Curatorial Projects > Seismicity (2000)

Seismicity - An installation by Lebbeus Woods

February 10 - March 18, 2000
Intersection for the Arts
San Francisco, CA

Lebbeus Woods’ body of theoretical work and extraordinary drawings have served as inspiration for artists, architects, filmmakers, and legions of students for more than two and a half decades. His visionary work is concerned with the cultural regeneration of society, directly confronting urban landscapes and social and political conditions presently undergoing radical transformations. His projects propose architecture as a direct instrument of social transformation.

Woods asks: “What is radical architecture? I have only one answer: the one in which you do not already know how to behave.” His visionary work takes on urban landscapes in their socially and politically specific “zones of crisis,” because that is where the actualities of the dominant culture may be confronted. From this confrontation, ideas essential to the growth of a new culture may emerge. His works turn instability into an advantage, “making uncertainty a virtue and strangeness an ally” in the effort to create a livable, genuinely democratic future-space.

What would happen if we constructed buildings that fully incorporate earthquakes as an essential aspect of reality? Not necessarily reinforcing and retrofitting architecture against the seismic forces inherent to the Bay Area geography, but rather erecting buildings that work in conjunction with the inevitable motion and agitation of the land. As Woods states, “The large numbers of people who die in urban earthquakes are almost entirely due to the collapse of buildings, which are, by default, designed to do so. Their threat is well known, and long proven, yet they continue to be designed, built, and occupied. At the very least, this seems an irrational situation, if not an immoral one, especially in the aftermath of destructive quakes. And why, once its existence is known, is it tolerated? It would be more rational to put aside doctrinaire ways of thinking and their inherently vulnerable systems, and to create new systems of shaping space, new types of behavior and patterns of thinking and living that incorporate earthquakes as an essential aspect of reality. What is an architecture that accepts earthquakes, resonating with their matrix of seismic waves - an architecture that need earthquakes, and is constructed, transformed, or completed by their effects - an architecture that inhabits earthquakes, existing in their space and time?”

For this new installation, Woods has combined a series of new drawings and scaled 3-D models of what his theoretical constructions would look like. Accompanying texts articulate the theory that informs both the drawings and the models. In effect, this is an attempt to envision what a future, socially, politically, and environmentally attuned Bay Area architecture could look and feel like.

- Kevin B. Chen