Lebbeus Woods, Experimental Architect, Dies

  • 31 Oct 2012
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  • Architecture News Editor's Choice
The Light Pavilion by in collaboration with Christoph a. Kumpusch, in the Raffles City complex in Chengdu, China, by Steven Holl Architects.

Lebbeus Woods, the American architect, artist, and theorist, died yesterday at the age of 72.

Woods may be best known for his radical re-imaginings and re-constructions of cities in crisis. While most of Woods’ politically-charged, fantastical sketches were too fantastical to be built, many have been displayed in Art Museums across the globe; the last exhibit occurred just this March at the Friedman Benda Gallery in New York City. His only built project, the Light Pavilion of the “Sliced Porosity Block,” commissioned by his longtime friend Steven Holl, was completed and opened this year.

In his blog, Woods described the Pavilion as a space “designed to expand the scope and depth of our experiences. That is its sole purpose, its only function. If one needed to give a reason to skeptics for creating such experimental spaces in the context of this large urban development project, it would be this: our rapidly changing world constantly confronts us with new challenges to our abilities to understand and to act, encouraging us to encounter new dimensions of experience.”

Indeed, it is this quality that characterizes all of Woods’ works. As Geoff Manaugh, the author behind BLDGBLOG , puts it: “Woods’s work is the exclamation point at the end of a sentence proclaiming that the architectural imagination, freed from constraints of finance and buildability, should be uncompromising, always. One should imagine entirely new structures, spaces without walls, radically reconstructing the outermost possibilities of the built environment. If need be, we should re-think the very planet we stand on.”

More on Woods’ life and career, after the break…

A sketch by Lebbeus Woods, displayed earlier this year at Courtesy of Friedman Benda Gallery.

Born in Michigan in 1940, the architect cut his teeth working with renowned architect Eero Saarinen (1964-1968); however, since 1976, he began concentrating on conceptual and experimental architecture (architecture “that gives us the opportunity to experience a type of space we haven’t experienced before“), and went on to co-found the Research Institue of Experimental Architecture in 1988.

Woods also acted as a visiting professor at many Universities – from the Bartlett School of Architecture to Harvard. His last post was as Professor of Architecture at The Cooper Union in New York City, where, according to The New York Times’ Michael Kimmelman , he was “teaching to the end.”

Image: Lebbeus Woods, Havana, 1994

However, his last blog post, titled “GOODBYE [sort of]” posted on August 11th, revealed Woods’ struggle with his “health and other issues.” He regretted having to cut down on his blogging, saying he was working on a new book and “my time and energy are limited.” According to Kimmelman, he died in his loft in his sleep.

Woods was the recipient of an American Institute of Architects Honors Award and the Chrysler Award for Innovation in Design.

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "Lebbeus Woods, Experimental Architect, Dies" 31 Oct 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 21 Nov 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=288469>