Published by Landscape Architecture and Urbanism at University of Greenwich, London

REVIEW: Bernard Tschumi; The Manhattan Transcripts

University of Greenwich MA Landscape Architecture student, Blanche Crossley, reviews Tschumi’s The Manhattan Transcripts.

Bernard Tschumi’s The Manhattan Transcripts are a collection of architectural drawings that do not act as a completed proposal. They hang between reality and fantasy. Tschumi uses the transcripts to make sense of an architectural reality that incorporates sequences, movement and functionality. He focuses on using different mediums that portray different events and functions of a space, assessing unconventional strategies that occur in-between the standard conclusions of architectural survey.

“The Transcripts are about a set of disjunctions among use, form, and social values. The non-coincedence between meaning and being, movement and space, man and object is the starting condition of the work.”[1]


Bernard Tschumi, The Manhattan Transcripts‘MT 1’, Academy Editions, 1994

 Tschumi explains that the Transcripts assess ‘space, movement and events’ as independent entities that once explored can develop new comparable relativities to one another therefore the ‘conventional components of architecture are broken down and rebuilt along a different axes’[1]. Which highlights Tschumi’s familiar connection with Deconstructivism.

“The architectural origin of each episode is found within a specific reality and not in an abstract geometrical figure. Manhattan is a real place; the actions described are real actions. The Transcripts always presuppose a reality already in existence, a reality waiting to be desconstructed – and eventually transformed.”[1]

 The main interest I have in the Manhattan Transcripts is the involvement of existing events, in this instance ‘the archetype of murder[1]. He applies human physicality and actions as devices to interpret space.

“Other phantasms are occasionally used to underline the fact that perhaps all architecture, rather than being about functional standards, is about love and death. By going beyond the conventional definition of use, the Transcripts use their tentative format to explore unlikely confrontations.”[1]

There is an exploration between the standard expected functionalities of a space alongside sequences of an emotional capacity that becomes the functional reality.

“Thus the Transcripts never attempt to transcend contradictions between object, man, and event in order to bring them to a new synthesis; on the contrary, they aim to maintain these contradictions in a dynamic manner, in a new reciprocity and conflict.”[1]

Tschumi ultimately develops a method of working throughout the Manhattan Transcripts that he describes himself as a ‘work-in-progress’[1], throughout the architectural drawings you can witness how Tschumi advances in ways to articulate the explorations that deliver interactions between man, object and their engagement with space and the occurrence of events.

Bernard Tschumi’s The Manhattan Transcripts become a complicated tangle of layers and elements. I found the overall logic a struggle to fully understand. However I suppose this fits with Tschumi’s attachment to Deconstructivism illustrated by unpredictability and controlled chaos[2]. I found most intrigue in exploring existent movement and events in order to understand a physical engagement with spaces, and the unconsidered uses of them. ‘Architecture is not simply about space and form, but also about event, action, and what happens in space.[3]

[1] Bernard Tschumi, The Manhattan Transcipts, Academy Editions, 1994


[3] Bernard Tschumi, The Manhattan Transcripts, 1976-1981

Images sourced from: and


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: