Album Release

New York, New York, 11/11/2014. “Planetary Coalition” – a world music album I feel very happy to be part of officially released today! This date also marks the centenary celebration of the end of World War I.

As I often say here – Make Music, Not War.

Planetary Coalition’s musicians represent over two dozen countries and five continents and numerous ethnicities.

From its inception in Union Square on summer solstice day, June 21st, 2012 – Planetary Coalition has now grown into a truly global music project.

A collective of diverse musicians from all over the world, Planetary Coalition is driven by the acoustic guitar of Alex Skolnick, whose work spans jazz (Alex Skolnick Trio), metal (Testament), and world music (Rodrigo y Gabriela).

In the virtuoso’s own words from the upcoming album’s notes:

“It started with a lone, handwritten sentence on a notepad, describing a musical vision: “An ethnically flavored collective of musicians from all over the world, driven by acoustic guitar and bringing together inspirational melodies, in-depth improvisation and the passion of the musical styles of Gypsy, Middle Eastern, Indian, Latin, East Asian, Mediterranean, Balkan/Eastern European, African and other indigenous lands.”

The reality: coordinating over two-dozen musicians from five continents.

Yet despite the numerous logistical challenges, Planetary Coalition has been guided by a single hope: that by weaving the threads that connect musical expressions with regional identities, we can bridge the gap between diverse cultures and people, and increase awareness of the ecological and social issues facing the planet, our island in the sky. And I must confess that with respect to all prior musical collaborations, this is the album I feel most proud of. It’s hoped that in the future, these pieces can be performed not just in concert venues but as audio-visual presentations in galleries, museums and classrooms.”

Alex Skolnick's Planetary Coalition

“I am grateful to all the incredible artists who eagerly took part, some from across the world, others a few subway stops away; some eluded by mainstream recognition, others who worked on their parts in between sold-out concerts and national television appearances; a few from regions that have long been politically at odds yet refusing to let politics or ideology dictate art, music and humanity; and all of whom are the type of musicians I’m most inspired by – master players for whom technical virtuosity exists, but never at the expense of artistic expression, emotion and collaboration……”

We are grateful to all who have contributed, supported and appreciated this project. Please support the Arts by getting your copy of the album today and/or spreading the word to your friends and families.  Here’s a sneak peak into some pages from the album. All artwork, designs, documentaries by yours truly. Enjoy!


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Archtober in New York

Archtober (ärk’tōbər) is New York City’s Architecture and Design Month, the third annual month-long festival of architecture activities, programs and exhibitions taking place during the month of October.

Archtober presents special tours, lectures, films and exhibitions that focus on the importance of architecture and design in everyday life. The many participating organizations aim to raise awareness of the important role of design in our city and to build a lasting civic and international recognition of the richness of New York’s built environment.

For a schedule of the events: http://archtober.org/calendar

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Suffice to say, I have been very busy this month, and unable to take the time out for a “proper” post here. There were too many events, lectures, award ceremonies and fascinating talks, tours and exhibitions which I’ve been attending or have actively participated in.

A harried post, this shall be, alas, but just two blurbs before I bid ‘bye…

A post from the past – where I’d written about Julien Assange. Since “The Fifth Estate” – the film based on WikiLeaks was just released, I thought this would be appropriate: Truth & Dare (https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/wikileaks-fifth-estate/)

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As well, on an unrelated note, words of wisdom and comfort a very wise person spoke to me this morning, which I jotted down, because they were so articulately expressed: 

“The more pettiness and rumor-mongering a person indulges in towards those who are genuinely talented or accomplished, the greater a sign it is of that petty person’s own insignificance and insecurities.

“People who are worth their salt see through these smear attempts and never give two hoots about such haters and see them for what they are: sad, insecure, manipulative creatures who are trying to bring down a good person. They (those worth their salt)  have the ability and objectivity to decipher who the aggressor is and who the true victim is, no matter what disguise the aggressor wears.  Also, those who fail to see that, or fall for such bullshit or even fake flattery, are not worth the time or the worry. 

