The Earthwave is an installation that proves to a new generation that there is a fine line between “unbuilt” and “unbuildable." Lebbeus Woods never designed any of his projects to be unbuilt. The Earthwave is an inhabitable drawing—much like The Storm, The Fall, and System Wien—which allows for one to move through the structure’s swarms at a 1:1 scale. Being able to inhabit the structure introduces a new dimensionality while referencing to the 2D and 3D nature of the project.
There was an urgency and precision to Lebbeus’ work that embodied his striving towards answering the question he posed to not only the field en large, but to himself as well, “What is architecture for?” This type of thinking must not be lost to the whims and trends of a profession constantly trying to redefine and reinvent itself.
The structure has reignited lines of thought that cannot be easily identified or labeled, but will continue to inspire the next generation of architects. The Earthwave is a 3-dimensional embodiment of Lebbeus’ ideals, a challenge to the perceived notion of what is considered architecture, and a transcendental experience of inhabitation.
Lebbeus once wrote “even the most self-determined students need some help along the way: the encounter with a rare teacher who stirs their imaginations, ignites their passions about an idea, or sets an example by the teacher’s own knowledge, integrity, and dedication.” While his absence is immeasurable, the Earthwave maintains the spirit in which Lebbeus approached every student he taught.
The original site, E. 3rd St. and Traction Ave., allowed the structure to capture and symbolize the city’s energy without inhibition. The design is purely urban in nature—its steel members creating a hierarchy of imperceptible forces constantly in motion throughout the city—and has regained the rampancy of its form. The siting of the project freed it from being perceived as an object to be viewed from a distance and transformed the structure into a metric of urbanity meant to be moved through.
The Earthwave was initially designed by Lebbeus Woods and Christoph a. Kumpusch in collaboration with Adam Orlinski for the Biennale of Architecture and Art of the Mediterranean (BaaM) in Reggio Calabria, Italy. It is one of several projects in over a decade of collaboration between Lebbeus and Christoph. More information on the project's origins can be found on Lebbeus' blog.
The Earthwave was fabricated at the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and moved to E. 3rd St .and Traction Ave in May, 2013. The piece was part of the LEBBEUS WOODS IS AN ARCHETYPE exhibition held at SCI-Arc in October of 2013. It has since been moved to the roof of 411 Main St. in downtown Los Angeles and will be a part of a new museum by Tom Wiscombe Architects.
I wrote about the process of constructing the Earthwave and working with Lebbeus Woods for 32BNY.