Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lebbeus Woods on Architecture and Resistance

When it comes to food for thought, the words of the original "anarchitect" Lebbeus Woods are like fine Futurist cuisine.


Apropos of nothing in particular—unless it is the general spirit of acquiescence pervading the field of architecture today—I have been thinking about the idea of architecture and resistance. Although many people might judge that my work in architecture has been nothing if not a form of resistance, I have never considered it as such. To say that you are resisting something means that you have to spend a lot of time and energy saying what that something is, in order for your resistance to make sense. Too much energy flows in the wrong direction, and you usually end up strengthening the thing you want to resist.

It seems to me that if architects really want to resist, then neither the idea nor the rhetoric of resistance has a place in it. These architects must take the initiative, beginning from a point of origin that precedes anything to be resisted, one deep within an idea of architecture itself. They can never think of themselves as resisters, or join resistance movements, or preach resistance. Rather (and this is the hard part of resistance) they must create an independent idea of both architecture and the world. It is not something that can be improvised at the barricades. It takes time and a lot of trial and error. This is only just, because the things to be resisted have not come from nowhere. They have a history built over periods of time, a kind of seriousness and weight that makes them a threat to begin with. They can only be resisted by ideas and actions of equivalent substance and momentum.

The word resist is interestingly equivocal. It is not synonymous with words of ultimate negation like ‘dismiss’ or ‘ reject.’ Instead, it implies a measured struggle that is more tactical than strategic. Living changes us, in ways we cannot predict, for the better and the worse. One looks for principles, but we are better off if we control them, not the other way around. Principles can become tyrants, foreclosing on our ability to learn. When they do, they, too, must be resisted...

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