This Article by Avinash Rajagopal originally appeared in Metropolis Magazine as “Five Compelling Works of Architecture Fiction“. Rajagopal argues in favor of the often dismissed genre of ‘architecture fiction’, giving five recent examples of the best the field has to offer.
As far as we know, the writer Bruce Sterling coined the term “architecture fiction,” in 2006. He was referring, of course, to speculative projects in which architects use ideas for the built environment to express themselves in a way that’s analogous to how storytellers use words. It’s a longstanding architectural tradition. Sterling cites the polemic work of the 1960s British group Archigram; the canon includes Lebbeus Woods’s drawings from the two decades that followed and Greg Lynn’s digital imaginings (one of which accompanied a short story by Sterling, in Metropolis’s 2003 Fiction Issue).
In the last few years, we have seen a groundswell in the genre. The usual reason given to explain the profusion of these fictitious works is that the recession made it hard for young architects to find “real” work, but there are probably other factors at play. Ethical concerns are back in the zeitgeist for a contradictory generation that’s equally into Occupy Wall Street, iPhones, and hipster shops selling single-source coffee. Their utopias and dystopias are more easily imagined with 3DS Max and Photoshop, and far more quickly disseminated online. All of this has made for some pretty rich storytelling.
Commenters on blogs still rail about the “uselessness” of architecture fiction. To answer them would be akin to mounting a defense of the short story—one surely could, but it would be a self-defeating exercise. The very nature of fiction is to be less bothered with usefulness than with possibility. In that spirit, here are five recent projects that I found compelling, in both imagery and the stories they attempt to tell.
From November 22 through March 2, 2014, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University presents Lebbeus Woods, Architect, bringing together over 100 works from the past 35 years by one of the most influential architects working in the field. Recognized beyond architecture, Lebbeus Woods (1940–2012), who was born in Lansing, Michigan, has been hailed by leading designers, filmmakers, writers, and artists alike as a significant voice in recent decades. Notably, Zaha Hadid, architect of the Broad’s newly inaugurated building, cities Woods as a key influence.
“Lebbeus was a very close friend and great architect. His visionary work explored the fantastic potential and dynamism of space with radical proposals and powerful drawings that were extremely influential,” says Hadid.
Woods’ works resonate across many disciplines for their conceptual potency, imaginative breadth, jarring poetry, and ethical depth. On view in the Broad’s own visionary spaces, Lebbeus Woods, Architect offers compelling insight into the infinite potential of profound architectures, whether real or imagined, to inflect our lived experience. This travelling exhibition features drawings and models from major national and international collections including San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), MoMA, the Whitney, MAK Vienna, and the Getty Research Institute.
More information can be found here.
Title: Exhibition: Lebbeus Woods, Architect
Organizers: Michigan State University
From: Fri, 22 Nov 2013
Until: Sun, 02 Mar 2014
Venue: Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum
Address: 547 East Circle Drive, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI 48823, USA
Lebbeus Woods envisaged a world at war. The visionary architect, artist, and educator – who would have turned 73 today – drew cities under duress, buildings in the face of destruction, and landscapes confronting catastrophe. He imagined an underground city connecting divided Berlin, buildings designed for seismic hot zones that could move during earthquakes, and a utopian city that looked like an insect. He didn’t depict the world as it was, he depicted what it might be.
Steven Holl Architects collaborated with Spirit of Space to create two short films that capture the essence of Chengdu’s newest sustainable micro-city: Sliced Porosity Block. Shaped by the distribution of natural light, this multi-use complex of five sun-carved concrete towers defines itself by the formation of three large public valleys that, not only supports a hybrid of different functions, but anchors the building into the surrounding urban fabric.
View an intimate account of these poetic spaces in the film above and then discover the ideas that inspired them in a conversation with Steven Holl below. The interview also includes an exclusive take on Holl’s post-completion thoughts of Lebbeus Woods’ last built installation: the Light Pavilion.
More information and images of Sliced Porosity Block can be found here on ArchDaily.
