Lebbeus Woods

novembre 13, 2012

Il 30 Ottobre 2012 si è spento Lebbeus Woods. La sua carica visionaria lo ha reso punto di riferimento per molti architetti.  Il mondo immaginato da Woods costituisce un universo parallelo, pieno di varianti e mutazioni, in cui tutto appare molteplice e sfuggente, pericoloso e suadente: come ricorda il titolo di una delle sue ricerche più importanti anche la guerra è architettura. Quando il postmodernismo e l’autonomia disciplinare imperavano nei salotti buoni dell’establishment accademico le sue visioni affascinanti hanno continuato a farci credere che l’architettura, quella vera, sia fatta per emozionare, per percorrere le strade più profonde della psiche, per vedere le cose da un lato inconsueto, provvisorio, instabile. Il suo contributo all’archtitettura è inequivocabile, indica un’architettura rischiosa, sperimentale, pronta a contaminarsi in forme ed ibridi inaspettati. Qui di seguito pubblichiamo il tributo di Steven Holl e l’appassionato ricordo di Wolf Prix, con una promessa che facciamo nostra.

For Lebbeus Woods

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.
And as such we will think of him as a grand architect without built work, but his designs – hey!: they are designs and not drawings! – his conceived buildings and forms had massive impact, which conquered the drawing boards of innumerable students and architects and which put the question about the contents of a future architecture into the foreground. (I notice that I wrote DRAWING board.) Lebbeus’ forms were never lacking content, because he could only generate new timely forms with new content – everything else to him were empty building gestures, architectureless surface. Senseless to bother about them. Today we call them Lady Gaga-aesthetics. When 20 years ago we explained this to each other in the bar of the small airport in Santa the Monica in a late afternoon, we had already emptied the Champagne supply of the bar. But it was crystal clear, like the Roederer Cristal, what he meant by saying: if we architects cannot give impacts for new contents, we should leave it – the architecture.

We won’t Leb. Promised!



Steven Holl’s tribute
“Architecture does not exist, what exists is the spirit of Architecture”
— Louis Kahn

While in Rhinebeck, evacuated from New York City due to Hurricane Sandy, I received a 05:45 phone call from Aleksandra Wagner that Lebbeus Woods just died. She had no electricity and was calling me from a policeman’s phone. Lebbeus was very excited last week about the completion of the Light Pavilion in Chengdu, China. He and Christoph Kumpusch had a champagne toast on 24 October to celebrate this important moment — his first permanent construction.
The freedom of spirit in Architecture that Lebbeus Woods embodied carried with it a rare idealism. Lebbeus had very passionate beliefs and a deep philosophical commitment to Architecture. He often spoke of the importance of ideas and an understanding of our world. His designs were politically charged… fields of reality that he created.
I met Lebbeus in February 1977, introduced by Andrew MacNair, who was the Director of the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies. I arrived at Leb’s small loft near Franklin Street in TriBeCa to find Lebbeus standing bent over an enormous black and white drawing of a Piranesi-like urban vision. His cigarette had a long gray ash that was about to drop as he greeted me briefly and turned to show me the amazing drawing.
As we began discussing the current state of Architecture, I told him I really appreciated his deeply critical remarks on the postmodernism of Charles Moore, Robert Stern, and others that I read while I was in San Francisco. Lebbeus and I began to meet every couple of weeks at the “Square Diner” as they served “all-you-can-eat-for-a-dollar” bean soup. Our ongoing philosophical discussions lead to our sharing reviews in the design studios we were teaching.
In late 1977, I began work on a project titled Bronx Gymnasium-Bridgethat would become the first issue of Pamphlet Architecture. Lebbeus made the third issue with the project Einstein’s Tomb. It was an amazing vision for a tomb about Albert Einstein — a strange architecture, which would travel on a beam of light around the Earth. Today I imagine that tomb is occupied by the spirit of Lebbeus. Leb was a brilliant and charismatic teacher whose classes at Cooper Union were very inspirational. I was always amazed at the original work his students produced. Leb was still passionate about teaching this year. Due to his illness, he taught his class last week from a wheelchair.
Last week, Christoph Kumpusch, the publisher Lars Müller, and I had meetings on a new book called Urban Hopes to be published next year. In this book will be a “book within a book”—or as Lars calls it a “separata” — which records the construction of Lebbeus’s Light Pavilion. This publication will be ready for the major exhibition of Lebbeus Woods that will open at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art next February. In 2007 when I first received the commission to realize a 278,000 square metre urban project in Chengdu, China, I began studies to shape a new public space with this huge project. The building fabric would not strive for iconic objects — rather a simple architecture sliced by sunlight shapes space. “Buildings within buildings” are cut into this fabric; sitting in gaps that are 8-10 stories in the air. I invited Leb to do one, and we did another.
Lebbeus’s Pavilion, constructed of huge beams of light, is a place one enters at several levels. Walking on sheets of glass suspended by steel rods, the view is multiplied and infinitely extended via polished stainless steel lining the four-story gap in the building it occupies. Unlike other visionary architects — who risk disappointing when they get a chance to build — Lebbeus’s Pavilion is a brilliant and engaging Architecture. One’s experience there, especially at night, seems to dissolve the view of the city beyond. Up is down in a feeling of suspension of gravity via light and reflection. This work merges Art and Architecture as they have merged in the past and are merging in the future. Next week, I will travel to Beijing, then to Chengdu, walk into the Light Pavilion, stand suspended on steel rods and imagine Lebbeus’s tomb has been launched — on a beam of light.

Steven Holl, Rhinebeck, NY, 30 October 2012



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