Posts Tagged ‘Lebbeus Woods’

Woods on Abraham

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010


Again, I have to point to Lebbeus Woods blog, which is always a joy to read–an amazing ongoing document of a restless and inquisitive mind. Most recently, he posted about his relationship with the late Raimund Abraham (1933-2010). Specifically, about a trip they had made solely to debate architecture while residing at Le Corbusier’s La Tourette. Makes you want a friend like that.

Lebbeus on Rem

Tuesday, October 27th, 2009

Rem Koolhaas Parc de la Villette

One of the blogs I love getting a chance to read is Lebbeus Woods‘s. Today he posted a wonderful piece about Rem Koolhaas’s  Parc de la Villette competition entry, accompanied by some wonderful photos, some of which I’ve re-posted here. He also goes into the ideas behind the project and the history of probably the most famous of the grands projets initiated by the French government.

Rem Koolhaas Parc de la Villette

It’s a bit embarrassing at this point to mention that Rem Koolhaas may be the reason I became interested in architecture. As Woods writes, “there was once a Rem Koolhaas quite different from the corporate starchitect we see today. His work in the 70s and early 80s was radical and innovative, but did not get built. Often he didn’t seem to care—it was the ideas that mattered.” This was the Rem that made architecture seem something different from the stuffy domain of t-squares and protractors, and his seminal books S,M,L,XL and Content were as radical to the idea of an architectural monograph as his architectural projects were to architecture. Now, of course, it seems almost every young firm has a S,M,L,XL style book out, with saddeningly-predictable and impotent “unexpected” graphics and visual juxtapositions, and Rem himself is building buildings and master plans are that are almost frighteningly indefensible. Young Koolhaas was just so punk, and that was something that I wanted to be a part of (I wrote about the idea of punk a little bit in this review of the Korean director Bong Joon-ho’s film, Memories of Murder). Rem’s Parc de la Villette entry was one of those early projects that still feels fresh and revolutionary today, and it’s great to read Lebbeus Woods’s revisitation of his idea for a public park outside the heart of Paris.

Rem Koolhaas Parc de la Villette

Speaking of which, it’s amazing getting a chance to read Lebbeus Woods in a blog format–Mr. Woods is someone who every student of architecture knows about, drafting missives on a contemporary medium that we assume most people of his generation remain obstinately opposed to (or willfully ignorant). But he’s been working ceaselessly on architectural ideas for decades, and his blog is rare gem.

Rem Koolhaas Parc de la Villette was once a Rem Koolhaas quite different from the corporate starchitect we see today. His work in the 70s and early 80s was radical and innovative, but did not get built. Often he didn’t seem to care—it was the ideas that mattered.

1/16/2006: Time, Memory & History

Friday, December 26th, 2008

Back in 2006, for the Yale Architecture Film Society, I showed a double feature: Chris Marker’s La Jetée and Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys. Here’s what I wrote then [slight cringe]:

la-jeteeLa Jetée (1962), 28 minutes

“The perfect science fiction piece.” – Georges Sadoul.
“The greatest science fiction movie I’ve ever seen.” – Pauline Kael, The New Yorker.
“Science fiction is too reductive a phrase for the formal miracle of La Jetée.” – Stephen Garrett, Time Out New York.

It is hard to believe the impact that this short film has had (it runs just under half an hour), but a cursory search on the internet will point you to countless essays, dissertations, devoted chapters in film theory texts, and the like. Though it is composed entirely of still images by the Parisian director Chris Marker, it still somehow manages to capture the rapt attention of notoriously hard to please critics like Pauline Kael. La Jetée is a story of a man who travels through time to clarify his memory of an event and is a poignant study on the impact of image, memory, and time. It is also a perennial mainstay on architectural film series.

12monkeys112 Monkeys (1995), 129 minutes

“Equal parts mystery, tragedy, psychological thriller, and apocalyptic drama, 12 Monkeys ranks as one of the best science fiction films of the ’90s, boosted by Gilliam’s visual ingenuity and one of the finest performances of Willis’s career.” –Jeff Shannon,
“I’ve always used architecture as if it was a character. . . Philadelphia has an amazing mixture of architecture, nice nineteenth-century stuff and 20s power stations which are now disused. A series of civilisations lived and died there.” –Terry Gilliam in an interview with Sight and Sound

12 Monkeys is Terry Gilliam’s interpretation of Chris Marker’s short film La Jetée (Chris Marker receives the head writing credit), made box-office friendly with the casting of Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt and expanded to 2 hours. Terry Gilliam made his name early on as part of the comedic troupe Monty Python, then went on to film a number of noir-ish interpretation of cityscapes and dystopic futures, most notably Brazil, but also The Fisher King, Time Bandits, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and this movie. 12 Monkeys begins with an odd politico-environmental warning—the plague that destroys all but a small percentage of humanity in the year 2035 is unleashed by a well-meaning environmental activist group. The rest of the movie follows Bruce Willis through apocalyptic visions of Philadelphia and the eastern seaboard as he travels through time, meeting Madeleine Stowe and Brad Pitt (in a MTV Award winning performance). 12 Monkeys was filmed in Philadelphia and Baltimore and boasts some interesting interpretations of prison space and the underground habitations where humanity was forced into to avoid the doomsday plague. Interestingly enough, Terry Gilliam was sued by an architect named Lebbeus Woods (who worked for Eero Saarinen and has held teaching positions at Harvard GSD and Columbia) over some of the prison scenes shown in the movie, which allegedly came from an architectural project of Woods’ called “Centricity: Upper Chamber, Neomechanical Tower (1987).” The suit was settled out of court (after the judge ruled against Gilliam).