Wednesday, October 31, 2012


In the spring of 2004 my friend OF and I exchanged approximately 950 emails that rambled on about architecture and cities. (I have saved all of the emails in a folder titled "millesmessages." At one point I thought it would be cool to put them all online somehow. I am wiser now, and OF is now a practicing architect.) To my recollection the correspondence developed and was underpinned by twin themes: the aesthetics of infrastructure; and the paradox of designing urban space so as to enable the accidental.

I recall all of this as my Internet begins to fill with news of the death of Lebbeus Woods (see also Steven Holl remembers Lebbeus Woods, not to mention An Architect Unshackled by Limits of the Real World, etc.). I also remember flipping through Radical Reconstruction, which OF had lent me, while lounging on MK's bed in her tiny Fort Greene apartment; that must have been the summer of 2001. Radical Reconstruction hit me like an anvil, though it wasn't until I came to Berlin, perhaps, that its lessons sunk in.

What I want to say is quite simple: I was jarred that Mr. Woods died in the same timeframe as Sandy engulfing The City, flooding the construction site where the World Trade Center towers used to be. For you see, in my correspondence with OF, I had always held that the best use of that infamous space would be none at all – just leave a hole in the ground, a gaping scar – and I had thought that my contention that a scar would be better than a Freedom Tower was somehow Woods-ian. (Lebbeus, though, had submitted a proposal of his own, which see, and OF and I had discussed it approvingly.)

But probably more jarring in the present context is Lower Manhattan Revisited, which a friend shared on FB by way of mourning Lebbeus.

For years I have thought that, in our discussion of the WTC site, OF had written, "Let Lebbeus build it!" Then I thought perhaps it was me who had written that. But no, I checked today: neither of us. Instead I find that, in 2005, in discussing the reconstruction of the Coney Island Parachute Pavilion, I wrote, "Hire Lebbeus," which just doesn't have the same ring as "Let Lebbeus build it!"
No matter.

Yes, higher, Lebbeus.
Go in peace.


  1. Ah, actually, I have finally located the motto, in an exchange that took place January 29-30, 2004:

    OF writes, "hmmm... if you let foliage grow up through it, as it naturally would, it would've come out looking like those Caspar David Friedrich paintings of ruined cathedrals. & i do think they're making a serious mistake by choosing to conceal the relics and traces of the disaster in an underground museum. it's like plastic surgery to hide your scars. when it's a wound like that, you might as well keep the scar, let it show."

    To which SY responds, "Yes, as I mentioned earlier today...I'm priting [sic] bumper stickers: 'Let Lebbeus Build It!'"

  2. Speaking of "the paradox of designing urban space so as to enable the accidental," the latest episode of the wonderful 99% Invisible is about Kowloon Walled City (the place, not the band, which is, by the way, also pretty great).

  3. and uh, oscar niemeyer starb am 05.12.2012; he was very nearly 105! i remember enjoying this interview while lounging on the floor of my room, listening to heavy metal and smoking lucky strikes