Traces of Nietzschean philosophy in the early architectural speculations of Lebbeus Woods


Abstract
In 1980 Lebbeus Woods offered a small project for publication in Steven Holl's Pamphlet Architecture series. Here Woods proposed a tomb for the revolutionary German physicist Albert Einstein whose scientific theory had led to a complete rethinking of conventional metaphysical beliefs. Einstein's theory postulated that all scientific inquiry was dependent upon the relative perspective of the observer. Rather than acknowledging God as the universal centre, Einstein's theory postulated a world of infinite centres marked by the presence of individual observers. In homage to Einstein, Woods proposes a project that would forever embalm the physicist in the new laws that he had established. Many projects from this early period of Lebbeus Woods' career are associated with a similar reconciliation between the individual and their greater spiritual environment. Throughout this period Woods idealistically posits the unbuilt project as a philosophical (rather than purely architectural) apparatus capable of transcending lived experience and reorienting the individual within the world and universe. The human disorientation that Woods delineates and the need to provide a new foundation for individual existence are both themes that preoccupied the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche almost a century before Woods' earliest architectural speculations. This metaphysical quandary, which is inherent to Nietzsche's philosophy, forms a strong backdrop to the work of Woods in the way in which it repositions the individual in a world without coherent definition. This same position invites the new humanistic approach to architecture that is embodied in the architectural rhetoric of Woods
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