The remarkable drawings of visionary architect Lebbeus Woods delineate an array of retrofuturistic urban structures so complex, they make the High Line and the Second Avenue subway look like kid stuff. Some of his projects, such as the “Centricity” and “A-City” schemes, are wholly speculative; others, like “Aerial Paris” and “Underground Berlin,” propose the transformative remodeling of real city centers. But in all cases, Woods, cofounder of the Research Institute for Experimental Architecture, brings immediately apparent technical understanding to bear on his wild flights of fancy. Inspired by the Romantic and Surrealist traditions, he conjures an aesthetic tightly interwoven with architectural theory and practice, and with echoes across many other mediums and disciplines in addition to art, from illustration to film, literature to radical politics.
Woods draws with satisfying assurance, wielding pen and ink, colored pencil and graphite with equal precision. Some of the100-plus images packed in here have a convincing solidity, others the translucent, flattened look of engineering diagrams. Many resemble panels from recent graphic novels such as Jason Lutes’s Berlin or Taiyo Matsumoto’s Tekkonkinkreet, or storyboards from Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. A group of drawings all titled Geomechanical Towers look particularly sci-fi, evoking the angular forms of British illustrator Kevin O’Neill’s classic Nemesis the Warlock strip. And cementing the connection is Woods’s fusion of technology (both futuristic and quasimedieval) with biology. Though his structures seem largely unpeopled, they have a distinctly organic feel of their own that makes the artist-designer’s vividly dreamt world feel well-nigh tangible.—Michael Wilson