"Perfect Acts of Architecture" brought together six series of early and seminal drawings that established the careers and ideologies of five of today's preeminent architects: Peter Eisenman, Daniel Libeskind, Rem Koolhaas, Thorn Mayne, and Bernard Tschumi. All but one of these projects, Eisenman's "House VI," ca. 1976, are not constructed or are impossible to build. And that's what makes them "perfect." The drawings provide critical and theoretical platforms by negating the architectural realities of commerce--of client, function, material, building code, site, and budget. The architects even escape conventions of architectural representation, using drawing as a research tool and an alternative to practice. Yet their anxieties abounded as architecture itself was an object of scrutiny.
Every architect here employed modernist avant-garde tropes of defamiliarization and alienation. Exodus, or The Voluntary Prisoners of Architecture, 1972, by Rem Koolhaas and Elia Zenghelis with others, depicts a brutal structure that unfolds like an oversize game board on the urban geography of London. In an accompanying text, Koolhaas utilizes an ironic idealism to reverse traditional urban conditions, revealing his own inner conflicts about the formative and oppressive mechanisms of what he calls his "architectural oasis." A similar tension exists in the imagery of Tschumi's Manhattan Transcripts, 1976-81, which creates a detective story whose narrative structure suggests an architectural precursor to Paul Auster's 1985 novel City of Glass. The drawings, which appear as a sequence of panels, contrast urban typologies with frame-by frame depictions of collision, flow, fragmentation, and reconciliation. Every clue hints at some hidden interconnectivity of events and movements. …