Lebbeus Woods

May 17, 2012

I encountered a new kind of building, one antithesis to the clean orderliness of other contemporary designs, when I came upon Lebbeus Woods. The designs of Lebbeus Woods are not widely popular: few have been actualized, in the form of installations, large models, and the Light Pavilion under construction in China. Woods’ designs are otherwise theoretical; they could be built but haven’t. Yet [worthwhile] architects acknowledge him as highly innovative and influential. He has joined a different idea of living and different architectural form in a symbiotic relationship. He develops new solutions for architecture by challenging conceptions of a building’s relationship to those who inhabit it.

Drawings by Lebbeus Woods

Lebbeus often plays with the disintegration of walls by unfolding them into busily intersecting planes. To him, this suggests the blurring of borders between people. To illustrate this concept, consider his 2004 proposal for the Israeli-Palestinian wall. Woods wanted to convert the relationship of each nation to the wall to for a solution to the conflict between them. He called it “the Wall Game.” Each side must add to the wall, but the piece they place cannot be supported by the ground. It must be attached only to the wall, cantilevered. This causes an interaction between both sides, even as they work on the wall that separates them; the reality that the wall could collapse if one side doesn’t build prompts incentive for both to participate.  At predetermined times a portion of the wall is removed, and each side could build into or over the open space. All this takes the wall from being a stagnant, static object of attempted isolation, and changes it to a dynamic, multilayered project that increases awareness of the other. The notion that in order to build a wall between them they must both work on it, ironically working towards the same goal in the attempt to stress their , offers a solution that blurs borders. Woods has innovated entire architectural forms with ambiguous boundaries, but the “Wall Game” is a clear example of one of his reasons for doing so.

There’s more to his aesthetic language. One blogger (http://rhruins.blogspot.com) says it thus: ” He talks of ruined buildings having scars once they have been reconstructed by him. He suggests a less materialistic world through the utilisation of ‘poor’ and ‘found’ materials, a recycling from and of the ruins, to reconstruct them.”

Woods also conceptualizes buildings made of an asymmetrical, but balanced, network of lines. Lines of all angles. Vertical and horizontal lines create a sense of stability, familiar in common architecture. A skyscraper, being vertically inclined, emphasizes its own height and immovable power. A prairie style house of Frank Lloyd Wright, on the other hand, utilizes long horizontal lines to emphasize a sheltering kind of stability. Both share a certain element of everything feeling secure. Both feature horizontal and vertical lines. But diagonal lines create instability and motion; tension. The use of intersecting diagonal lines in a network provides aesthetic opportunities unlike any seen in most architecture. More significantly, it provides new spacial opportunities: the space created is unpredictable to the one who enters it. There are at least two aspects of space to be weighed here. On the one hand, a building’s integrity proves it to have a thought-out design not simply thrown together. The early modernists understood that the form of a building arises from its structure. The architect engineers space, line, borders, openings, flow, among other things, and arranges them into a holistic work of integrity. The parts of a building are not subservient to the whole; instead, the whole is the result of the working parts. Arguably most contemporary buildings–not to be confused with modernism–follow the rule “function follows form” to achieve flashiness.

Drawing by Lebbeus Woods

On the other hand a building that accepts its inhabitant into a familiar environment does nothing for him. By “familiar” I mean boxes or any space with emphasis on horizontal and vertical angles, or a curve; in short, anything that can be followed without thinking. Space becomes cliché and predictable at best, a thoughtlessly automatic experience at worst. But Woods’ structures throw the inhabitant into a new environment. The unfamiliar environment forces choices and a re-commitment to live, as one “thrown” into the world, as Heidegger would have it. It is an active environment that prods for creative ingenuity, embodying unpredictability.

Wood’s structures reflect his ideas of a better society:

“My idea of utopia, or, an ideal state of condition for humans, is not based on a harmonious melding of conflicting conditions,but rather on the free ‘ dialogue’, or open interaction between them. The utopian condition is one of conflict, achieving a dynamic balance of opposing ideas, actions, forces, through continuous struggle to assert differences of every kind.”


One Response to “Lebbeus Woods”

  1. Post that makes you wonder what technology can achieve?.I appreciate your visit .Jalal

You disagree:

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

WordPress.com Logo

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

Twitter picture

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

Facebook photo

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

Google+ photo

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

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: