Architect Lebbeus Woods, who inspired sci-fi movies, dies


Lebbeus Woods, the conceptual architect whose work had a wide-ranging influence on the science-fiction genre, died this week in New York at 72. Woods, who taught at Cooper Union, was noted for his experimental designs that evoked futuristic worlds and cityscapes.

Woods’ designs were rarely built, but they became influential to movie makers and other artists. His drawings and designs were widely exhibited, including a recent show at New York’s Friedman Benda gallery. In 1988, he helped to found the Research Institute for Experimental Architecture, a group dedicated to promoting the practice of experimental architecture.

After studying at the University of Illinois and Purdue University, Woods worked for Eero Saarinen Associates from 1964 to 1968. He later devoted himself exclusively to his conceptual work.


Woods’ influence can be felt in science-fiction films. The architect sued the makers of the 1995 movie “12 Monkeys” for what he saw as the unlawful copying of one of his designs.

Woods claimed that director Terry Gilliam copied his 1987 design “Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber,” which depicts an elongated chair mounted on a wall. The architect said that the filmmakers used his design for a scene in which actor Bruce Willis was made to sit in a chair attached high on a wall, confronted with a spherical robotic object. The studio eventually settled the lawsuit and paid a fee to Woods.

A few years before, he was hired as a conceptual architect for the movie “Alien 3,” the third installment in the popular “Alien” series, though he has stated that his designs were not used in the finished film. (His name is still listed in the movie’s credits.)

More recently, Woods was an avid blogger, writing about a variety of topics. Last year, he posted a number of times on the subject of Ai Weiwei, voicing his support for the artist in his legal troubles.

One of Woods’ rare realized projects is The Light Pavilion in Chengdu, China, a project done in collaboration with architect Christoph a. Kumpusch.


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