CRISIS ARCHITECTURE – FRANK AKINO MEETS LEBBEUS WOODS
Watch Entering Woods, the video which my partner in arts & crime Frank Akino made in memory of the experimental, radical and visionary crisis-architect Lebbeus Woods, after his death in 2012
Born in Michigan in 1940, Woods studied architecture at the University of Illinois and engineering at Purdue University. But while Woods insisted on calling himself an architect he never received a degree in architecture nor was he ever licensed to practice architecture. He first worked in the offices of Eero Saarinen, and later for the the Illinois firm of Richardson, Severns Scheeler & Associates, a short period in which he also produced paintings for the Indianapolis Art Museum. In 1976 he almost turned exclusively to theory and experimental projects, and went on to co-found the nonprofit Research Institute for Experimental Architecture in 1988, although he was also reported to have designed a light pavilion in Chengdu, China, with Steven Holl, and buildings in Havana, Cuba. The author of nine books, Woods was a 1994 recipient of the Chrysler Design Award, and acted as a visiting professor at many Universities - from the Bartlett School of Architecture to Harvard, and the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland. His last post was as Professor of Architecture at The Cooper Union in New York.
Visionary, politically charged, and provocatively uncompromising, freed from constraints of finance and buildability, the majority of Woods' explorations dealt with the re-imagining and re-construction of cities and systems in crisis: the order of the existing being confronted by the order of the new. He was best known for the proposals for San Francisco, Havana, and Sarajevo that were included in his book Radical Reconstruction in 1997: a Sarajevo destroyed by war, a Havana struggling with the ongoing trade embargo, and San Francisco after the Loma Pieta earthquake. He also drew plans for Berlin after the German re-unification, and although all of these proposals remained conceptual constructs that were never built, his influence on his generation and the works of leading architects such as Jean Nouvel or Steven Holl can hardly be underestimated.
Woods defended a reconstruction that would leave the memory of crisis moments and the transformation that come with them visible, through open, ambigous forms, free and wild spaces that would not be defined by the functional, and that would also act like scarves. ”Architecture and war are not incompatible, “ he wrote in War and Architecture. (2002), „ Architecture is war. War is architecture. I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms. I am one of millions who do not fit in, who have no home, no family, no doctrine, no firm place to call my own, no known beginning or end, no "sacred and primordial site." I declare war on all icons and finalities, on all histories that would chain me with my own falseness, my own pitiful fears”. And so did his architecture, “that gives us the opportunity to experience a type of space that we haven't experienced before”.
The transformational character of Woods_work makes it no surprise that he also left his impact on film: He was for instance also credited as the "conceptual architect" of Alien3. His only full size built project was the Light Pavilion of the Sliced Porosity Block, commissioned by his longtime friend Steven Holl, completed and opened in the year of his death. 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."
Musing on Woods' architecture without walls, Frank Akino's video shows and open geometric constellation, consisting of floating lines, planes and volumes that slowly transforms itself in an expanding city skyline, and vice versa. Music: Invisible Choirs by Scanner. Enjoy. (mb)