Aronoff Center for Design and Art

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Aronoff Center for Design and Art
Peter Eisenman’s 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 Cincinnati’s schools of Design, Art, Architecture and Planning. Eisenman’s 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.

Eisenman 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, Eisenman’s 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.

People often complain of the "disorienting" sensation of his tilted planes, to which Eisenman responds:

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.’

Eisenman’s "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 Cincinnati’s precarious hilltop site.


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