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Peter Eisenman was a student of Rowe at Cambridge.

He was also a member of the “New


York Five”32 and Cooper Union Faculty, where he worked in collaboration with Hejduk.33
Thus, it is highly evident that Eisenman was also familiar with the 9SG Exercise. Somol states
that, “Unlike the initial premises of the nine-square problem as articulated in Austin, Eisenman
does not privilege space as the dominant dynamic element to be read against the statis of
structure.”34 Although interpretations of the 9SG by Hejduk and Eisenman were different, its
utilization (as a design tool) was similar for ordering the essential elements of architecture.

Hejduk’s introduction of the 9SG Exercise in the 50s and 60s was a frontier for Eisenman
and others to follow35 in utilizing the 9SG as a design tool. This chapter proceeds with the
description of the 9SG examples beginning with John Hejduk’s 9SG Exercise and Texas
Houses and, continues with Eisenman’s House projects. It then turns to Andrea Palladio’s
villas and Le Corbusier’s Chandigarh projects to provide the knowledge for understanding
the changing approaches to the 9SG before and after the 60’s.

2.1 The 9SG Exercise and The Texas Houses (Austin, 1954 – 63): John Hejduk
Under the influence of Bernhard Hoesli, Colin Rowe, John Hejduk, Robert Slutzky and other
young architects that came together between 1951 and 1956, a design process for The Texas
University students was launched. The aim of the design studios was to equip the students
with tools for generating their individual methods in the process of design.36 The 9SG was
one of the important contributions to the design process.

The origin of the Nine Square Grid exercise lies in Slutzky’s previous experiment on the two
dimensional canvas in search for spatial warps within right angular spaces.37 Hejduk’s re-
interpretation of Slutzky’s works on a structural wire-frame that of columns and beams

32
The five architects known as the “New York Five” are namely John Hejduk, Peter Eisenman, Richard Meier,
Charles Gwathmey and Michael Graves.
33
Peggy Deamer, “Structuring Surfaces: The Legacy of The Whites,” Perspecta 32, 2001, p. 97.
34
R.E. Somol “Dummy Text, or The Diagrammatic Basis of Contemporary Architecture,” 1999:17.
35
For example, Bernard Tschumi was a student of Bernard Hoesli in ETH, Zurich. He graduated in 1969. Shigeru
Ban was educated under the supervision of Hejduk in Cooper Union.
36
See Onur Yüncü, Conceptualization of Knowledge of Form Making in Architectural Education, 2002.
37
Alexander Caragonne. “The Nine Square Exercise”, The Texas Rangers: Notes From an Architectural
Underground. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1995, p. 190.

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brought forward a new method for ordering the “substance of architecture.”38 The new
formation named the “9SG” was a new frontier in the Texas Experience that led to a new
understanding of architectural design in terms of structure and program. Hejduk continued
his studies on the 9SG with the Texas Houses.

This part of the study aims at understanding John Hejduk’s interpretation of the 9SG as an
educational tool, which is “The Nine Square Grid Exercise,” and his approach to the 9SG as
a design tool in architecture. The study will be in two parts. Primarily the 9SG Exercise will
be highlighted to understand the 9SG as a methodological tool for architectural education;
secondly the Texas Houses will be introduced to understand how Hejduk disclosed the
(diagrammatic) potency of the 9SG.

The key reference in the study will be Hejduk himself. In his book Mask of Medusa, Hejduk
explains his projects in a rather poetic manner, which may create a problem in understanding
the projects.

2.1.1 The 9SG Exercise

The initial power and beauty of the nine-square problem was its immateriality, its
existence without function, site, client, body, and, to some extent, scale.39

The 9SG Exercise was given to the students as a structural wire-frame and nothing else
(Figure 2.1). In the design process, students were expected to discover the potency of the
9SG structure and to investigate spatial configurations within the limitations and possibilities
of the structural grid.

In this exercise, the main concern is to explore the fact that architectural space itself is
“defined by inseparable from structure, dialectically organized in relation to that structure,
and defined by and generated from structure.”40 Not only did the exercise define a structure,
but it also defined a space for interpretation.41 This structural grid urged the students to

38
Onur Yüncü. Conceptualization of Knowledge of Form Making in Architectural Education, 2002.
39
R.E. Somol, “The Diagrams of Matter,” 1998:24.
40
Alexander Caragonne. Texas Rangers: Notes From an Architectural Underground, 1995:37.
41
Somol refers to Hejduk’s 9SG Exercise to be “the collapse of Le Corbusier’s Domino and Van Doesburg’s
axonometrics filtered through the reductive planimetric logic hypothesized by Wittkower Palladio’s twelfth villa.”
See R.E. Somol “Dummy Text, or The Diagrammatic Basis of Contemporary Architecture,” 1999:12.

