By Shane Reiner-Roth
On Friday, the Getty Research Institute (GRI) at the Getty Center in Los Angeles acquired a two-part collection of drawings and sketches by Lebbeus Woods, the visionary American architect and Cooper Union professor that passed away in 2012. The acquisition includes 46 drawings from the architect’s A-City and 4 Cities and Beyond projects (ca. 1982-1997), a body of work that, according to a statement from the GRI, “constitute[s] a powerful expression of Lebbeus Woods’s mid-1980s critique of contemporary architecture and the urban environment,” as well as a 30-page sketchbook (1986-1988) the New York-based architect produced during an extended visit to Los Angeles. Together, the illustrations demonstrate Woods’ exquisite pen, ink and pencil draftsmanship, as well as his penchant for drawing daring or impossible structures.
The acquisition was made with partial support from the Getty Research Institute Council with the hopes of providing scholars and researchers of architectural history an up-close look at Woods’ creative process. “As a teacher who linked drawing to theory, Lebbeus Woods’ influence on generations of architects is difficult to overstate,” wrote Maristella Casciato, senior curator of architecture at the GRI, in a press release.
The two-part collection completes the institute’s collection of A-City drawings, following its previous acquisition of six in the series as a donation, and it also complements two other special collections previously acquired by the institute: Drawings for the Berlin Free Zone Project (1990) and Lebbeus Woods Journals, 1988–1997. “With these acquisitions,” said Casciato, “the Getty Research Institute is the largest repository for Lebbeus Woods’ theoretical thinking on the city.” As of last Friday, the GRI now boasts an extraordinary collection of architectural documentation, including the extensive work of Archigram, John Lautner, and Rudolph Schindler.
Aside from the Light Pavilion completed in 2011 in Chengdu, China, Woods’ groundbreaking designs primarily exists on paper, making the recent acquisition by the GRI particularly significant.