Architecture Loses Two Giants

The past week has seen the deaths of renowned architects Lebbeus Woods and John Johansen.
October 31, 2012, 12pm PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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At BLDGBLOG, Geoff Manaugh has a remembrance of Woods, the visionary architect, artist, writer, and teacher, who trained with Eero Saarinen in the 1960s and passed away on Tuesday, at the age of 72. "Lebbeus will probably be missed for his formal inventiveness: buildings on stilts, massive seawalls, rotatable buildings that look like snowflakes. Deformed coasts anti-seismically jeweled with buildings. Tombs for Einstein falling through space," says Manaugh. "But this would be to miss the motivating absence at the heart of all those explorations, which is that we don't yet know what the world is, what the Earth is-whether or not there even is a world or an Earth or a universe at all-and architecture is one of the arts of discovering an answer to this. Or inventing an answer to this, even flat-out fabricating an answer to this, meaning that architecture is more mythology than science." 

"Lebbeus Woods should be on the same sorts of lists as James Joyce or John Cage, a person as culturally relevant as he was scientifically suggestive, seething with ideas applicable to nearly every discipline." 

Late last week came news that John M. Johansen, the last surviving member of the Harvard Five, died at the age of 96. In The New York Times, Fred A. Bernstein examines the impact that Johansen and his Modernist colleagues had during their heyday in the 1950s and 60s. "In the postwar years Mr. Johansen and four other young Modernist architects - Philip Johnson, Marcel Breuer, Landis Gores and Eliot Noyes, all with connections to Harvard's architecture school - dotted southwestern Connecticut with houses conveying the optimism of the time. Hugely influential in the field, the buildings were seen in museum exhibitions and on the covers of Life and Look magazines." 

But while some of his colleagues worked in a minimalist vein, Johansen produced some of Brutalism's most notable buildings, including the now-threatened Morris A. Mechanic Theater in Baltimore (1967) and the Mummers Theater in Oklahoma City (1970).      

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Published on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 in BLDGBLOG
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