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discover the structural elements as grid, post, beam, frame, while its spatial potency urged to
discover relations as center and periphery, main spaces and sub-spaces, and the like.

Figure 2.1 The Nine Square Grid Exercise. In John Hejduk, Mask of Medusa, New York: Rizzoli International
Publications, Inc., 1985, p. 38.

In questioning and discovering spatial and structural elements, students were expected to
develop their scenarios for the program.42 That is to say that, students should understand that
the program is not only the list of functional requirements, but these requirements are to be
fulfilled by taking into consideration the potency of the 9SG. In this sense, Hejduk refers to
the 9SG as not only as a supporting structure, but also as an “elemental theme.”

The constant rhythmical modulation of grid is a stabilizing frame upon which


counterpoint is played. It is elemental theme and supporting structure. Painter and
architect are forced to recognize the ordering principle of the intersections of
grid. Objects relate in various ways to its dictatorial insistence. They can be

For Somol, Le Corbusier’s Domino points to the interpretation of structure while Van Doesburg’s axonometrics
points to the interpretation of space. There are actually eleven Villas designed by Palladio. What Somol describes
as the twelfth villa is the 9SG, which is what Wittkower calls the “geometric pattern” of the eleven villas.
Wittkower develops the “geometric pattern” as a result of the analysis of the eleven villas.
42
Hejduk refers to scenarios as interpretations of program. He explains this approach when describing the
“masques” within the projects. Accordingly, the end product is a “masque” that covers the scenario of the
program. “…what the masque demands is the invention of new programs.” For more information on Hejduk’s
“Masque Projects” see John Hejduk, “Frame 7,” Mask of Medusa, 1985, p. 120 – 157.

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outside of it, within it, on top of it – unlimited variance and possibility are
inherent about it.43

In the process, the students were acting like painters on the canvas. The figurative data was
the programmatic requirements, while the canvas was the 9SG structure. Students generated
relations between elements of the program, and organized these relations in accordance with
the potency of the structural grid. Thus, each interpretation became a unique programmatic
proposal. Since the 9SG has the potential for infinite interpretations, there is a possibility to
generate infinite diagrams for infinite scenarios.

… The nine square is metaphysical. It always was. It still is for me. Not that I
want to teach it anymore – although I can. It is one of the classic, open-ended,
problems given in the last thirty years. The nine square has nothing to do with
style. It is detached… the nine square is unending in its voidness, which is why it
is basically metaphysical. 44

Hejduk refers to the 9SG “without inheriting any style, not even modern.” 45 Like the canvas,
the 9SG refers only to itself. Thus, it cannot point to any “style.” Therefore, the 9SG
Exercise excluded any discussion on architectural style and concentrated particularly on the
formation of architectural space, which could not be thought apart from the structure.

2.1.2 The Texas Houses as a “Form of Auto-Criticism”

The Texas Houses represents ten years of a basic training that began to exorcise
the reductive tendency. I wanted to learn not only how to put buildings together,
but how to detail conceptually. I have a tendency to reduce. My battle is to bring
things up to the edge and not go over (and then be content with it). It is a form of
auto-criticism.46

Hejduk began the design of the Texas Houses while he was teaching at Austin. He designed
seven houses as a continuation and further enhancement of the 9SG exercise. Within the
house projects, the 9SG structure transforms from a single storey entity to respectively two
and three stories.47

43
Ibid. p. 73.
44
Ibid. p. 129.
45
See Ibid. p. 34 – 35.
46
Ibid. p. 39.
47
Caragonne also mentions of this transformation. See Alexander Caragonne, The Texas Rangers: Notes From an
Architectural Underground, 1995:193.

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For each House, Hejduk introduces a different interpretation of the potency of the 9SG. This
effort is a part of the training process, which claims to “exorcise the reductive tendency.” In
this respect, each house brings forth a new interpretation for program. Each different
interpretation introduces new diagrams for the fulfillment of the programmatic requirements.
Thus, the 9SG never stands for an ideal house type. However, it opens up the way for the
design of different houses with different interpretations for programmatic requirements.

