Representing Force: Lebbeus Woods and the Havana Projects

by Eliyahu Keller (MDes ’16)

“I don’t care very much about building buildings. I care about building ideas.”
—Lebbeus Woods

The result, perhaps as expected, was a vague, at times demagogic document, filled with powerful slogans and manifestos by figures who later became not only part of the culture critiqued at the conference—that of commodified and commercial architecture—but in fact turned into its most celebrated stars. Nevertheless, it is worth to situate this conference as a preparation to the one which took place only two years later in Havana, and its declared “condemnation of anachronistic, socio-politically indeterminate architecture”, as Peter Noever, the architect, curator and organizer of both gatherings remarked.

The first to point out to the historical and conflictive story of the schools is the conference’s organizer Peter Noever. Noever mentions a conversation with one of the architects, Ricardo Porro, who makes the claim that Castro did not see the schools as “the type of architecture the state wanted to make for Cuba.” The reason for the school’s erection, and the thing that made such an impossible project into reality, as Porro notes to Noever, was the “spirit of revolution.”

Wood’s archictecture of force aims to remind us more that the fact that in our world, things are rarely what they pretended to be. It aims to show us that architecture, no matter how we conceive or think of it, is never alone, never autonomous, never by itself. His drawings bring to light the forces that create it, and those to whom this force belongs; they bring to light the men and women who have injected their energy and labor into constructing new worlds and with that he shines his blinding spotlight right at us. His architecture makes clear that it is never the protagonist, but only an excuse, a stage and setting for the trappings of history, one in which architecture takes part.