New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman reported via Twitter that Lebbeus Woods died this morning at the age of 72. “Deeply sorry to have just heard that Lebbeus Woods, a true visionary architect and astonishing draftsman, died this morning. A great loss,” he wrote, later quoting fellow critic Michael Sorkin, who once said that the architect’s “ever-expanding discourse of the almost possible is an inspiration not just to build but to think.” Woods was an anomaly in the contemporary architecture scene, producing work almost exclusively in the form of architectural drawings (in great volume) and sustaining a distinctive reputation as a visionary who, by inhabiting the lofty theoretical stratosphere of imagining over constructing buildings — a space so distanced from the vitiating constraints of capital — remained something of an uncorrupted, almost sanctified presence in the field.
Strangely enough, Woods began work this year on his first ever built work, an installation known as the “Light Pavilion” nestled inside a Steven Holl-designed complex in Chengdu, China. How curious that the very same year the architect made the great leap from two-dimensional ideas to three-dimensional form, he should pass away. As an architect, an artist, a thinker, and a teacher (and a dedicated blogger who amassed a loyal following), Woods has been an inspiration to all those who have seen his work and paid heed to his movingly intimate commentary on not just architecture but society today. As Kimmelman tweeted shortly after announcing the news, let us hope that a serious museum show of Woods’s work will be forthcoming so that his drawings and his memory can continue to shape architectural innovation.
- Kelly Chan