The first one [Texas House] is an Italian garden situation. Symmetrical, the house
is below entry eye-level, Tivoli, any of those kind of places #1, that’s the Italian
garden. The second house is even more classicizing, more rigid, Italianate plan and
I’m not talking about Palladio. The third one is a syncopation. It appears to refer to
Mondrian. So there was the conflict between the Italian form and Mondrian’s
Broadway Boogie-Woogie and Victory Boogie-Woogie. There was the conflict
between two worlds: the modernist world, so called, and the classicizing world;
America and Europe. It was already there in the verandah. Verandahs are
American; lodges are European. Then the Fourth house was closest to Leger. Just a
block. The fifth house was a Mies exercise. The Sixth House was like the Fourth,
with another storey added. The seventh House dealt with the inversion of scale –
Renaissance scale, where the still of the window was above your head. So after ten
years I exorcised the Italian thing. Two occurrences: digging out and filling in. I
dug out that which I had to get through and not use anymore. Like the Italian
situation, symmetries in a certain way, and so forth.48

With a new programmatic interpretation for each house, Hejduk declares that the design
process is a “form of auto-criticism.” For Hejduk, this form of auto-criticism was more of a
try-and-error method: “digging out and filling in.” In this manner, he designed the next
house by leaving out what he had criticized in the previous.

Alexander Caragonne explains the reason behind Hejduk’s effort to grasp detail conceptually:

If this penetrating experience were not enough, in his first moments of that
teaching he became painfully aware of what seemed a fundamentally deficiency,
“that I was not really competent enough in understanding architectural detail.”
Therefore Hejduk set about, as he says, “to re-inform myself about construction
at a conceptual level, a real level; detail, the methodologic development of
construction conditions: columns, piers, walls, beams, edges and so forth.” … In
order to teach, he was forced to organize his thoughts coherently: “I had to get
things into order. To order one’s teaching, on a rational basis.”49

With the 9SG Exercise and the Texas Houses, Hejduk not only tried to “exorcise the
reductive tendency” but also aimed to develop his skills on architectural detailing, which in
turn forced him to organize his thoughts on a rational basis.

48
John Hejduk, Mask of Medusa, 1985:36.
49
Alexander Caragonne. The Texas Rangers: Notes From an Architectural Underground, 1995. p. 191.

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2.1.3 The Texas Houses
Hejduk designed the Texas Houses on imaginary sites.50 In Texas House 1 and 2, he expands the
9SG plan to create extra spaces for verandahs and service spaces (Figure 2.2). Hejduk expresses
House 1 to propose an “asymmetrical program placed in a symmetrical form-structure.”

“A number of arguments within the house were not yet resolved. One was that of
an asymmetrical program placed in a symmetrical form-structure.”51

All spaces at the corners of the 9SG have separate entrances that open to the verandahs.
Except for the lower right, bedrooms are located at each corner of the 9SG plan. The lower
right corner is reserved for a kitchen.

Next to the kitchen is a dining space. The main entrance to the house is from the center
square through a verandah. This entrance proceeds as a direct axis that ends with a staircase
(going down to a garden level) that is positioned in the verandah on the upper end. At the
end of the axis, there exists a living space. This axis that begins with the entrance and ends
with the staircase possibly bears the main circulation of the house.

Figure 2.2 Plan of Texas House 1 (right) and Texas House 2 (left). In John Hejduk, Mask of Medusa, New
York: Rizzoli International Publications, Inc., 1985, p. 223, 225.

50
John Hejduk, Mask of Medusa, 1985:42.
51
Ibid.

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The plan of House 1 can be interpreted with a central circulation and living axis, with the
corners used as bedrooms (and a kitchen).

The asymmetrical program of House 2 moved toward a clearer solution of the


symmetrical structure form, but not entirely clear…In both House 1 and House 2
I considered the element of verandahs; it is said that today there are few
verandahs proposed.52

House 2 has two entrances, which define a central axis for the house. Differing from House
1, the entrances have no relation to the verandahs, which are situated on the left and right of
the plan. The living space is placed at the center square of the plan and expands on a
horizontal axis towards the right and the left where there is a dining space. This horizontal
axis is the main living area of the house.

Similar to House 1, House 2 has three bedrooms in the spaces at the three corners of the
9SG. The remaining corner is reserved as a space for the kitchen. Service spaces are not
within the 9SG, but they are spaces that expand from it. The verandahs and the service
spaces define a zone that surrounds the 9SG.

House 2 can be interpreted with two axes: one vertical and one horizontal. The vertical where
the entrance is located is for the circulation, while the horizontal is the living spaces. These two
axes intersect in the center square of the 9SG, where there is a living space or a central hall.

Coming to House 3,

The introduction of masonry bearing walls with peripheral columns and a central
court informed the development of this house…There was a bedroom side, a
utility side, and a center for living, including court, library and music. A diagonal
relationship of program was attempted…tentatively.53

House 3 defines a center-periphery relation with an open court at the center (Figure 2.3). The
left and right sides of the 9SG are reserved for “a bedroom side, and a utility side.” The
entrances are again from verandahs that expand from the 9SG. These entrances, which are
placed on a diagonal axis from one corner to the other, emphasize a diagonal axis on the plan.

