Netherlands Architecture Institute NAI (1993 - 2013)

(published on 1 November 2005)


The art collector and enthusiastic appreciator of architecture Piet Sanders is primarily interested in ideas. Whether a design was eventually built, and if so how, is not a question that greatly concerns him. The sculptural models in the exhibition clearly exemplify his preference: the show consists of work by architects who have built relatively few projects and who are primarily engaged in conceptualization and experimentation. John Hejduk was one such architect, who enjoyed a high reputation for his ideas rather than for their rendering as actual buildings.


In an interview with Jaap Huisman in 1993, Hejduk said, "Building - I prefer to call it fabrication - happens in my mind. Architecture isn't restricted solely to the visible process [...] A poem, literature, music, even medicine are sources of inspiration to me for architecture. It is misguided to think your working drawing must always end up as a cut-and-dried building." [De Volkskrant, November 11, 1993]. Hejduk studied and taught for many years at The Cooper Union School of Architecture in New York, where the teaching focused on the integration of art and architecture. The work he made consisted not only of architectural drawings and models, but also of more autonomous work such as poetry, graphic art and painting. All these disciplines are covered by the publications listed below.


Education of an architect

In 1971, the New York Museum of Modern Art invited The Cooper Union School of Architecture to exhibit work by students at the school during the period 1964-1971. It was the first time the MoMA held an exhibition of this kind. The book published in conjunction with the exhibition, Education of an Architect: A Point of View, has become a classic text for architectural education, and has had considerable influence on theories of architecture. The book originally appeared in a limited edition, and was updated and reprinted in 1999. Less well known is a book that was published in 1988, under (almost) the same title, which may be considered a sequel to the 1971 publication; it documents student projects from the period 1972-1985.

John Hejduk, Richard Henderson ; ed. by Elizabeth Diller ... [et al.] ; Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of the Cooper Union. - New York : Rizzoli, 1988. - 351 p. : drsn., ill., tek., plgr., foto's ; 32 cm

Aesop's Fables

Hejduk prepared these plates in 1947, his first years of study at the Cooper Union in New York. They are colorful, vibrant paintings whose motifs always interlock beautifully. The 2,500 years old animal fables by the Greek poet Aesop are world famous, although his stories, which invariably end with an instructive moral, are even more widely known than his name. In Mask of Medusa, Hejduk wrote about this illustrations: "We were given a blank sheet of white paper [..] and were asked to place a black shape using no right angles in the approximated center of the field. [..] We worked for one full year on that book. The experience of designing this volume was one of unique importance as a tool for the introduction to architecture. Through a rigorous discipline it trained the eye (visual sensibility) and the hand (tactile sensibility). We learned how to handle a paint brush, and began the exercising of one's innate feelings toward color, form and space". [p.27]

Joseph Jacobs ; ill. by John Hejduk. - New York : Rizzoli, 1991. - ca. 26 p. : ill. ; 25 cm.

Three projects : exploration of the Diamond Thesis

Hejduk was primarily interested in experimentation and research on residential typologies, for which he returned to the theoretical basis of the Modern movement. He concentrated on elementary classical and modern topics such as the plane, spatial division, symmetry/asymmetry, open and closed form, and access to the dwelling. From the 1950s onwards, he designed several series of houses. The Texas Houses were based on the nine-square grid, as were the later and related Diamond Houses, in which the grid was turned 45 degrees to form a diamond. In his introduction, Hejduk wrote: "If the Cubist canvas provided thought to the architects of the twenties, there may be some significance in the diamond canvasses of Mondrian for architects today." This 1969 book consists of 24 large-format drawings, and was published in an edition of only five hundred.

John Hejduk. - New York : The Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture ; The Architectural League ; The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in Fine Art, 1969. - losbl. : tek., plgrn ; 46x46 cm

Mask of Medusa : works 1947-1983

Hejduk's first detailed review of his work is a book that reads like an encyclopedia. It covers work from the period 1947-1983 and presents a good picture of his development from rationalistic designs to freer, more autobiographical work. The book includes theoretical texts, designs, interviews and poetry, interspersed with passages from the novels that inspired him. The second part is a gallery of his drawn and painted art, ranging from taut, geometrical forms to vigorously expressive paintings.

John Hejduk ; ed. by Kim Shkapich ; [introd. by Daniel Libeskind]. - New York : Rizzoli, 1985. - 463 p. : ill., foto's, tek. ; 31 c

Such places as memory : poems 1953-1996

In this anthology, Hejduk pays homage to Michelangelo, the great myths of humankind and to space itself. David Shapiro wrote in the preface, "Poetry and architecture are both replete arts of repetition and persistence, and no one knows better than Hejduk the haunting uses of parallelism in all its devious asymmetries. [..] The geometry of his most insistent architectural projects, for example his Diamond Houses is a fundamental partner of his exacting parallelisms here. Here, Hejduk builds up poems of a geometrical fury. Such a poetry does not depend on the ornament of rhyme or conventional meter, but it does depend on the fundamental cosmology geometric repetition. This book is one of the keys to Hejduk's immense accumulations of works in a relay of media, and these poems stand as rather condensed illuminations of a vaster terrain of building and thinking."

John Hejduk ; voorw. David Shapiro. - Cambridge, MA : MIT Press, 1998. - 127 p. ; 20 cm. - (Writing Architecture series)

Lines : no fire could burn

Hejduk created worlds - not only in his architectural forms but in his poetry. This anthology contains 73 religious poems, that we can read as idiosyncratic prayers in a direct, uncontrived language. Hejduk's poetry has been described for this reason as almost non-poetry: poems where Christ rubs shoulders with Rodin and Braque.

John Hejduk. - New York : Monacelli Press, 1999. - 127 p. ; 24 cm.

Fabrications 2

Fabrications consists of a set of reproductions of felt-tip drawings with texts incorporated by Hejduk. Fabrications 2 contains color reproductions of 13 images from his Wall House project. This set of houses, his last, is widely regarded as the climax of his oeuvre. The elevation, rather than the plan, is of primary importance in these designs. A freestanding wall functions rather like a screen onto which the individual rooms are projected. One of these Wall Houses, the Bye House, was built posthumously in Groningen.

[projects by John Hejduk]. - New York : The Cooper Union School of Art and Architecture, 1974.

John Hejduk PrĂ¡ce

A Czechoslovakian publication in conjunction with an exhibition, held in Prague, of House of the Suicide and House of the Mother of the Suicide. Hejduk, himself a grandson of Czech immigrants, designed these buildings in memory of Jan Palach, a national hero to the Czechs. Palach set himself on fire on Wenceslas Square in 1969 as a protest against the Soviet invasion. Hejduk's designs consisted of two large cubes with sharp metal points on the top. On one of them the points thrust upwards, and on the other they fan out, evoking associations with fear or a sudden shock. The book is a curious mixture of texts, drawings, poems, models and typographic experiments.

Praha : Obec Architektu, 1991. - 58 p. : tek., ill. ; 25 cm

Sanctuaries : the last works of John Hejduk

'Sanctuaries documents the later work of Hejduk. The mathematical rigor of the past and his fascination with Mies van der Rohe and Mondriaan gave way to a more personal, almost carnivalesque form. His architectural ideas were expressed in drawings which are lyrical, anecdotal, and in some cases spiritual, with many Biblical motifs. The book presents a set of thirty-two drawings under the title Enclosures. They are allegories of a time that was safe, sheltered and encircled by walls. Selections from the John Hejduk Archive at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, Montreal & The Menil Collection, Houston / K. Michael Hays. - New York : Whitney Museum of Modern Art, 2002. - .. p. : ill. ; 19 cm