Architectural Studies

Deconstructivist Architecture

As with the International Style before it, the concept of Deconstructivist Architecture was popularized through an influential 1988 exhibition in New York City at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Once again the exhibition and its accompanying publication were organized by Philip Johnson—this time in collaboration with Mark Wrigley, a young scholar then teaching at Princeton. The central thrust of the exhibition and text were to interpret the work of a group of cutting-edge designers in the lineage of the Russian Constructivist avant-garde, as well as to explicate their challenging designs with an appeal to the semiotic theories of the French poststructuralist philosopher Jacques Derrida.

Just as Constructivist designers of the 1910s and 1920s, such as Vladimir Tatlin and El Lissitzky, sought to rebuild, or re-engineer, society through radical new approaches to design, the Deconstructivist approach sought new methods and systems of design. At the same time, the notion of deconstruction involved attempts, inspired by linguistic models, at “unpacking” the language of architecture, thereby critiquing the connotations and denotations of traditional architectural forms and materials.

In the same way that MoMA’s 1932 show helped establish Le Corbusier, Gropius and Mies as the leading figures in European modern architecture, the exhibition “Deconstructivist Architecture” helped catapult the seven architects it treated into the forefront of contemporary architecture debates. The featured architects were: Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Bernard Tschumi, and the Viennese design firm Coop Himmelb(l)au.

Below are a few video excerpts about Libeskind, Hadid, Gehry and Tschumi or their works.


“Emotion in Architecture” (Out of Sync, 2016, 5 mins.):


Bernard Tschumi Interview (Architectural Review, 2014, excerpt, 14 mins.):


MAXXI (Smarthistory, 2014, 5 mins.):


Louis Vuitton Foundation (VINCI Construction, 2015, 13 mins.):


No quiz for this section, but many of these would make good topics for journal prompts. We had originally scheduled a formal tour for MAXXI but it had to be cancelled. I’m hoping many of you will visit on one of your several free days.

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