This summer, the drawings, theories and works of architect Lebbeus Woods are headed to the city that Lebbeus considered home. After a five-month stay at SFMOMA, the exhibit “Lebbeus Woods – Architect” will be at the Drawing Center in SoHo, Manhattan until mid-June. The following story and overview of the exhibition, by Samuel Medina, originally appeared at Metropolis Magazine as “Coming Home”.
It’s all too biblical an irony that Lebbeus Woods—architect of war, catastrophe, and apocalyptic doom—died as strong winds, rain, and waves barreled down on Manhattan, his home for some 40-odd years. Woods passed the morning after Hurricane Sandy flooded Lower Manhattan, almost as if the prophet had succumbed to one of his turbulent visions. But this apocryphal reading is just one way to view Woods’s work, which, as often as it was concerned with annihilation, always dared to build in the bleakest of circumstances.
Lebbeus Woods: Architect straddles both poles of its subject’s sprawling vision. On display at the Drawing Center in Soho (April 17 to June 15, 2014), the exhibition brings the delineator’s works back home to his adopted city.
“Although Woods’s practice was for many years an international, almost nomadic practice of teaching, exhibiting, and exploring the built form, New York was very much the center of his world,” says Joseph Becker, a curator at SFMOMA, where the show originated last year. It is that sense of destined, even chiliastic, return that suffuses the expansive survey, which collects decades of Woods’s incredibly rich drawings and models.
The show’s aim, however, is more ambitious. It attempts to elevate Woods the master draughtsman to canonical architect, builder of speculative structures and parallel worlds. “Woods’s architecture was in dialogue with his architectural contemporaries, his students, and with anyone inhabiting the built environment,” explains SFMOMA curator Jennifer Dunlop Fletcher, who coorganized the exhibition. Woods, then, may have purposely inhabited the fringe of the profession, but he was at the heart of its discursive life. He was, in other words, not just an artist, theorist, or educator, but an architect of the highest level. No “paper” necessary.