52
Ibid.
53
Ibid.

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Figure 2.3 Plan of Texas House 3. In John Hejduk, Mask of Medusa, New York: Rizzoli International
Publications, Inc., 1985, p. 227.

Of all the Texas Houses, House 4 is perhaps the most complete and most
resolved. The idea of the reductive element expression of the internal organism
upon the peripheral glass facades by mullion notation revealed quite
syncopations. In addition, the glass slots, which penetrate through the whole
house tend to separate the single volume into three separate parts relative to the
vertical plane. Here the relationship of asymmetrical program coincides with
asymmetrical structure-form…54 (emphasis mine)

Figure 2.4 Plan and axonometric of Texas House 4. In John Hejduk, Mask of Medusa, New York: Rizzoli
International Publications, Inc., 1985, p. 229.

54
Ibid.

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House 4 is an example where the 9SG transforms into a two-storey structure (Figure 2.4). At
the center square of the plan is placed a staircase. On the first floor are living room, music
room and kitchen. The plan of the house is divided into three parts. Hejduk refers to these
parts to take reference from the mullions of glass on the façade.

Of all the nine square investigations that were begun in Texas, House 5 is the
purest expression of the nine-bay, sixteen column system. It is a homage to Mies
van der Rohe. I wanted to take a deep look at the free-floating elements within
the structural grid…55

House 5 is a single space with the columns and furniture dividing the space into sub-spaces
(Figure 2.5). By means of evenly set out facades and the use of furniture rather than the
partition walls, House 5 departs from the previous Texas House experiments into a different
interpretation of the program. Hejduk describes the plan of Texas House 5 as a contemporary
plan. He states his dissatisfaction with House 5 because of the problem of elevations. Hejduk
refers to the facades as “neo-classic.” Togetherness of a contemporary plan with the neo-
classical elevation created a dilemma. Texas House 5 was a turning point in improving the
previous ideas he derived from the 9SG. House 5 was “Mies” realized with the 9SG.

Figure 2.5 Plan an axonometric of Texas House 5. In John Hejduk, Mask of Medusa, New York: Rizzoli
International Publications, Inc., 1985, p. 231.

55
Ibid. p. 43.

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Texas House 6 is a three-storey structure (Figure 2.6). It is the 9SG in both plan and sections
and in turn elevations.

Similar to House 4, House 6 has increased its size to three floors and a separate
stair tower. A subtraction process: the garage-utility-guest apartment is a volume
that has been removed from the prime house, thereby creating a two-level volume
outside and inside the house.56

Figure 2.6 Plan of Texas House 6. In John Hejduk, Mask of Medusa, New York: Rizzoli International
Publications, Inc., 1985, p. 233.

House 7 creates an illusion (Figure 2.7). The exterior is perceived as a three-storey


organization, however there are actually six floors. The structure of the house starts with
load bearing walls. As the structure goes upwards, these walls become piers and then
columns. The house contains spaces that are open on the top store. There is a whirlpool
effect as the system shrinks downwards.

56
Ibid.

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Figure 2.7 Axonometric for Texas House 7. In John Hejduk, Mask of Medusa, New York: Rizzoli International
Publications, Inc., 1985, p. 234.

[House 7 is] the final house of the Texas series. The Diamond Houses followed.
This house is still being worked upon. The idea was to investigate a column-pier-
wall construction system. Another search was to increase the visual scale; the
external facades pose this problem.57

Hejduk leaves House 7 as an un-finished proposal. The experience with the Texas Houses is
a never-ending process for it is open to multiple interpretations. With House 7, Hejduk
explains that he completed his process with the Texas Houses. 58

2.2 House Projects (1967 – 75): Peter Eisenman


Eisenman states that, his arguments on architectural diagrams evolved in response to Rudolf
Wittkower’s analysis of the Palladian Villas and Colin Rowe’s comparison of Le Corbusier
and Palladio.59 He further states that “differently from Rowe and Wittkower,” his arguments

57
Ibid.
58
Hejduk declares himself as a ‘fly’ that comes and completes missing pieces. Hejduk is just “filling the missing
parts.” Hejduk claims himself a “methodologist where he starts with one thing, uses what he needs, then goes to
another project.” See Ibid. p. 130, 134.
59
See Colin Rowe, “The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa,” The Mathematics of the Ideal Villa and Other Essays,
Cambridge: MIT Press, 1977, for the comparison of Palladio’s Villa Malcontenta and Le Corbusier’s Villa

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