenman
notes that his "vocabulary derives from the curves of the land forms and the chevron
forms of the existing building; the dynamic relationship between these two forms organize
the space between them." I found this "attention to the curves of the land"
to be more notable in the landscape architecture (by Hargreaves Associates) of the site,
especially on the rear side of the building. The most intriguing view of the center is of
it nestled behind sensuous land forms and elegant trees--a responsive design to the
University of Cincinnatis precarious hilltop site.