Eisenman has also continued to pursue his relationship with houses, and how that has evolved is one of the more fascinating chapters in this architectural icon’s career. In a recent interview, he spoke about the difference between houses and homes, and there’s a lesson there for every homeowner.
“Architects design houses,” Eisenman said. “I live in a home.”
Presumably, this distinction helps to explain Eisenman’s living arrangements. Most architects of his stature live in houses that they have designed and whose designs are published widely, but he divides his time between two homes, neither of which he designed and neither of which has been published.
Eisenman characterized one home as “a dumb little apartment” in New York City with “a kitchen that’s not comfortable for two people to be in at the same time.” He characterized the other as a “wonderful old New England house, made of stone, brick and tile,” which was an 18th-century mill and is built over a waterfall. “No architect has ever worked on it,” he said. “You couldn’t design like this. It happens over time,” as successive owners altered it to meet their needs.
Offering an explanation for his housing choices, Eisenman said, “I am immersed in architecture all day, working in my office or teaching.” Afterwards, “I want to go back to my home, where it’s cozy.”
Eisenman has made both spaces his own with an eclectic mix of furniture that spans more than 150 years of chair and sofa design — overstuffed, black Chesterfield-style couches, Bauhaus chairs and Bentwood Thonet chairs. He collects drawings by Piranesi, an 18th-century Italian architect and artist. Eisenman’s favorite hangs near the foot of one of his beds, he said, “because it’s great to wake up with a piece of paper that is older than the U.S.”
An astute observer would note that the furnishings in the two Eisenman households reflect a mutual respect for two different tastes, that of Eisenman and his wife, Cynthia Davidson. As he put it, “My wife has her stuff and her taste, and I have my stuff and my taste.” Now 78, Eisenman said: “I wouldn’t have been this way 50 years ago. As you get older, you get wiser.”