Eisenmann debates wolf d prix at a crit

Eisenmann debates wolf d prix at a critI found this very entertaining example of a studio "crit" on YouTube. I've transcribed the first part of the clip showing American architect, Peter Eisenmann, who is supposed to be giving feedback on a student's work. He doesn't actually give feedback, but here is the  gobbledygook monologue he comes out with to the student’s tutor, Wolf D. Prix.

“Can I ask one question before we say anything about this? While I'm here I may as well give a full measure of my devotion. If you put a monkey in front of a typewriter, it's never going to produce literature. The reason is, it doesn't know what literature is and it doesn't know what the hell it is doing at the keyboard, right? Uh, Just because a student lives in a house and you give them a keyboard or they've heard music and you give them a keyboard and say construct eight-tone or twelfth-tone music... If they don't know what music is, how it's constructed, how it works, how can they do it? My question to you is, “How is a student, who comes from an ordinary bourgeois environment, yeah, like me, if they don't know what architecture is, in other words in terms of it's chording, it's structuring, it's harmonics, it's rhythmics etc. if they've never studied anything, you're gonna get, to me, these kinds of results. And I don't know, whether the student learns by being thrown into the water. I used to teach swimming. You'd throw them in two ways, you'd step in one at a time. You throw them in the water. But once they've been thrown in the water, then they learn a technique etc. What I'm suggesting is, I don't know how to judge this performance because, on what is it based? Does the student know what classical ordination is? Does the student know how classical ordination is transformed, why it's bad, why it's doing these kinds of things? And  so, what I'm saying is, I feel very badly, I won't say anything. I'm saying it to you (he is talking to a tutor and discussing the female student as if she isn't there) because I don't know if she knows the difference between Palladio and Borromini....”.

At this point, Prix, says, “Ask her”. But Eisenmann continues, ”No no. It's important. I can tell that she doesn't...So how can she do this if she doesn't? There is a discipline of architecture. I'm asking you the question. And I will leave after it.”

Again, Prix responds, “The answer is, you should talk to her firstly”. But in the remaining three minutes of the video, Eisenmann continues to ignore the student and carries on in the same vein and the two tutors starting having a far-out touchy feely discussion, which only makes sense to the two of them. It's all very jolly. Near the end, Prix says to Eisenmann, “I don't believe in teaching architecture” and he responds enthusiastically, “Me neither”.

I had included this transcript in the first draft of my book, BRICK WALL but my editor advised me to remove it as he felt that it "distracted the reader from the story". I think this was a good call as this convoluted, nonsensical dialogue has no place in a book written in perfectly good, simple English.


  1. OMG - what incredible arrogance and stupidity!? Perhaps these men should let people who feel they can teach architecture do the next crit.....

  2. Yeah this is pretty awful and is to a greater or lesser extent widespread throughout the UK (which I believe I can say having studied both in and outside London). The teaching profession is full of self important 'little' people who enjoy 'bigging themselves up' in front of impressionable and vulnerable young people. If those young people happen not to be cut from the same cloth of the teacher...woe betide them.