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Lebbeus Woods - Quotes

Architecture is about ideas in the first place. You don’t get to design until you have an idea.
Woods, Lebbeus.

Architects are today routinely indoctrinated against the dumb box. Even advertising urges us to “think outside the box.” Why? Because it is thought we all hate the box for being too dumb, too boring, and we want to escape it. If we do escape, by buying the advertised product, we usually find ourselves inside another dumb box populated by boring people just like us. It is clearly possible to live an extraordinary life inside a dumb box. Question: is it possible to lead an extraordinary life in anything other than a dumb box?
Woods, Lebbeus.

Gravity is the insidious enemy of the animate.
Woods, Lebbeus.

Unlike the past decades, the present moment is lacking in architectural discourse.
Woods, Lebbeus.

I can’t honestly say where the inspiration for my work came from. I think it came from reading. It came from texts, from Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, it came from, you know, Jean-Paul Sartre. These are the ideas that got me worked up and inspired. It wasn’t so much the visual things that inspired me. Although, of course, there were plenty of painters in history that I admired all the way from Brueghel to Goya, to Picasso — because everything visual stimulates me.
Woods, Lebbeus.

I’ve always been interested, — if you look back at my work from the beginning, really — I’ve always been interested in the idea of the artificial landscape. Reforming the landscape. Architecture being a method of reforming the earth’s surface. We reshape the earth’s surface, from architecture to paving streets, to parking lots and buildings that are really reforming the surface of the earth. Reforming nature, taking over what we find. And we’re mushing it around and remaking a new earth — or, what we used to call Terra Nova.
Woods, Lebbeus.

Architecture and war are not incompatible. Architecture is war. War is architecture. I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms.
Woods, Lebbeus.

I’m not interested in living in a fantasy world ... All my work is still meant to evoke real architectural spaces. But what interests me is what the world would be like if we were free of conventional limits. Maybe I can show what could happen if we lived by a different set of rules.
Woods, Lebbeus and Nicolai Ouroussoff (Reviwer). "An Architect Unshackled by Limits of the Real World." in: New York Times. August 25, 2008.

You can’t bring your old habits here ... If you want to participate, you will have to reinvent yourself.
Woods, Lebbeus and Nicolai Ouroussoff (Reviwer). "An Architect Unshackled by Limits of the Real World." in: New York Times. August 25, 2008.

Big corporations today want to present themselves as benefactors of the human race. ExxonMobil runs ads about the ecology now. And architecture is part of this. It’s a business.
Woods, Lebbeus and Nicolai Ouroussoff (Reviewer). "An Architect Unshackled by Limits of the Real World." in: New York Times. August 25, 2008.

With the triumph of liberal democracy and laissez-faire capitalism, the conversation came to an end. Everyone wanted to build, which left less room for certain kinds of architecture.
Woods, Lebbeus and Nicolai Ouroussoff (Reviewer). "An Architect Unshackled by Limits of the Real World." in: New York Times. August 25, 2008.

I think the main thought I had, in speculating on the future of New York, was that, in the past, a lot of discussions had been about New York being the biggest, the greatest, the best – but that all had to do with the size of the city. You know, the size of the skyscrapers, the size of the culture, the population.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Without Walls: An Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: BLDG Blog. 2007. (English).

Well, I think that, for instance, in Sarajevo, I was trying to speculate on how the war could be turned around, into something that people could build the new Sarajevo on. It wasn’t about cleaning up the mess or fixing up the damage; it was more about a transformation in the society and the politics and the economics through architecture. I mean, it was a scenario – and, I suppose, that was the kind of movie aspect to it. It was a “what if?”
Woods, Lebbeus. "Without Walls: An Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: BLDG Blog. 2007. (English).

I think there’s not enough of that thinking today in relation to cities that have been faced with sudden and dramatic – even violent – transformations, either because of natural or human causes. But we need to be able to speculate, to create these scenarios, and to be useful in a discussion about the next move.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Without Walls: An Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: BLDG Blog. 2007. (English).

I think architects – at least those inclined to understand the multi-disciplinarity and the comprehensive nature of their field – have to visualize something that embraces all these political, economic, and social changes. As well as the technological. As well as the spatial.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Without Walls: An Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: BLDG Blog. 2007. (English).

But we’re living in a very odd time for the field. There’s a kind of lack of discourse about these larger issues. People are hunkered down, looking for jobs, trying to get a building. It’s a low point. I don’t think it will stay that way. I don’t think that architects themselves will allow that.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Without Walls: An Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: BLDG Blog. 2007. (English).

We’ve got to imagine more broadly. We have to have a more comprehensive vision of what the future is.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Without Walls: An Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: BLDG Blog. 2007. (English).

To me politics means one thing: How do you change your situation? What is the mechanism by which you change your life? That’s politics. That’s the political question. It’s about negotiation, or it’s about revolution, or it’s about terrorism, or it’s about careful step-by-step planning – all of this is political in nature. It’s about how people, when they get together, agree to change their situation.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Without Walls: An Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: BLDG Blog. 2007. (English).

