In eighteenth-century North America, an unqualified faith in progress assumed the existence of an all-pervasive grid, laid out across the virgin landscape. Using this grid, the pioneer built his way westwards across the continent. Today, the pioneer has been replaced by the consumer. We now buy rather than build modernity. In an era when every citizen is simultaneously a permanent shopper and the ultimate commodity, where the shopping mall is seen as the ground zero for a contemporary understanding, the grid has lost its relevance and the big box (the archetype of the shop) has become the latest reiteration of the city.
By contrasting the way the grid is used in Peter Eisenman’s house series and Georges Perec’s Life a User’s Manual, one can seek to understand the grid as more than an autonomous object. Both authors use the grid as the initial means of production: the foundation. For both Eisenman and Perec the grid acts as a marker that allows the viewer to map their way through the work: it is not static but constantly moves across or through these projects, manipulating the object it produces in the process.