Here is a semi-short biographical essay.
On 11 August 1982, at the celebration of his fiftieth birthday in his New York office, Peter Eisenman made a short speech, to wit: "I spent my first fifty years working for the Institute [for Architecture and Urban Studies (IAUS); the next fifty years will be devoted to our architectural practice." Whereas this account is not entirely accurate (Eisenman's term at the Institute was fifteen years), it is true that since 1982 Eisenman has completed a few large-scale projects, as opposed to his single family houses of the 1960s and 1970s. His life's work centers on his active participation in architecture and planning by means of talks given throughout the world and writing. His production of several books and numerous articles in journals such as Architectural Forum is commensurate with his Ph.D degree from Cambridge University. Eisenman works alone, with his office staff, and in collaboration with artists (e.g., Michael Heizer), philosophers (e.g., William Gass), and editors (e.g., Cynthia Davidson, his wife). For Eisenman, the architect is humanistic, someone versed in all the arts and sciences, not limited to the nitty gritty of building; at the same time, he enjoys seeing his conceptual designs realized.
As a child Eisenman was not a leader, but he became one before he founded and directed the Institute in 1967. He was a lieutenant in the Korean war during the fifties, and during the mid-sixties he organized the Conference of Architects for the Study of the Environment, meetings for which took place at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York. With the help of Arthur Drexler, director of MoMA, and Colin Rowe. Eisenman's former mentor from Cambridge, the IAUS became registered by New York State. Assisted by Amelio Ambasz, his student at Princeton, Eisenman developed the Charter for the Institute which stated the aim of joining the camps of academia and the architectural office, blending ideas with skills. (This was not dissimilar to the aims of the Beaux-Arts in 19th-and early 20th-century Paris). Under the auspices of trustees and with the participation of fellows and students, the Institute produced, among other things, many publications. The two most prominent were the journal Oppositions (the name was coined by Duarte Cabral de Melo and alluded to Eisenman's dialectical way of thinking) and the newspaper Skyline (named by Andrew MacNair to connote coverage of architectural news of New York). Both publications bore high standards and favored the avant-garde, resisting both functionalism and postmodernism in architecture. Although many names would have to be added to indicate the enormous contributions of others at the Institute, it must be remembered that Eisenman was involved in developing all Institute projects. As Kenneth Frampton, the second prime mover of the Institute, said in 1980, just before the Institute folded, "There would be no Institute without Peter; without Peter there would be no magazine."
Eisenman's architectural practice began at Princeton where he was able to oversee the completion of an antique toy museum. Influenced by Le Corbusier (1887-1965; pseud, for Charles-Édouard Jeanneret), Giuseppe Terragni (1904-42) and Andrea Palladio (1508-80), this pavilion developed into a highly original statement. Starting as a cube, the form was layered and punctuated in space by columns, beams, planes, and slots. The transformational process which Eisenman created became a unique architectural language with grammatical rules that were highly intellectual, in concert with Noam Chomsky's linguistics and the strategies of chess. There were other houses to follow, which are partly explained and illustrated in Five Architects (1972), House X (1982) and House of Cards (1985), each of which was initiated by Eisenman.
It was only with his later works, after he opened an office in 1982, that Eisenman achieved recognition by a larger segment of society. His Wexner Center was large in scale and received considerable press attention. It stands as a monument to deconstruction or decomposition as well as to his response to the site as contrasted with some disregard of earlier landscaping. Eisenman really expresses his involvement with deconstruction in more recent projects, e.g., his solution for the Cincinnati College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning. His consideration of a design's relation to its context also appears in "Choral Works" (with French deconstructionist philosopher Jacques Derrida; b. 1930) in which he includes a segment of a Parisian fortification at Parc de la Villette.
Now that Eisenman heads Eisenman Architects, he is again a director but not in the usual sense of an institutional director. He travels more frequently and thus does not have as much time for the young people who gather to learn from him at the office. However, as before, Eisenman is charismatic and still has been interest in dissimilar areas of life; these now include deconstruction philosophy, the surreal films of David Lynch, and the Ohio State University football team and marching band. And the latter's throbbing rhythms captures in sound the dynamics of volumes in Eisenman's architecture.