an open letter by hamansutra
As the saying goes, the prophet is without honor in his own country.
Friend, Partner, Mentor, Visionary and Idol. “The world was not ready for the mind of Lebbeus Woods”.
I was so near to asking you to design my future store in New York, write a foreword and draw for my lookbook; you had inspired me to found a school for the future. We emailed, I visited you at Cooper Union in NY and you said “I appreciate your gifts and picked up my package filled with wonders“ – but no project came about. But you will be my inspiration whenever I read your books, superb documentations of your projects.
Your works are holy, we would have achieved greatness: “dear haman, I like your straightforward approach, and find your design work very innovative.” I loved your idea of always producing a lavish small book for each project, allowing everyone to participate, and the seriousness of your visions.
You know that only the creator can complete the work; many people’s brains are too sluggish to allow information to penetrate. Some people talk a lot and write a lot but never make the grade of actual achievement. Although few of your works were realized, you inspired everyone that saw them. Your radical designs had something megalomaniac, something of a king or dictator – yet unlike these, your aim was not to make people look small or humble them wherever they entered.
Because so few people understood Lebbeus’ work, he fought battles with his radical designs. An artist through and through, he destroyed his work and turned to war-damaged buildings to show the world the potential in destruction. He believed architecture had undergone a complete change after the Second World War, and spent the whole of his life questioning architecture.
In discussions on architecture and visions of the future, I often discovered that Lebbeus’ architect colleagues were anything but positive. Are typical architects actually conservative, extreme consumers like attorneys, doctors, advertising agencies and industrial designers? Typical suits that enjoy addressing the idea of creativity, yet are slaves to the media? Typical students of industrial management? They make me sick.
The comment “Lebbeus Woods’ work is completely irrelevant“ has been quoted a few times.
Architects of their caliber of ignorance and arrogance dare to sneer at a visionary, while using his works as references and inspiration, reducing them to a duel between avant-garde and commercial. To draw an analogy, no fashion designer would dare to criticize Hussein Chalayan as irrelevant. Many of them lacked the balls to commission Lebbeus – except in China shortly before his death.
OK, his conceptual architecture for the movie Alien 3 was more like a stroll through his old sketchbooks – lightyears ahead of their time. The Light Pavilion by Lebbeus Woods in collaboration with Christoph a. Kumpusch, will shortly be unveiled in the Raffles City complex in Chengdu, China, by Steven Holl Architects. Thank you. Your work had only just begun, but in that you have already completed it with a blessing.
Lebbeus was Professor of Architecture at the Cooper Union in New York City and at the European Graduate School in Saas-Fee, Switzerland.
He passed away on October 30, 2012, in Manhattan.