Lebbeus Woods recently wrote a text called The Edge about the necessity of architects to work as tight rope walkers instead of working “within the boundaries of what they comfortably know and what others know, too“. As a metaphor, he used the magnificent transgression we already talked about (here and here) of Philippe Petit joining illegally the two towers of the World Trade Center in 1974.
Philippe Petit’s walk on a wire between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, in August of 1974, tells us a lot about architecture and the edge. He and his team, who illegally penetrated the buildings’ security systems and rigged the wire, conceived the two towers as anchor points, stable and sure. Architecture, we believe, endures. Our lives continually moving within and around it are fleeting, ephemeral. It is a very great, but also instructive, irony that, in this case, the architecture did not endure. The towers were brought down by illegal ‘interventions’ different from Petit’s only in their intent to do harm, and to prove the instability of architecture. Both proved the vulnerability of presumably secure systems—especially the social ones symbolized by architecture—and shifted the focus of public perception and debate to what might be called ‘the endurance of ephemerality’ in contemporary worlds driven so often to the edge.
Lebbeus Woods. excerpt from The Edge. 2010