The exhibition brings together works from the past forty years by architect Lebbeus Woods, centering on transformation as a recurring theme and providing a framework for understanding the experimental nature of his work. Acknowledging the parallels between society’s physical and psychological constructions, Woods has depicted a career-long narrative of how these constructions transform our being. Working mostly, but not exclusively, with pencil on paper, Woods has created an oeuvre of complex worlds—at times abstract and at times explicit—that present shifts, cycles, repetitions within the built environment. His timeless architecture is not in a particular style or in response to a singular moment in the field; rather, it offers an opportunity to consider how built forms impact the individual and the collective, and reflect contemporary political, social and ideological conditions, and how one person contributes to the development and mutation of the built world.
In any creative medium, there has to be substance for the work to hold up. For example, a piece of music is not an answer. It’s a stimulus. It leads you to thinking and feeling a certain way, which you wouldn’t have done without that particular experience.
Most architects make drawings. Yet, Zaha’s drawings of the 1980s are different, and in several ways. Most notably, she had to originate new systems of projection in order to formulate in spatial terms her complex thoughts about architectural forms and the relationships between them. These new projection methods were widely copied in their time, and influenced, I believe, the then-nascent computer modeling culture. More to the point, they enabled her to synthesize entire landscapes within which a project she was designing may have been only a small part. This has been crucial to her thought because she sees architecture as an integral part of the wider world. She was a global architect long before the term acquired its present meaning.
There is another way these drawings are not only unique, but uniquely important to Zaha’s idea of architecture: they must carry the entire weight of her intellectual investment. Her written statements about the work are, frankly, blandly descriptive, betraying little of her philosophy, and even less of her aspiration to employ her architecture as a unifying force in the world. Her lectures, while getting a boost from her charisma, are no more revealing. But her drawings speak volumes about her outlook, her intellectual depth, and her ambition to place architecture at the dynamic center of an ever more dynamic world.
“Once upon a time, before computers came to be the pre-eminent architectural design tool, architects made drawings by hand.. Instead of leaving it up to the computer’s software to make and assemble the lines defining contours and edges of forms, architects would draw line by line, gradually building up the drawing. Somewhere in the backs of their minds, perhaps, the Italian term disegno, which means both ‘drawing’ and ‘design,’ worked to convince them that the two concepts were synonymous: to draw was to design, and to design was to draw. In the same way, the ideas of ‘analysis’ and ‘synthesis’ came together in the act, and the artifact, of drawing. To build up a drawing line by line is an analytical act—-one chooses exactly where to place the line, based on an understanding of the problem or conditions to be addressed, and, at the same time, of the need for the sum of lines to create a greater whole, a coherent, cohering and integrated form….” LW. Read more on Lebbeus Woods blog
In 2014, The Drawing Center exhibitedLebbeus Woods, Architect
creating an oeuvre of complex worlds—at times abstract and at times explicit—that present shifts, cycles, repetitions within the built environment. Woods wrote: “In my work, architecture is meant to embody an ideal of thought and action, informed by comprehensive knowledge of the physical world.”
Woods worked cyclically, returning often to themes of architecture’s ability to transform, resist, and free the collective and the individual. As an architect whose work lies almost solely in the realm of the imagined, proposed, and the unbuilt, his contributions to the field opened up new avenues for exploring, charting, and inscribing space. Lebbeus Woods, Architect provided a thematic, rather than chronological, framework for understanding the experimental and timeless nature of Woods's work.
Images: Lebbeus Woods, Berlin Free Zone project [BFZ 23, free zone plan, Berlin center], 1990. Electrostatic printing, colored pencil, pastel and ink on paper. 13 7/16 in x 23 13/16 in.
Gallery View, at The Drawing Center, New York, 2014.
Lebbeus Woods, Berlin Free Zone project [BFZ 6, freespace plans and sections, topological studies (Franzosichestrasse)], 1990. Electrostatic printing, colored pencil, pastel and ink on paper. 13 7/16 in x 20 ¼ in.