A biography of John Hejduk, architect of Wall House #2

John Quentin Hejduk (New York 1929–2000 New York) was an avant-garde architect particularly renowned as theoretician. Few of his designs have actually been built, but thanks to his theoretical-didactic work he is counted among the leaders of the New York Five, which also includes Richard Meier and Peter Eisenman, architects who feature in the Groningen Museum Collection as well.

Hejduk was trained at Cooper Union Institute in New York, the University of Cincinnati in Ohio and Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He then gained practical experience at various architectural offices, including that of Ieoh Ming Pei. In the 1950s he began his lifelong investigation of the foundations of architectural design, basing himself on the formal principles of art movement De Stijl. He developed many ideas, transforming these into designs which were also inspired by the visual arts and literature. In 1965 he established himself as an independent architect in New York, while also teaching at Cooper Union. Hejduk was instrumental to theory development at Cooper Union, where, like in the Bauhaus movement, architecture was alloyed with other art disciplines. His students included Daniel Libeskind, who has also worked for the City of Groningen.

Hejduk initially designed rigidly geometrical homes. The Wall House series, which is regarded as his masterpiece, was also conceived in this early period. The series revolves around a half-metre thick wall in which the entrance is situated and from which all the other spaces in the home are suspended.

Hejduk’s fame largely rests on his theoretical body of never-constructed designs. His oeuvre of buildings that actually saw light is modest, comprising Demlin House in Locus Calley on Long Island (1960), Hommel Apartment in New York (1969), the restoration of Cooper Union’s Foundation Building in New York (1975), a residential development with studio tower in the Charlottenstrasse in Berlin (1986–1988) and a villa on the Tegeler Hafen in Berlin (1985–1988). Hejduk died in 2000.

  • John Hejduk, photo R. Miller