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A view inside the Light Pavilion at night. (Photo by Iwan Baan, image courtesy Lars Müller Publishers)

Originally designed as a separata to be included in a larger publication, The Light Pavilion captures the seven years that lead up the only built work of visionary architect Lebbeus Woods (1940–2012). The photos, many of which were shot by Iwan Baan and Manta Weihermann, capture the vivid and surreal effect of the space at all scales. The book contains brief commentary from Steven Holl, Thom Mayne, Zaha Hadid, Neil Denari, and Eric Owen Moss; an in-depth analysis, “On the Face of It,” by Mark Morris puts the difficult to categorize Light Pavilion into historical context. Lebbeus’s friend and collaborator, Christoph a. Kumpusch, writes a touching, forward-looking epilogue about celebrating the pavilion’s opening with Lebbeus a few days before his death in New York City during the superstorm Sandy.

A view of the Light Pavilion from the inside looking out during the day. (Photo by Iwan Baan, image courtesy Lars Müller Publishers)

With no designated program, the pavilion functions on its own terms and creates a uniquely sublime experience for each inhabitant. It is at once an inhabitable drawing, a chromatic calendar, a fugue of steel, a completely new and intense spatial magnification. This truly sublime experience is carefully curated throughout the book — the images convey the intensity of the pavilion throughout the Sliced Porosity Block and the parts of Chengdu that immediately surround it. The book seamlessly walks the reader into the construction of the Sliced Porosity Block, up into the Light Pavilion, down into the public space of the project, and back out into the city. This process compares to the pavilion itself: the movement between scales of inhabitation is perpetual and ephemeral simultaneously.

A view of the Light Pavilion from the outside looking in during the day. (Photo by Iwan Baan, image courtesy Lars Müller Publishers)

In Woods’ words, “the space has been 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.”

The book explains the relationship formed between the people of Chengdu and the Light Pavilion, which has been renamed “Time Light” (“Shí Guãng,” 时光) by the local citizens, created by the pavilion’s dissolution of the X-Y-Z space; once you enter the pavilion, the rules of Cartesian logic no longer apply. The pavilion induces a truly transcendental experience in the inhabitant, equally stretching and compressing time into an infinite expanse of light.

There are also short glimpses into the other pavilions within Steven Holl’s Sliced Porosity Block, the History Pavilion and Du Fu Pavilion — designed by Ai Weiwei but never built — as well as a survey of Lebbeus’ previous installations in a section titled “2D 4D”.

The Light Pavilion by Lebbeus Woods & Christoph a. Kumpusch (Lars Müller Publishers, 2013). Currently available from SFMOMA in connection with the exhibition “Lebbeus Woods, Architect” and on Amazon.

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