Lebbeus Woods (May 31, 1940 – October 30, 2012), born in 1940, in Lansing, Michigan, was known for his dystopian depictions of architecture and his experimental methods. Recognized beyond architecture, Lebbeus Woods , has been hailed by leading designers, filmmakers, writers, and artists alike as a significant voice in recent decades. Notably, Zaha Hadid cities Woods as a key influence. After working as an architect he turned to teaching and artistic expression in the late eighties. He was a teacher at the Copper Union School of Architecture until the end of his life
As an undergraduate he studied engineering at Purdue, and received his master’s degree in architecture from the University of Illinois, in 1964. He then joined the office of the late Eero Saarinen, which was then under the direction of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, and worked on their landmark Ford Foundation building in New York. It was only in the 1970s that he devoted himself fully to his experimental studies, financing his project with work as a delineator for New York’s top architectural firms.
Teaching and Experimental Architecture
In 1988, Woods co-founded the Research Institute for Experimental Architecture and began teaching at the Cooper Union School. His visions of urban spaces ravaged by war were published in numerous books, among them Anarchitecture, War and Architecture, and Radical Reconstruction. “He stood for the possibility of a bravely experimental approach to architecture,” says Henry Urbach, a frequent Woods collaborator who is now director of Philip Johnson's The Glass House. “He was particularly attentive to architecture's political dimension, to the way in which ruptures of different sorts, either natural disasters or switches of political regime, could have a profound influence on what we build and why."
Those post-apocalyptic visions were shaped by his personal history. His father, an Air Force colonel who was present at the atomic testing on Bikini Atol, died of a rare form of leukemia when Woods was just thirteen. Woods believed the cause was radiation poisoning, though the military would not admit it.
At the time of his death, Woods claimed to be at work on a book on World War II and architecture, one presumably informed by that history. His health had been in decline for some time. He traveled in a motorized chair, and had recently stepped away from his blog. In a final post—title, “Goodbye [sort of]”—he announced he was quitting it for “various health and other issues,” and to concentrate on his book. “I must say that it has been a privilege to have communicated with so many bright and energetic readers,” he wrote. “Thank you for all you have given.”