A series of previously unfinalized works about social and institutional boundaries and thresholds


Reading Lebbeus Woods and Christoph a. Kumpusch's Tale from the Tectonic Forest (2011)

A conceptual project about architectural thresholds and navigation through political and institutional landscapes

Fields of Knowledge
  • Artistic legacies
  • Curatorial practice
  • Design
  • Philosophy / Theory

Organizing Institutions



Aaron Levy, William Menking, Ken Saylor


Aleksandra Wagner, and Traction Company members Laura Giannini and John Greig Jr.


Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts


Estate of Lebbeus Woods and Christoph a. Kumpusch

Process initiated


Opens to public



4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Slought is pleased to announce a reading of "Tale from the Tectonic Forest," 2011, a conceptual project by Lebbeus Woods and Christoph a. Kumpusch about architectural thresholds and navigation through political and institutional landscapes, on display February 9 to April 27, 2017.

Woods originally conceived and designed Tale from the Tectonic Forest for a proposal for the Venice Biennale in collaboration with architect Christoph a. Kumpusch. The design begins with the tree as "the first order" in the organization of architectural space. A tree is a metaphor for the historical typology of the column, one of the fundamental and "inevitable elements used by any architect, anywhere, anytime." They proposed constructing a forest of hundreds of tectonic trees to radically reconsider the identity of the US Pavilion, its boundaries, and its relations to other national pavilions.

In the design, the forest is a garden or maze in which one determines one's own path through a de-centered, labyrinthine landscape. It is a tool for rethinking one's subjectivity and re-ordering one's sense of identity and history. Evoking a spirit of adventure and risk, Tectonic Forest is a place where one becomes disoriented, or even lost, in the non-linearity of the forest, but also discovers oneself again. As Woods writes, "it is a place where one can make wonderful discoveries. A sense of mystery. A sense of play. Feelings of expectation. Feelings of accomplishment when expectations are realized."

Our project builds upon the unrealized design for Tectonic Forest. In repositioning his design in new contexts, we affirm the power of Woods' and Kumpusch's labyrinth as a valuable tool for questioning social structures and institutional landscapes. In Philadelphia, we intend to construct a physical model at Slought that will enable the viewer to interrogate the cultural politics of the institution in which both model and viewer are sited. Floating above and merging with our long-term research on the "linear mile" in West Philadelphia (learn more), this model will force us to confront our relationship to the socio-political spaces of Slought and its surrounding neighborhoods and civic institutions. In superimposing Tectonic Forest in this way, we are reminded that cultural, political and educational landscapes are not neutral spaces. We can critically interrogate this environment, beginning with Slought and extending beyond. Here, the physical model functions less as an actualization than as a prompt for conversation. As Woods himself aspired, the viewer becomes an active participant in theories and practices of empowerment.

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As originally conceived, Tectonic Forest is also a tool for archiving and mapping diverse architectural histories and practices. From different perspectives, the architectonic trees reveal themselves not just as abstract forms but also as repositories of works by radical practitioners.

Our model will allow viewers to meander through and engage these diverse works, which highlight feminist groups and other radical practices often neglected in the official history of modern architecture. As they move through this dispersed and non-linear landscape, they rewrite the official history of modern architecture and their position within it.

We intend to compile this archival repository in Spring 2017 and beyond. Contact us to participate in this process or with your suggestions.

This project has been organized in conjunction with Second Life, a series of previously unfinalized works about social and institutional boundaries as thresholds.

"But then an unexpected thing happened. At eleven o'clock in the evening before the deadline for submission next day, when the submission package containing many forms, detailed budgets, production schedule, as well as installation design drawings was being assembled, the chairman of the board of the sponsoring non-profit institute called and said the board had changed its mind and would not support this proposal after all. This act of betrayal effectively killed the submission. You won't see The Tectonic Forest in Venice next year.

But the idea lives on."

-- Lebbeus Woods and Christoph a. Kumpusch, 2011

"AND is neither one thing nor the other, it's always in-between, between two things; it's the borderline, there's always a border, a line of flight or flow, only we don't see it, because it's the least perceptible of things. And yet it's along this line of flight that things come to pass, becomings evolve, revolutions take shape."

  • Gilles Deleuze, What is Philosophy?, 1991