32BNY, in collaboration with Spirit of Space, has relaunched a website in a corner of the internet structured as a videopolemic to explore architectural discourse in a revolutionary way. The first video in the series is a tribute to the late Lebbeus Woods. Woods was an aggressive philosophical thinker of architecture and space. He launched worldy ideas into his architecture through imaginative leaps – exploring politics, society, ethics and the human condition as it pertained to architectural space in the form of vivid and dynamic drawings. His work has inspired his contemporaries to think outside of the physical space of architecture. Steven Holl and Sanford Kwinter discuss some of his ideas and philosophies through his quotes and inspirations. The video serves as a reminder, and to some a guide, as to how to build upon the philosophy of architecture beyond the physical.
More on the video after the break.
SFMoMA will highlight the legacy of Lebbeus Woods in an exhibition that will run from February 16 through June 2, 2013. It will include 75 works from the past 35 years of his career. Lebbeus Woods is often categorized as an architect, but always as an artist and visionary. His career has been filled with imaginative leaps through the concepts of space and form, exploring politics, society, ethics and the human condition. He was a great influence on architects, designers, filmmakers, writers and artists. The exhibition will celebrate his untimely death late last year and the breadth of influence that his work had on the art and design community.
One October morning in 2003, Lebbeus Woods shattered the sleepy air in Los Angeles with a swift and decisive re-deployment of his famed Foundation Cartier installation, The Fall. 1,400 steel rods were drilled into the polished concrete floors running SCI-Arc’s quarter mile. In a single night of cloaked activity, Woods and a gang of student volunteers made Maya, Rhino and all computer pyrotechnics, then all the rage, seem irrelevant with a forest of bent steel rods that seemed to react to the forces of the building…and seemingly appeared out of nowhere.
Continue reading after the break
Lebbeus Woods was an architect’s architect. Artistically uncompromising, unapologetically theoretical, and, in his own way, marvelously optimistic, Lebbeus’ death last month deeply saddened the architectural community.
In a world where computers are making architecture an increasingly technical profession, Lebbeus provoked architects to consider – what is architecture’s purpose? And, more importantly, what is it’s potential? As Woods’ friend Thom Mayne told The Los Angeles Times, “Architecture wasn’t what he did. It’s who he was. There is no other Lebbeus.”
Today, Wolf D. Prix, the oft-controversial figure, published his own eulogy to Woods, an architect and friend he held in high-esteem. Unlike the “Lady-Gaga-aesthetics,” that prevail in architecture today, Prix says, Woods’ forms were always new, profound, and impactive. Prix claims that Woods’ unique drawings”conquered the drawing boards of innumerable students and architects and [...] put the question about the contents of a future architecture into the foreground.”
“Lebbeus was the living proof of Derrida’s theory that often a small sketch can have more influence on the world than a large building.”
You can read all of Wolf D. Prix’s “For Lebbeus Woods” after the break…
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…
Lebbeus Woods is well known for his conceptual drawings that bring new worlds and spaces into the eyes of their viewers. In four decades, Woods has shared his imagined worlds, expressing ideas about spaces, inhabitation and technology, and outlined alternate futures. Through April 6th, Friedman Benda Gallery will be exhibiting Lebbeus Woods: Early Drawings from the 1980s, many of which have never been displayed before. The gallery is located 515 West 26th Street in New York City. A preview of the exhibit after the break!
Ai Weiwei was arrested today on unspecified charges by Chinese security police while he and his family were about to board a plane to Hong Kong, as reported by the NY Times.
The Light Pavilion by me and Christoph a. Kumpusch is already under construction in Chengdu, China. I here state publicly that I will not accept another project in China until Ai Weiwei is released unharmed from detention or imprisonment.
An internationally renowned artist, Weiwei also was involved with the design for the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium in Beijing among other architecture projects. He has therefore become well connected within the architecture community and the question is will other architects make a similar decision to Lebbeus Woods, backing Weiwei and pulling out of future project opportunities in China.