Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book Review: The Light Pavilion

The Light Pavilion by Lebbeus Woods and Christoph a. Kumpusch for the Sliced Porosity Block in Chengdu, China 2007-2012
Lars Müller Publishers, 2013
Hardcover, 88 pages

Sliced Porosity Block, the five-building mixed-use project designed by Steven Holl Architects, was completed in November 2012, the month after Lebbeus Woods died. The visionary architect and educator, along with New York-based architect Christoph a. Kumpusch, contributed the Light Pavilion (affectionately called Time Light by locals) in a carving in one of Holl's towers. It is Woods's only permanent construction, and its posthumous completion makes this book devoted to the project that much more important. (Woods's passing was also only a few months before a major SFMOMA exhibition on his work.)

Even though it is a slim volume, the installation's documentation (sketches, construction drawings, construction photos, completed photos) do a good job in establishing something that really has to be experienced to be fully appreciated. The impact of the dense, dynamic construction of light, glass, and color comes across in the photos, especially ones (like above) that capture the larger project rather than just the installation. Most photos are by Iwan Baan, and even when he's positioned the Light Pavilion near the edge of the frame, its concentration of light draws our attention, pulling us closer and inviting us to enter it.

Woods intended the space formed by bands of light, platforms and stairs, to be unlike anything experienced before. It didn't matter to him if visitors felt calm or anxiety, loved it or hated it, walked through it only once or went a hundred times; it only mattered that they "expand the depth and scope of [their] experiences," per his essay included in the book. Of course, a book cannot replace this experience, but the images and text (by Woods, Kumpusch, Holl, and many others) establish the importance of a project that has the potential to overshadow the larger "host" into which it's inserted.