Photo Essays

The Architectural Poetry of Lebbeus Woods

by Michael Gabel on July 1, 2013

(all photographs by the author for Hyperallergic)

Lebbeus Woods, “Earthwave” (1997/2013) (all photographs by the author for Hyperallergic)

LOS ANGELES — “Yeah, yeah, Lebbeus Woods: conceptual architecture … ” said a friend and recent architecture school grad just before I dodged beach traffic and made my way downtown for a new exhibit at the Southern California Institute of Architecture “ … never built anything.”

Although “The Light Pavilion — of his design — stands prominently in Chengdu, China, the late Woods would have taken the jab with a grin. A non-architect’s architect (never degreed nor licensed), his experimental designs are meant to explore the very definition of “unbuilt.” So when the exhibition team at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) rolled out one of Woods’s plans over a queer triangular island of concrete in the heart of Los Angeles’ Arts District, they may or may not have been surprised to watch a steel vector field clamor out onto the pavement.

“Earthwave” was initially designed by Lebbeus Woods and Christoph a. Kumpusch in collaboration with Adam Orlinski, and it is based on a Lebbeus Woods drawing from 1997. The 18’x18’, two-and-half-ton “inhabitable drawing” stands unguarded and is meant to be experienced like the jungle gym gone wrong it is. But, save for a skyward POV, the site forces the viewer to consider the piece against a backdrop of murals, eateries, artist lofts, and distant skyscrapers.

“Architecture is war,” said Woods. War against the established, the approved, the built. Only in experimental beginnings do we find relief. And what does this mean for “Earthwave” now that it’s built? Woods went on: “I am an architect, a constructor of worlds, a sensualist who worships the flesh, the melody, a silhouette against the darkening sky. I cannot know your name. Nor you can know mine. Tomorrow, we begin together the construction of a city.”

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Lebbeus Woods’s “Earthwave” can be found in Traction Triangle at Bloom Square (intersection of Traction Avenue, Rose Street and East 3rd Street, Los Angeles).

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  • Severine7

    Thanks for documenting. I’d walked by that but didn’t know what it was. Very cool that it’s a Woods project.

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