Alternate Representations of Past, Present and Future

Parc de la Villette, Bernard Tschumi Architects[1]

Bernard Tschumi’s winning entrant into the 1982 -83 Urban Park for the 21st Century ”competition orchestrated to ‘modernize the country’s … public spaces’[2] resulted in the creation the Parc de la Villette in Paris. Supported by the writings of deconstructivisms founder Jacques Derrida, the project was “hailed as the first major piece of Deconstructivist architecture”[3]. Our investigation into this complex pertains specifically to the thoughts expressed in conversation between Derrida and Peter Eisenman in Chora L.

La Villette Drawing 2[4]

Tasked with designing a garden on the campus, Eisenman and Derrida ‘study time – [discussing] past, present, and future’[5]. These entities are ultimately concluded as functions of space in the form of solid and void. In Chora L, Thomas Leeser’s stipulation that ‘the present has solids and voids, the past has voids and the future has voids’[6] peaks interest in its potential to stem alternative representations of time.

In the inquiry of what is solid and what is void, time as its three designations are not independent operands. Eisenman and Derrida consider the architectural history of the ‘site in 1867, when an abattoir occupied it, to Paris in 1848, when the site was covered with the city walls.’[7] Here time becomes a function of architectural heritage and a dichromatic model of spatial representation is conceived based upon the presence/absence of historic structures as solid and void respectively. It is also worth noting that if the past or future is chief in investigation, then the other two entities become void, while that in question becomes solid.

Pablo Picasso, The Bull (Le Taureau)[8]

If, however, one was to investigate these concepts in alternate confines, there is potential for an alternate time function and subsequently, an alternate scale of spatial representation. Consider Picassos famed one-line drawings (see above). Seemingly composed and painted in seconds, he explained the works unseen difficulty stating, “it took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” Picassos present work draws upon the past in the form of experience, technique and artistic philosophy – his collective knowledge. In approximating this observation to our solid/void scale, time becomes a function of knowledge. As knowledge grows over time, it cannot be represented by a static image of solid or void but calls for something dynamic.

Knowledge vs Time as Density Diagram

Such representation may manifest in the form of density in which growth of knowledge over time is represented through increase in density. This suggests that ones knowledge is most dense in the present, hence it becomes solid. Additionally, upon beginning the painting, Picasso must know roughly where his single line will end up. Thus he ‘projects’ his work into the future as a function of his plan for the painting.

Thus, in this alternative model of the past, present and future, time becomes a function of collective knowledge as the confines of time are revealed to exist in tandem. The present cannot exist without the past, and the future is inherently influenced by the present. This comes to be represented through gradations in density while maintaining the notion that the present can remain solid as it is most dense.


[1] Cyrus Penarroyo, Parc de la Villette, photograph, Archdaily, accessed 30 April, 2021,

[2] Eduardo Souza, “AD Classics: Parc de la Villette / Bernard Tschumi Architects,” Archdaily, January 9, 2011, accessed April 30, 2021,

[3] Peter Blundell Jones, “Parc de La Villette in Paris, France, by Bernard Tschumi,” The Architectural Review, June 7, 2012, accessed April 30 2021,

[4] Peter Eisenman, “La Villete”, drawing 2, Eisenman Architects accessed April 30, 2021.

[5] “La Villette”, Eisenman Architects, accessed April 30, 2021,

[6] Jeffery Kipnis and Thomas Lesser eds., Chora L, (New York: The Monacelli Press, 1997), 78.

[7] [7] “La Villette”, Eisenman Architects, accessed April 30, 2021,

[8] Pablo Picasso, The Bull (Le Taureau), 1964, lithograph, 13 3/16 x 22 1/16″, MoMA, accessed April 30, 2021,