As I wrote some years back, architecture is a political act, by nature. It has to do with the relationships between people and how they decide to change their conditions of living.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Without Walls: An Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: BLDG Blog. 2007. (English).

And architecture is a prime instrument of making that change – because it has to do with building the environment they live in, and the relationships that exist in that environment.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Without Walls: An Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: BLDG Blog. 2007. (English).

I think, you know, architecture should not just be something that follows up on events but be a leaderof events. That’s what you’re saying: That by implementing an architectural action, you actually are making a transformation in the social fabric and in the political fabric. Architecture becomes an instigator; it becomes an initiator.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Without Walls: An Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: BLDG Blog. 2007. (English).

Well, look – if you go back through my projects over the years, probably the least present aspect is the idea of property lines. There are certainly boundaries – spatial boundaries – because, without them, you can’t create space. But the idea of fencing off, or of compartmentalizing – or the capitalist ideal of private property – has been absent from my work over the last few years.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Without Walls: An Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: BLDG Blog. 2007. (English).

I suppose that my life has been unstable. I was a military brat. I grew up in different places around the U.S.A., always moving from one place to the next. Seriously, that kind of autobiography figures into these things one way or another. But also, I was born in 1940, already in the 21st century, and over those years there’s been tremendous kinds of changes, particularly socially, culturally, and intellectually ... So I think my interest in dealing with instability is an interest in dealing with our condition, our human condition at the present time. I could go on, but we don’t have all that much time so –
Woods, Lebbeus. "Subtopia Meets Lebbeus Woods." in: Subtopia. 2007. (English).

Well I think architecture as we think of it as a profession and as a practice isn’t very far from the Roman Empire.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Subtopia Meets Lebbeus Woods." in: Subtopia. 2007. (English).

I think the role of architecture – not all of it, because we’re still going to have the monuments, the big expensive buildings, that’s just the way it’s going to be – but, if there’s going to be another movement, another direction in architecture, it has to engage people differently. Other than saying, here, look at this, isn’t this amazing? It has to interactively involve them other than as spectators, or, as a ‘society of the spectacle.’ It has to engage them as creators.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Subtopia Meets Lebbeus Woods." in: Subtopia. 2007. (English).

You have to engage people, but you also have to give them the tools to work with. You say, the rules of the game. Yeah, you have to give them the rules of the game, like when you play Poker you have to give them the rules of Poker. You can’t just start throwing cards around. So, you give them the basic rules of the game, then you give them some basic techniques: this is how you move this here, and this is how you move that there. You don’t say where you are going to move it. And then, if you’re really starting at a rudimentary level you show them some examples. You say, now it could look like this, or it could look like that, if you follow these rules.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Subtopia Meets Lebbeus Woods." in: Subtopia. 2007. (English).

But, being an American I believe people have to choose to do it. I don’t think this is something that should be imposed from the top down. They have to want to do it this way. They have to want to participate.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Subtopia Meets Lebbeus Woods." in: Subtopia. 2007. (English).

The other side is always a visceral kind of gut-feeling that has to work with a visual communication. Because that’s where most of the information in the world goes in, though our eyes – we’re lucky enough to have vision, you know? It has to communicate visually. So, I was working from the philosophical side and the visual side and I try to put those together.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Subtopia Meets Lebbeus Woods." in: Subtopia. 2007. (English).

In thinking about it I imagined it could be an act of creation – a creative act, in the sense of bringing it down creatively, involving both sides somehow, because it is a two-sided conflict. And the idea of a game arose – because we all know it’s just a big game. All of this is just a very serious game. And if it’s just a game in the end we have to understand the rules.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Subtopia Meets Lebbeus Woods." in: Subtopia. 2007. (English).

In Hollywood you don’t produce a product, you create a process – it’s always about process. So, a screenplay is a process; a film is a process. You can’t look at it as an art. Anyway, these are very intriguing mediums because for me the drawings are about ideas only. They’re not about drawing. I mean if they were about drawing I’d get very bored. It’s about communicating ideas – it’s about finding ideas. Use the drawing to find an idea, and then develop it.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Subtopia Meets Lebbeus Woods." in: Subtopia. 2007. (English).

I’ve always worked, more or less – except in certain moments – alone.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Subtopia Meets Lebbeus Woods." in: Subtopia. 2007. (English).

Basically, I sit down, usually sitting – although, recently I’ve been doing some pretty large drawings where I have to stand up on a ladder – but, I basically work alone. I spend a lot of time thinking. Not necessarily doing anything. I don’t feel like I have to do some product necessarily. I think a lot. I read. I draw. And the ideas that interest me now, I don’t know – there are several.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Subtopia Meets Lebbeus Woods." in: Subtopia. 2007. (English).

