Slave to the Rhythm: Eric Goldemberg and Pulsation in Architecture
It can be helpful to understand all architecture in light of contrasts with its historical precedents, but notwithstanding the families Piranesi, Saarinen, and Parkinson of Los Angeles, it is relatively rare in history that the contrasting historical precedents are as personal as those of one’s father, or, as is the case of the Argentinean born architect, Eric Goldemberg, as his father and mother.
In the 1960s and 70s, the studio STAFF founded by Eric’s parents and their partners took over thirty first place awards in architectural competitions, dominated the construction of high-rise residential complexes, and embodied in their work the transfer of modernist architecture to Argentina not only in its aesthetic aspect, but in its more ambitious conception as the vehicle of a new social construct.
The combination of this theoretical and applied vision made the Goldemberg family home a magnet for the elite of world architecture of the period, and thereby exposed Eric to an atmosphere of discourses of architectural immediacy from early childhood.
But having come of age in a very different context and once settled in the US where he was educated at Columbia’s School of Architecture and currently teaches at Florida International University in Miami, Eric Goldemberg has taken a direction that is more than geographically distant from the Modernist mass social experiment of his parents’ practice. Instead, his projects are often personal, individual, and each unique unto itself, a feature implied by the name of his own studio which he founded with his partner, Veronica Zalcberg MONAD, a word defined as “a single unit.” At the same time, Eric has embraced a tendency of Modernism that had begun even before his parents’ generation, and which conceived of architectural design as inclusive of a variety of functional objects that seamlessly continue the theoretical principles and even the overt aspects of his building designs. These include his Two-String Piezoelectric Violin, one of five musical instruments that his MONAD studio has designed in collaboration with musician, Scott F. Hall for MULTI, a fully 3D printed art installation for the 3D Print Design Show in New York.
Despite that a project may seem like an extreme departure from his parents’ work, it is also a fact that his parents encouraged in Eric an interest in progressive music by playing recordings in his presence since he could remember:
“Jorge, my father was always fond of music. I remember when I was nine years old, he brought me to his study at home where he would shut the door and play music, and I would listen for hours. Crazy music from folk music to Stockhausen. Now I am doing the same with my kids.”
A sense of musical rhythm informs Eric’s 2012 book, Pulsation in Architecture (J. Ross Publishing) which has been the subject of a symposium at Columbia, and whose principles inform his lectures at schools of architecture worldwide. With reference to the work of many contemporary architects, technologies and building materials, this work affirms that the most distinctive and unifying result of the innovations made possible by the application of new digital technologies to architectural designs and visualizations, is none other than their capacity to evoke rhythmic perceptions, a feature that never could be sufficiently realized before the advent of such technologies. One irony of this revelation is that its precursors are to be found not only in music and, by extension, in nature, but in paradigmatic Modernist formal aesthetics as well— since Eric Goldemberg astutely identifies in his book a project by the Vienna-based studio, SPAN, that identifies Brancusi’s consistent use of rhythmic alternating formal constriction (e.g. The Endless Column ) as the artist’s dominant leitmotiv, a determining criterion in SPAN’s project description for an installation proposal for the Centre Pompidou, Brancusi’s Curvilinear Presence.
This emphasis on formal rhythm and its associations not only with music, but also with a range of rhythms both literal and symbolic, is one reason why, unlike the work of many of Goldemberg’s contemporaries, so many of MONAD’s designs evoke direct corollaries in the natural order, from butterfly silhouettes to spinal columns.
Since rhythm entails a tempo that can both hark back to earlier elements of a composition or foreshadow later ones, it is perhaps quite normal to find that the presence of Eric Goldemberg’s work at a division of MOMA preceded by some years the MOMA exhibition that comprises work by his parents.
Since acceptance and challenge are also subject their own rhythms, it remains to be seen whether Goldemberg’s Pulsation becomes a path to a definitive unifying theory of the historical paradigm shift of the digitalization of architectural design and of design in general. For the moment, its moves seem to have even more international appeal than those of the tango.
Written by: Jia
 Goldemberg, Eric Pulsation in Architecture, pp. 336-337
 In 2008, MONAD was a finalist exhibited in the Young Architects Program, “an annual collaboration between the Museum of Modern Art and MOMA PS 1 that fosters innovative design research and promotes emerging talent.” (see http://www.moma.org/interactives/exhibitions/yap/2008_monad.html). The work of Eric Goldemberg’s parents at their Buenos Aires studio STAFF appears in the current MOMA exhibition Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980 (March 29-July19, 2015) (see https://www.moma.org/visit/calendar/exhibitions/1499)