The book Lateness, written by Peter Eisenman with Elisa Iturbe, introduces a concept called lateness to describe specific types of idiosyncratic and personal approaches to architectural design. The book argues that lateness is a quality (rather than a prescriptive theory) that describes an individualistic architecture, with a unique sense of authorship, which works within existing conventions.
To make the case for this mode of architecture, the authors of this book examine Adolf Loos, Aldo Rossi, and John Hejduk: three architects with little visual congruence with each other. Lateness is not a style that is expressed through a shared mode of representation, but a quality expressed from a personal interpretation of existing formal conventions that are already established in the discipline. To analyze the formal qualities of lateness, Eisenman presents diagrams of plans, sections, and axonometrics that consistently show visual disparities among the three architects. They each operate with unique personal styles that tend to stay within the individuals rather than influence new movements.
Indeterminacy, contingency, and play of meanings factor in the thesis: as the word “late,” refers to a late period in an architect’s life, the entirety of an architect’s career, a late period in an architectural style (as is the case with Loos destabilizing an architectural object in his addition to a nineteen century home), and lateness studied by Adorno in Beethoven regarding the ability to maintain the outward appearance of form while reformulating the codes that hitherto had determined its relationships.
Eisenman barely writes about his architectural projects and their relation to the concept of lateness. In the late stages of Eisenman’s career, he has sought to situate his work closer to the continuing history of architecture rather than as a break from it. The ineffable qualifies of lateness would apply to Eisenman as much as it would to Loos, Rossi, and Hejduk.