The experimental avant-garde architecture of Lebbeus Woods has influenced generations of artists. From film, Wood’s ambiguous Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber blatantly served as the interrogation room inspiration in Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, to games where Woods apparently influenced Half-Life 2’s design team.
I first became truly fascinated with his architecture when working for Director Marco Brambilla whose library included a copy of Lebbeus Wood’s The New City. Particularly interesting is his inclination to base his experimental architecture in a topical geopolitical context from the crumbling of the Berlin War (Berlin Free Zone) to ethnic cleansing in Sarajevo (War and Architecture).
Lebbeus Woods recently launched his official web prescence. To coincide, Geoff Manaugh’s BLDGBLOG has posted an extensive article and interview with Lebbeus Woods. A prominent segment looks at his 1999 work, Lower Manhattan.
“I wanted to suggest that maybe lower Manhattan – not lower downtown, but lower in the sense of below the city – could form a new relationship with the planet. So, in the drawing, you see that the East River and the Hudson are both dammed. They’re purposefully drained, as it were. The underground – or lower Manhattan – is revealed, and, in the drawing, there are suggestions of inhabitation in that lower region.”
Surprisingly this b&w illustration is even more dramatic than the similarly themed digital matte painting classic of New York City in the Luc Besson directed box office hit, The Fifth Element (see below). The establishing shot by Digital Domain matte painters Kevin Mack and Wayne Haag based on concept art by Jean-Claude Méères, used Luc Besson’s notion that sea levels had plummeted in the 23rd century.
Perhaps to embolden the lower aspect of the composition in Lower Manhattan (see BLDGBLOG), Lebbeus Woods uses a more balanced upper composition removing the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridge and in a seemingly prophetic decision, also removing the World Trade Center.
Frame from The Fifth Element. Columbia Pictures. Matte Painting by Digital Domain.