Monday night Washington University in St. Louis honored Peter Eisenman as a guest lecturer. This lecture was one that really made a difference in my understanding of architecture and theoretical thinking. He had many wise words, but most of which raised questions to us as students. He spoke about generational differences that he went through and what he sees us going through as the future of the profession. That discussion, and much of the rest of the lecture, was deep and made us really think about design in the new age. His 2nd half of the lecture was a display of his project in Spain. Much of the project was impressive, but there was one thing that really took my attention, mostly about what he said and the thought behind his discovery.
Within the project are these features that come up and meet the building in a ramp sort of manor. He referred to these as noses of the buildings. It wasn’t till after that Peter saw people climbing up these artificial hills and sitting, while kids rolled down them. But what really made me perk up was he mentioned skateboarding. Now after seeing the different features of similar form, this campus that he created is a skateboard heaven. But as a skater I look for that stuff in architecture, something no other person in the world will ever see. But after peter experienced these phenomena, his eyes seemed to be open to what he actually designed. I'm not saying he designed a skate park but what he designed invited more than is expectations of a typical pedestrian. Now I don’t want to say that Peter Eisenman backs skateboard and invited skaters to ride around on his building. In many ways that is ridiculous to say, but it’s the recognition that makes a difference.
So here is my point to all of this. As a skateboarder and student in architecture, I find that these two relationships are important. The word pedestrian means one thing to a majority of architects. It is a simple word and doesn’t account for the unexpected. Now people such as skateboarders, bikers, kids, and anyone else, are unexpected pedestrians. We create behavioral traits that require certain spaces and other needs in order for a program of such nature to be successful. What I mean by this is, designing a piece of architecture, you must be mindful of whatever and whoever. We can’t always design for skateboarders and other people who are different than an average pedestrian, but really it is being mindful of how you design the space. You must ask yourself if it can be skate able or if it can’t. It is all in your intent of the space but as architects we have the control to attempt to guide people to go or do certain things. So to finish up, architects like Peter Eisenman may not have designed his building for skateboarders or rolling kids, but in a way that feature became successful. One thing became another un-expectantly it became a new notion and a new idea. So maybe should design be mindful or should it be a surprise.