Wednesday, March 5, 2008

41. Take a lesson from Lebbeus Woods

There are two types of old people in this world. There are the ones that always seem to say: I am too old for this shit. They wave their canes at technology and look at younger folks like they came from mars. They talk about the past like it was the golden age and they demand respect because they feel entitled to it. I wont mention any names, but we all know someone like this in our lives.

Then there are the ones that really believe in their hearts that they are younger than any 5 year old. They will out run you and out wit you in a heart beat. They are people like John McCain (this is not an endorsement in any way shape or form), Malcom Forbes, and Louis Kahn who became the Louis Kahn we all new when he was in his 50's. (pretty eclectic list aye?) I have to grudgingly also admit my mother-in-law is one of those people, she is old but she can wield her lap top almost as good an any 20 year old.

This brings me to Lebbeus Woods. I happened to look at his website the other day and was really surprised in a pleasant way. You see, for me Woods was old school in my mind. I associated him with a generation of architects from yesteryear. So when I saw what he was doing today, (like I mean now) I was impressed. His was not an old HTML site that you would expect. It was flash based, it had sound and video clips, it had graphics that were consistent with the architecture that we have come to know as distinctly Lebbeus Woods. It was like the old guy was reborn in the 21st century. He even has a regularly updated blog with some pretty interesting stuff that you all should read.(be sure to check out his wickedly sharp critique of the notorious Rem "Delirious Dubai")

What Woods have done really, is reinvented himself, particularly he has upgraded his publicity machine. The idea of reinventing oneself during the span of a career is not entirely new to the celebrity in architecture. Recalling Frank Lloyd Wrights own illustrious life, he managed to reinvent himself about three times in his long career. Staring with ornamented work under Louis Sullivan at the turn of the century and evolving to a seamless flow of modernism with the Guggenheim. Every time he was counted out as an old washed-up, he would burst back like a defiant phoenix. I believe it was with Falling Water that brought him back for the last part of his career.

As much as I respect and admire the Danish elder statesman of architecture, Jørn Utzon, I have to constantly point him out as the shining example of what not to do as far as fame goes, especially in this context. He is the guy that seems to have gotten it all in terms of fame falling in his lap in his young career. Perhaps he was uncomfortable with it or did not like the spotlight, but we have seen in this previous post how he seems to have deliberately thrown that precious capital out the window.

I am sure there is more than one lesson in here for all of us: Change with the times, you are never too old, get your publicity. I will leave you to draw your own conclusions, better yet write it here in the comments below.




Anonymous said...

I definitely would've included John McCain in the first group. His campaign slogan should've been "I am too old for this shit."