Deconstructive Architecture

The year 1998 marked a turning point in the very essence of architecture by announcing the arrival of new architecture – the Deconstructive Architecture.

Philip Johnson and Mark Wigley from the curator’s standpoint presented the exhibition about Deconstructive Architecture, entitled “Deconstructivist Architecture”.

At the aforementioned event held at the Museum of Modern Art in New York the public had a chance to observe the work of seven architects; Zaha M. Hadid, Peter Eisenman, Bernard Tschumi, Coop Himelblau, Daniel Libeskind, Frank O. Gehry and Rem Koolhaas.

The architectural projects featured at the aforesaid exhibition have been summarized with the generic brand of “Deconstructivist Architecture”.

In his attempt to draw a universal perspective that describes Deconstructivist Architecture, Johnson claimed that this new rising architectural tide did not respond to a particular style, nor is obedient toa specific set of rules and it does not constitute a movement [Johnson, Wigley, 1988: 7].

Taking the above suppositions by Johnson into consideration, one remains puzzled upon facing the following question; what is the criteria that the curators embraced when selecting the projects that are the correct representation of Deconstructivist Architecture?

Both the curators have emphasized that the architecture housed in the MOMA’s exhibition seventeen years ago, is linked to the Soviet modern movement drawn from 1920. Wigley does admit that Deconstructivist Architecture is devoted to the principles adopted by the Constructivists. Yet he claims that the featured architecture does not share or have a common aesthetic.

In a lecture delivered in Columbia University in February 1991, Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi recognized the fact that many architects who are considered to be deconstructivist refuse to be associated with a style and do not accept the deconstructivist prefix attached to their work.

In order to underpin the reason that causes this refusal of belonging to a certain style, Tschumi refers to the aims of deconstructive thinking. Tschumi claims:
“…deconstructivism was born – immediately called a ‘style’– precisely what these architects had been trying to avoid. Any interest in poststructuralist thought and deconstruction stemmed from the fact that they challenged the idea of a single unified set of images, the idea of certainty, and of course, the idea of an identifiable language” [Tschumi,1996: 251].

Tschumi endorses his reasoning with the argument that whilst the deconstructive architecture true to deconstructive philosophy is supposed to question the established and unified methodology of thinking, how it can still serve its purpose if in turn, it becomes a style.

However, upon deciding what work is eligible to represent the Deconstructivist Architecture, Johnson and Wigley in determining the decisive factor have not implicated the above statement.

At what point does an architect begin or end to generate Deconstructive Architecture?

According to de Certeau, a place is something fixed and determined and therefore is planed. When movements are introduced to a place, the later becomes a space alongside its variations in their behaviour.

“A space exists when one takes into consideration vectors of direction, velocities, and time variables. Thus space is composed of intersections of mobile elements. It is in a sense articulated by the ensemble of movements deployed within it. Space occurs as the effect produced by the operations that orient it, situate it, temporalize it, and make it function in a polyvalentunity of conflicting programs or contractual proximities… In contradistinction to the place, it has thus none of the univocity or stability of a proper. In short, space is a practiced place” [De Certeau, 1984: 117].

Architectural creativity has in the past relied upon the technological aspects of a building, whereby the human factor has been paid little attention by the architects.

Marc Auge has also outlined by remains in the dynamics of the location since a place with activity concludes into space. Auge draws attention to the dynamics of space as its primary element and not the architectural elements. “Benjamin implies that in its repetition or rather in its revisit, the deconstructive mind enters with an exploratory vision searching for meanings in things that were previously considered as trivial. He also claims that philosophy has been confined within its borders in defining the subject of its interest. Under deconstructive vision adding related issues that have been not so visible is expanding these borders” [Auge, 1995: 81].

Auge concludes that a place becomes a space only if a dynamic activity takes place.


Auge, M., (1995): Non-Places an introduction to the anthropology of the post modernity. Verso, London.

Benjamin, A., ed. (1988): Deconstruction in Architecture. Architectural Design, 58, no. 3/4, London.

De Certeau, M., (1984): The Practice of Everyday Life. Trans. Steven Rendall, University of California, Berkeley.

Derrida, J,. (1976): Of Grammatology. Trans. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, Johns Hopkins UP, Baltimore.

Eisenman, p., (1988): “Eisenmanesie”. V: Architecture + Urbanism, Vol. Extra edition, August. p.:70.

Jencks, C., ed. (1992): The Post-Modern Reader. Academy Editions, London.

Johnson P., Wigley, M., (1988): Deconstructivist Architecture. The Museum of Modern Art, New York.

Leach N., ed., (1997): Rethinking Architecture; A reader in Cultural Theory. Routledge, London.

Noever, P., (1999): Architecture in Transition; Between Deconstruction and New Modernism. Prestel, Munich.

Ryan, M., (1982): Marxism and Deconstruction: A Critical Articulation. Johns Hopkins UP, Baltimore.

Tschumi, B., (1996): Architecture and Disjunction. MIT Press, London.

Woods, L., (1997): Radical Reconstruction. Princeton Architectural Press, New York.




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