Symposium: Figures, Creatures, Characters—One Day with John Hejduk

April 28, 2016

Thursday, April 28th, 1pm — 6.30 pm
ETH Hönggerberg, HIL, in the gta-exhibitions space (formerly ARchENA),
seats are limited, no reservation possible

“What warrants a collection of ruminations on a theoretical practice whose focus is an architecture neither theoretical nor practical in any conventional sense of the terms?”
—K. Michael Hays, Hejduk’s Chronotope

John Hejduk had a long and constructive history with Bernhard Hoesli and the Institute for the History and Theory of Architecture (gta), leading him to credit the ETH Zürich as his “European base”. In an attempt to bring him here once more, we will hold a one-day symposium on April 28, 2016 to discuss the work of John Hejduk and its influence upon subsequent generations of European architects. How is Hejduk received or interpreted? Which aspects of his work are useful, inspiring, or irritating?

For a transatlantic discussion, we will host K. Michael Hays from Harvard’s GSD as our American representative. Hays has been instrumental in interpreting and theorizing Hejduk’s work, so we would like to put him in conversation with several European architects and scholars whose work, thinking or teaching bears an affinity or, possibly, an aversion to the work of John Hejduk.

This symposium will take place within the space of a gta exhibition which will feature several of Hejduk’s projects, commemorating three Hejduk exhibitions held by the gta between 1973 and 1983. On display will be Hejduk’s 1986 “Victims” project as well as drawings from his “Diamond Plan” series. This exhibition will be held in anticipation of the gta’s upcoming 50-year anniversary.

Location:  ETH Zürich, Hönggerberg, HIL, gta Exhibitions


gta Exhibition: John Hejduk

“The arguments and points of view are within the work, within the drawings; it is hoped that the conflicts of form will lead to clarity which can be useful and perhaps transferable.”
—John Hejduk, 1964

In the run-up to the gta’s 50th anniversary in 2017, we are working with Niall Hobhouse, a renowned collector of architectural drawings, and Alexander Lehnerer’s Chair of Architecture and Urban Design to put together an exhibition on the 20th century American architect John Hejduk. Hejduk’s drawings will be displayed to commemorate the three Hejduk exhibitions held by the gta between 1973 and 1983, including his legendary 1973 exhibition with Aldo Rossi.

John Hejduk had a long and constructive history with Bernhard Hoesli and the gta, leading him to credit the ETH Zürich as his “European base”. With this exhibition, we bring Hejduk back to Zürich not only to reexamine this history, but also to consider what his work might have to say within the present-day architectural and cultural context. The presumed relevance of Hejduk some 30 years after his last visit derives from a unique aspect of his work—his investigations, arguments and ideas are not primarily disseminated through writing or building(s). Rather, the architecture is located within—and communicated through—the drawings and models themselves. Despite—or due to—the exclusivity of its media, the work has considerable breadth and depth, containing speculative, disciplinary, historical, practical and theoretical implications. Hejduk’s work resists easy summary or definitive conclusions. It is this enigmatic quality which has served to liberate the work from the cultural and discursive context in which it was produced, leaving it open to new readings and interpretations. A symposium on the 28th of April—Figures, Creatures, Characters: One Day with John Hejduk—will be held to initiate a debate on the relevance and potentials of Hejduk’s work within the present-day European context.

For the exhibition, materials drawn from the gta’s archive will be combined with two characteristic Hejduk works—drawings from his Diamond Series and his Victims masque from 1986. Hejduk’s Diamond Series (1962-67) marks the culmination of Hejduk’s early work and served as the instigator to his breakthrough Wall House series. Beginning with the formulation of the nine-square grid problem in 1954, Hejduk produced an iterative series of architectural drawings that wrestled with what he perceived to be the unresolved spatial and representational problems of modern art and architecture. The Victims masque evolves from his urban proposal for the 1984 IBA in Berlin and is representative of the more figural and elevational work that began with his renowned Wall House series. In his masques, buildings become figural architectonic characters equipped with specific tasks, which are distributed within the city according to provisional storylines. By questioning or collapsing the distinctions between subject and object, function and figure, performance and communication, architecture and the city, Hejduk’s masques offer a valuable counterpoint to contemporary architectural production.

Date : Thursday 21 April 2016 to Friday 20 May 2016; Mon-Fri 10-18, closed on weekends and holidays
Location : ETH Zurich, Hönggerberg, HIL, gta exhibitions

Diamond Museum C, 1967