Lebbeus Woods Epicyclarium and more architectural drawings

Another Lebbeus Woods project close to our current preoccupations about Astronomy is the observatory-looking-like proposal for the Epicyclarium. In fact a “structure that would continuously process computerized data to generate an evolving global image” it has to do with “human interaction and activity” according to Storefront website .
In his review of the exhibition in Exquisite Corpse, Michael Sorkin writes about the project:

  • The Paris project and the Epicyclarium are literally spherical, the former proposing a giant orb as the termination of the great axis of the Champs Elysées. The Epicyclarium is at once more concrete and more diffuse. It is meant to house devices that create – on a 30-foot disc suspended above a viewing floor – a two dimensional “global image”, kind of kaleidoscopic representation of the state of knowledge as we know it. Now, this is an ingratiating if somewhat overweening, metaphor for artistic enterprise but one that must be taken in the proper light. It serves to identify the work in front of us – a pretty, domestically scaled, rather antique and picturesque little building – with a larger enterprise; it purifies. It also offers rebuke to current species of historicizing by choosing a 19th-century, Jules Vernean, vision of fantastical architecture to house a late-20th-century fantasy. It’s a blow in favor of the history leaps forward into the unknown instead of backwards into archival certitudes. It neatly evades the present by viewing the future from the past.

Whilst the adjectives antique and picturesque are somewhat arguable in this description and some might see here an architecture of its time grappling with issues of technology, the intention of the project in gathering and centralizing all knowledge nevertheless points to the human propensity for a comprehensive understanding of the world – through technology? – but the scale of the building betrays the sheer impossibility of the task. How can all knowledge be contained in a small dome? Is knowledge not quite as vast as we might think it is? Or can it be reduced? Can it only be contained? Measured? In such epistemological conundrum I would recommend the reading of Flaubert’s Bouvard and Pecuchet.

The Entrance Elevation of the Epicyclarium features in Neil Spiller’s introduction to the latest edition of AD, titled “Drawing Architecture”, which as the title might suggest, is full of beautiful drawings.
The introduction is coincidentally and suitably titled “Grasping for the fifth dimension”, and I would invite you to get your hands on a copy of the magazine before tomorrow’s lecture (details of the lecture here, details of the book here)
I would finally like to add that all that is said and shown on this issue about the dimensions of the architectural drawing is of course also applicable to the architectural model, which possesses its own donegality. An indeed the three dimensional drawings of CJ Lim included in this issue are testimony, if needed, that the drawing in architecture is as much about drawing a pen as it is drawing a scalpel, on paper.

Lebbeus Woods epicyclarium
Lebbeus Woods Epicyclarium 1984


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