October 31, 2012
"If you were to walk through an architecture school today—and I don’t recommend it—you’d think that the height of invention was to make your building look like a Venus flytrap, or that mathematically efficient triangular spaceframes were the answer to everything, every problem of space and habitability. But this is like someone really good at choosing fonts in Microsoft Word. It doesn’t matter what you can do, formally, to the words in your document if those words don’t actually say anything."

This is an astonishingly beautiful piece of writing, an obituary for the architect Lebbeus Woods, who died this week “just as the hurricane was moving out of New York City and as his very neighborhood, Lower Manhattan, had temporarily become part of the Atlantic seabed, floodwaters pouring into nearby subway tunnels and knocking out power to nearly every building south of 23rd Street, an event seemingly predicted, or forewarned, by Lebbeus’s own work.”

The whole obituary, by Geoff Manaugh, is well worth reading, for its personal insight into why Woods’s work matters so much, as well as its thoughtfulness, humility, and all-round-general-loveliness. The paragraph above particularly caught my eye for two reasons: firstly, how sad that an architecture expert (and teacher) clearly doesn’t think much of the state of architecture education; and secondly, doesn’t this statement extend to the design field at large (and anyone in the business of “content creation,” I suppose)? Doesn’t the idea of “someone really good at choosing fonts in Microsoft Word” resonate for you? We’ve all become so adept at the superficial that we can forget to ask the difficult questions about why we’re even doing something in the first place. It’s not often that an obituary sparks as many questions as it answers, but it’s somehow deeply appropriate this would be the case for one of Lebbeus Woods. He would surely have approved.

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