#124, Other

Lebbeus Wood, The Experimental

[drawing by Lebbeus Woods from the San Francisco: Inhabiting the Quake series, 1995]

Lebbeus Woods debates the merit of experimental architecture in a world mired by countless social problems longing for the attention of architects…

This question evokes the common argument against the exploration of outer space—to the moon, Mars, and beyond. With so many problems here on Earth, why should we devote precious financial and intellectual resources to off-planet exploration? What’s to be gained, in terms of our terrestrial concerns? Better that we devote ourselves to ‘real-world’ problems. It’s a hard argument to counter. […]

This, in turn, is something like the argument against government funding of art. We understand that paintings, sculptures, poetry and the like are luxury goods—only the well-off can afford to take the time for them. Most of us are working too hard to make ends meet to afford the luxury of time, and price of tickets, to go to museums and concerts where art is displayed in plush settings. Better that the taxpayers’ money go to solving urgent problems like poverty and sub-standard education for our children. Well, yes.

The problem with these arguments is twofold. First, if we have to wait until the world is made right before we can afford the satisfaction of beauty (in whatever terms), we will never have it, because the world will never be made right enough. Second—and this is the more subtle point—it may be that the apprehension of beauty in art, music, poetry, even architecture, is necessary to solve the grittier real-world problems. The experience of beauty–especially difficult or ‘terrible’ beauty—is one that gives us a sense of personal connection to a wider world…

read the entire essay, The Experimental »