speculative landscapes and radical reconstruction
October 6, 2007 9:48 PM   Subscribe

An interview with Lebbeus Woods -- designer and illustrator of speculative futuristic landscapes and buildings. Woods just set up his own website, which has an amazing quantity of drawings, photographs, and text focusing on his lesser known projects [for those willing to deal with a frustrating flash interface and sound. It's better in IE than Firefox.]

From his comments at a recent conference (transcript, summary with video) and the overview to his website, it appears he wants to start some conversations.
posted by salvia (10 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
If I figured I could get away with linking to BLDGBLOG every post, I probably would.
posted by blacklite at 9:51 PM on October 6, 2007

On topic: this was a really delightful interview. I'd never heard of Lebbeus Woods before, but I love the aesthetic interpretation of architecture. There will be people who go "argh I hate this kind of bullshit architecture" but he's not talking about doing all of these things, necessarily, it's more of an artistic/holistic interpretation of the potential futures of reality, and it was ... relaxing, somehow.
posted by blacklite at 9:54 PM on October 6, 2007

I was very close to posting this before blacklite. It's great stuff.
-I'd never heard of Lebbeus Woods before, but I love the aesthetic interpretation of architecture.-
posted by peacay at 12:21 AM on October 7, 2007

I've been a fan of his since I saw his book onefivefour.
He represents everything I loved (and a great deal of things I hated) about architecture as it is treated in school these days.

That said - it would be nice if architects had to earn that title with a body of built work. There should be another word for the kind of fantasy speculation via drawing that Woods does.

I surmise that Frank Gehry is what Lebbeus Woods would be if he had the right connections, and a modicum of salesmanship.
posted by bashos_frog at 6:26 AM on October 7, 2007

Reminds me of a comment attributed to the steelworkers on Peter Eisenman's Columbus, Ohio convention center: "We're steelworkers not watchmakers."
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:04 AM on October 7, 2007

BLDBLOG is a consistentle great read, and kudos for bringing it up, especially this interview.

I don't think Woods would ever be Gehry, nor would he necessarily want to be. There have always struck me as being two kinds of architects in the world (three, maybe) - the ones who think about buildings, and the ones who just build them and then the third would be the likes of Eisenman and Holl and Koolhaas, who spent a lot of time thinkin/writing and then building. I'll confess it's a di/trichotomy I've never understood, even when I've asked architects to try and explain it...

For being firmly in the first category, Woods is a totally interesting cat.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:14 AM on October 7, 2007

Please keep in mind that Architecture is a slow, slow discipline. There are no architectural prodigies. Koolhaas, Zahid, etc., spent years making illustrations and writing essays before building anything of note.
My point is don't count Woods out yet.
posted by signal at 11:30 AM on October 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

I'm not counting him out, he may still get something built. But I do think his office is pretty high up in an ivory tower.

I guess I'm still bitter at what I discovered after spending 5 years in an architecture program. It's a strange sort of profession - it's got the old boy network like law, the patronage of the art scene, and the chances of success roughly equivalent to pop music. A few people with the means to work without pay for 6 months to a year get to intern for the rock stars, and get a shot at similar status, and the rest go to work for the designers of strip malls and condos, effectively ending their careers before they've begun.

I still love the study of architecture, but the business of it is quite revolting.

I have a friend that went to Cooper Union, later went to work for a famous firm, and now has his own studio.

I bailed on the career when my boss hit hard times, and couldn't pay me my $8/hour consistently. I did some autoCAD, got into multimedia and the web, and now make a more comfortable living than my talented friend, who did better on his career path than most architecture students.

Meanwhile the hacks who do the aforementioned strip malls do pretty well exploiting the college grads who can't afford internships/apprenticeships at the decent firms.
posted by bashos_frog at 5:14 PM on October 7, 2007

I don't think Woods would ever be Gehry either. Here are his thoughts on the economics of architecture:
Well I think architecture as we think of it as a profession and as a practice isn’t very far from the Roman Empire. Still [in architecture today] the main thing is to build these monumental buildings, which are kind of valorizing of the hierarchy of power, authority and society. Even if it’s a museum it’s about the elite’s ability to gather works of art and put them in a very special building – maybe a work of art itself. So, I think we are still in that moment, or mentality. Look at the architecture magazines, and so on. That’s the way people think, that’s the way architects think. Not all architects, though.

Fortunately one of the reasons I am out here today are these blogs – your blogs in particular – but, generally, the internet is a place for some other view of architecture to emerge, and therefore it becomes incredibly important. You mentioned security for buildings, or for neighborhoods, gated communities and the rest. Yeah, this is part of the defensive posture architects are forced to enter in to. Rather than having a kind of open and outward moving posture it is about how can we secure these enclaves of power and of wealth. And that’s their job – to beautify it and make it look good, and that making it look good is a major preoccupation.
posted by salvia at 5:52 PM on October 7, 2007

On the other hand, Gehry was willing to spend a couple years designing malls, meanwhile doing crazy stuff to his own house on the side. Shortly after the Santa Monica Place mall was done, the client came over to Gehry's house to discuss the next contract. The client remarked, "wow, if you like doing stuff like this [gesturing to the house], you must hate doing stuff like this [gesturing to the design drawings of the mall on the table]." Gehry admitted he did. They decided he shouldn't take that next contract and shook hands on it. Within months, his design firm dropped from something like forty associates down to something like three. But the rest is history.
Hope I got the details right. Oh, here's a similar version of the story.
posted by salvia at 6:16 PM on October 7, 2007

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