Advanced Design Studio: Eisenman

Eisenman: Rome

A Project of Aggregation


Design and Visualization





Departing from previous studios, the challenge of this exercise is to re-define the term – aggregation – as a critique of the digital, which has become synonymous with homogeneous, continuous space. The idea of aggregation aspires to challenge the self-similar repetition and spatial continuities that have become the hallmark of algorithm-driven design, today the most prevalent strain of digital practice. In a recent interview, Patrik Schumacher writes: “Give me any collage of unrelated elements and I can generate connections and resonances, invent correlations. So I reject the pure interruption, the pure discontinuity, collage.”[1] If the algorithm provides the possibility of smoothing over differences by absorbing them into a cohesive system of controlled relationships, its outcome arguably falls back into the Modernist vein of consistent, homogeneous space. It is a critique of this tendency today that animates the possibility of an aggregated project.

The capacity of the digital to produce a multiple is arguably a reaction to Albertian principles that underpin the metaphysical project in architecture.  In this proto-humanist context, Alberti first defined space or spatium and more specifically posited that all space is homogenous, meaning that all objects exist within a consistent and calculable medium.  Alberti’s theory of homogenous space first raised questions regarding the nature of space and the difference between surface and spatial objects.  Spatial homogeneity projected the idea of the organism, that all parts relate to a whole and that all objects in space are bound to one another through universal, mathematic relationships.

Jump to today. The digital, in a subconscious attempt to overcome these Albertian principles, has an advantage in its ability to produce an inconsistent multiple, or non self-same repetition. While Alberti’s notational systems transcribed a single design by a single author, computation has the capacity to produce multiple iterations that the designer must choose from.  In Alberti’s case, “the author of the drawing becomes the author of the building.”[2]  Today the computer is the mediator and the generator of the multiple.  The idea of the inconsistent multiple is one possible critique of Alberti, in that it questions the idea of authorship and challenges former ideas of space that were predicated on homogeneity.

If parametric or algorithmic-based design paradoxically lapses back into homogeneous space, how might an idea of aggregation produce the possibility of heterogeneous space, or more specifically “heterogeneity within an intensive cohesion rather than out of extensive incoherence and contradiction?”[3] The studio will attempt to define the possibility of an aggregated project as a means to critique parametric methods of homogeneous space formation.



One possible definition is the bringing together of similar or varied elements into a non-uniform body, lacking total integration or complete harmony. In this sense, aggregation can be considered the conflict between the consistent and inconsistent multiple as a means to challenge homogeneity. The idea of aggregation will also help define a methodological approach to the studio.  Students will be asked to rethink prior definitions of space formation and raise questions regarding its internal representation.  The studio will also address the distinction between form-finding, which is arguably what computation typically yields, and form-making, which produces form through an idea about architecture.



The site for the project will be the Piazza dei Cinquecento adjacent Stazione Termini and the Baths of Diocletian in Rome. As the city itself can be read as an unstable ground – a palimpsest of forms, past and present, real and virtual – each project must challenge fixed notions of datum, both horizontal and vertical.  If homogeneity requires a datum, how might aggregation question the status quo of ground as “literal presence?”

In relation to the digital in architecture:  what is the contemporary status of the ground in relation to literal and metaphysical presence? How does the digital platform – essentially a groundless interface – change the way space is bound, controlled, differentiated, or conceptualized in the first place?  If the digital platform is a replacement for the literal ground, in what ways can one manipulate the platform in order to destabilize preconceived notions of ground? 


Strategies:  Tower/Slab/Mat

Vertical and horizontal aggregation will be tested through the possibility of three typologies: tower, slab, and mat building; however, students are not limited to one typology and may combine strategies.  It is important that the typological investigations come out of an idea about aggregation, rather than an idea about building types themselves.  Horizontal and vertical strategies will be explored through both drawing and model as a means to rethink prior definitions of space formation and raise questions regarding its internal representation.


Biblioteca di Roma

Working in pairs, the students will design a new library within the Piazza dei Cinquecento; however, it is important that the students define their own site within this context.  The programmatic requirements, which should be taken at face value (i.e. the investigation should not focus on the specific resolution of function), are as follows:

1.      Reading Rooms & Public Space                   13,200 m2

2.      Book Stacks, Storage & Archive                  1,500 m2

3.      Media Center                                                 1,000 m2

4.      Conference Space/Auditorium                    1,000 m2

5.      Administration/Support                              1,800 m2

6.      Public Services                                             1,500 m2

7.      Ground Transportation (extension of Termini) 


       Total:  20,000 m2



Week 1                       Build site model        class                September 5

Week 2                       Analysis                      individual       September 12

Week 3                       Analysis                      individual       September 19

Week 4                       Travel to Rome                                 September 21-28

Week 5                       Analysis                      individual       October 3

Week 6                       Project                        teams              October 10

Week 7                       Project                        review                        October 17

Week 8                       Mid-term                    review                        October 24

Week 9                       Project                        teams              October 31

Week 10                     Project                        teams              November 7

Week 11                     Project                        teams              November 14

Week 12                     Project                        teams              November 21

Week 13                     Project                        teams              December 5

Week 14                     Final                            Review            December 12



We will go to Rome during the allotted studio travel week. Pier Vittorio Aureli has planned an itinerary for us in and around Rome, including day trips to Palestrina, Genazzano, Tivoli and Viterbo, Bagnaia, Caprarola.



Jeffrey Kipnis, “Towards A New Architecture,” AD Folding in Architecture, Profile No. 102, John Wiley & Sons Ltd (London, 1993), pp 40-9.

            Jeffrey Kipnis, “Nolo Contendere,” Assemblage , No. 11 (Apr., 1990), pp 54-57.

Patrik Schumacher, “I am trying to imagine a radical free-market urbanism,” Log 28, (Anyone Corporation, 2013), pp 39-52.

            Mario Carpo. The Alphabet and the Algorithm. (Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2011).

Greg Lynn. Archeology of the Digital. (Montréal: Canadian Centre for Architecture, 2013).

[1] Patrik Schumacher, “I am trying to imagine a radical free-market urbanism,” Log 28, Anyone Corporation, 2013, pp 39-52.

[2] Mario Carpo, The Alphabet and the Algorithm, (2011).

[3] Jeffrey Kipnis, “Towards A New Architecture,” AD Folding in Architecture, Profile No. 102, John Wiley & Sons Ltd (London, 1993), pp 102.