"I am much more interested in the secret life of the city," architect Lebbeus Woods said in 1992. "Those things which can maybe happen out of sight or in a kind of unseen way, strange things…that are unexplainable, even unjustifiable in terms of any sort of convention of society or certainly of architecture." Today is the last day that you can see a wide array of Woods' mysterious and moving creations at The Drawing Center in Soho.
Woods' work is weird and brilliant in part because it's amazing how something so theoretical can look so real. There are giant structures that blend in to the landscape with an almost Victorian sense of necessity—we see hoses and pulleys and wheels and ropes and everything is in its right place, but what are those hoses carrying and what are those pulleys lifting and what is the purpose of this thing?
Later in his career, Woods, who moved to New York in the 1970s and died in 2012 as this exhibit was being pieced together, began espousing what he called The Third Principle. We shouldn't erase structures that have been bruised and broken by war and conflict, nor should we fix them and pretend the damage never happened. Woods believed we should integrate trauma into our architecture, as if the buildings themselves were human. It's heavy stuff.
"There’s content — intellectual content, social content, artistic content, political content—but the very act of making these sort of remarkable things and his drawing capacity made a kind of new language," architect Eric Owen said of his friend's work.
“If he really felt as cynical and skeptical as he sometimes would say, then why the hell draw this stuff?”
You have until 6 p.m. to see the drawings, paintings, sketchbooks, and models that spanned Woods' career. The Drawing Center is on Wooster Street between Broome and Grand. Admission is $5.