I’ve always been interested, I think – if you look back at my work from the beginning, really – I’ve always been interested in the idea of the artificial landscape. Reforming the landscape. Architecture being a method of reforming the earth’s surface. We reshape the earth’s surface, from architecture to paving streets, to parking lots and buildings that are really reforming the surface of the earth.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Subtopia Meets Lebbeus Woods." in: Subtopia. 2007. (English).

Now, socially, there is a dimension to that, and something I think we are all going to have to deal with, eventually. And architects better start dealing with it – that is the notion of slums ... It’s just that I’m beginning to feel I better start while I’ve still got life left in me – that I better start turning some of my attention to this critical problem. Because it’s really an architectural problem.
Woods, Lebbeus. "Subtopia Meets Lebbeus Woods." in: Subtopia. 2007. (English).

I want to provoke questions. I’ve never felt that I provide a definitive, conclusive answer to anything. But there are some very important questions, neglected usually in the architectural discourse, and they have to do with the volatility of contemporary life. And, buildings of stone, steel, glass, and concrete don’t answer those questions. Maybe it’s temporary architecture. A lot of my work is about questioning the stability and permanence of architecture, and, in turn, the stability of society.
Woods, Lebbeus and Lorrie Flom (Interviewer). "The Reality of Experimental Architecture: an Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: Carnegie Online. July/August 2004.

Changing society requires us to do things differently, and we can only find out by experimenting. Happily, architects can do this with drawings and models. They don’t have to build 200 million dollar buildings that are disasters to test an idea. We can try ideas out on a different scale and medium.
Woods, Lebbeus and Lorrie Flom (Interviewer). "The Reality of Experimental Architecture: an Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: Carnegie Online. July/August 2004.

My work is political, but it is not party politics, not ideology. I view politics as the kind of machinery by which we change our lives. In that sense, these projects make a political statement. Both Havana and Sarajevo have political histories beyond my ability to analyze, but I felt obligated to respond as an architect.
Woods, Lebbeus and Lorrie Flom (Interviewer). "The Reality of Experimental Architecture: an Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: Carnegie Online. July/August 2004.

The siege of Sarajevo, the destruction of the city in the early ‘90s, was a kind of prelude to what happened in New York to the World Trade Center towers. It’s similar in the sense that terrorists were attacking civil life...attacking a way of life. By looking at extreme cases such as these, we have a chance to understand our own situations better. At the edge, we can see the forces of change where the normal has broken down. When normal reaches its limits, we have to, as architects, think differently about what buildings do.
Woods, Lebbeus and Lorrie Flom (Interviewer). "The Reality of Experimental Architecture: an Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: Carnegie Online. July/August 2004.

If there is no idea in the drawing, there is no idea in the constructed project. That’s the expression of the idea. Architects make drawings that other people build. I make the drawings. If someone wants to build from those, that’s up to them. I feel I’m making architecture. I believe the building comes into being as soon as it’s drawn. Obviously, every architect would like to see most of their designs built, including me.
Woods, Lebbeus and Lorrie Flom (Interviewer). "The Reality of Experimental Architecture: an Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: Carnegie Online. July/August 2004.

I’m trying to bring people in rather than saying, “Here is another product offered by another architect.” I’m trying to say, “Here is a set of conditions…what do you think?” The gap is important. If there’s not a gap, there’s nothing left.
Woods, Lebbeus and Lorrie Flom (Interviewer). "The Reality of Experimental Architecture: an Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: Carnegie Online. July/August 2004.

Over the years I’ve had many exhibitions of my work, and there are people who are willing to go along with it. If something grabs them, it’s because there’s something in the work that is authentic. It comes from a struggle with ideas.
Woods, Lebbeus and Lorrie Flom (Interviewer). "The Reality of Experimental Architecture: an Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: Carnegie Online. July/August 2004.

A range of reactions is expected and good. There will be people who will shake their heads and say, “Architecture should be functional. This isn’t functional.” They may hate it.
Woods, Lebbeus and Lorrie Flom (Interviewer). "The Reality of Experimental Architecture: an Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: Carnegie Online. July/August 2004.

In any creative medium, there has to be substance for the work to hold up. For example, a piece of music is not an answer. It’s a stimulus. It leads you to thinking and feeling a certain way, which you wouldn’t have done without that particular experience.
Woods, Lebbeus and Lorrie Flom (Interviewer). "The Reality of Experimental Architecture: an Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: Carnegie Online. July/August 2004.

People who come to this exhibition are going to see the tremendous effort that was made to bring them in. They will experience visual and spatial energy. They’ll see things they haven’t seen before. They’ll be engaged. And then they can draw their own conclusions. No one will go away thinking, “That was a dull exhibition.” They won’t forget it. It will stay with them, and that’s the goal.
Woods, Lebbeus and Lorrie Flom (Interviewer). "The Reality of Experimental Architecture: an Interview with Lebbeus Woods." in: Carnegie Online. July/August 2004.