“Let those who use snarkiness, bullying, isolation tactics and rumor as their crutches, stew in their own insufferable insignificance or delusions of faux grandeur. Because nothing pisses off a hater more than seeing his/her target completely unaffected.”

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Suddenly September

New York, September 15, 2013. It seems September slithered in all too soon, and summer passed by e’er so quickly. But amidst the incipience of the tender-crisp Autumn air that wisps in hesitantly unto the city streets and parks this week, it gives me great pleasure to announce that a new exciting world music project is afoot, and it needs the help of those who like exploring new cultural soundscapes and landscapes. 

This new project is called “Planetary Coalition.”

Alex Skolnick Planetary Coalition

(1) What is “Planetary Coalition?”

Conceptualized by versatile guitarist and writer Alex Skolnick, Planetary Coalition is an ethnically flavored collective of diverse musicians from all over the world. Its mission is to tie together the virtuosity of jazz, the power of metal and the passion of the musical styles of Gypsy, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian, Asian, African, Latin and other indigenous lands. Through the universal language of music, Planetary Coalition intends to bridge the gap between different cultures, increase ecological awareness and explore the threads that connect musical expression with regional identity.

But there’s more, as people from all over the world can participate, either by being directly involved in the project as supporters or producers, and/or by sending in essays, artwork, postcards etc. It is open to all. I’ll let the man himself explain in detail:

(2) What are some of the sounds and textures of Planetary Coalition?

Besides Skolnick, other global musicians will include several well-known instrumentalists from different regions of the world. These will include, for the first CD, artists from Mexico, Turkey, Argentina, Iraq, China, Cuba, India, Ghana, Ireland, Palestine, the Canadian Arctic, and other places. The following video gives an idea of only some of the sounds and “feel” of the project. (And yes, the piece “Sleeping Gypsy” is composed for yours truly as outlined in an earlier post on this blog). There is a separate video (available for participants only) which explains the process of composition of the tune.

(3) How can I participate in the production as well as experience of Planetary Coalition?

To be a participant and get personal access to the artists and to the creative process, go to the project on ArtistShare.com http://artistshare.com/v4/projects/experience/325/439/1/6

You can participate at various levels up to being an Executive Producer.

As well, as explained in the Welcome Video, you can participate in other ways by mailing in your letters, essays, experiences, photographs, artwork, which will be included in the final multi-media presentation.

Tune in for updates at http://planetarycoalition.com/  or follow us on Twitter and Facebook, as seen on that site.

Depending on the participation level, you can have access to the artists through in-depth interviews, videos made especially for you, or direct personal contact with them in the recording studio, during their music sessions, VIP access to their shows, personalized music lessons and much more. Each level explains what the participant can get access to, including credit listing in the final CD of the project.

There are many short films and mini-documentaries that are regularly sent out to participants – some outlining great world music inspirations, others’ on the composers’ creative processes. This one is a trailer of the music writing process of the project creator, showing a tiny glimpse of a mini-series.

For those curious to know more about Sklonick and his background, you can read his memoir “Geek to Guitar Hero,” which as outlined by many amazon reviewers is very inspiring and revealing, whether you are a musician or not. The story of a shy, awkward, geeky kid of Ivy League parents who ended up being, to quote Guitar World Magazine editor-in-chief Brad Tolisnki, “one of the most remarkable guitarists in hard rock history.” Few (and especially his metal fans who often see the “rock star” persona) know that in his private life, he is an avid classical and world music listener, and his mornings almost exclusively begin with Bach, Mozart, Debussy et al playing in the background, while his evenings are filled with jazz and world music. He is also a long time avid book reader, with Vonnegut, Hesse, David Foster Wallace, Chuck Klosterman, Dan Gilbert and many, many others practically spilling out of the shelves of his Brooklyn home.

Many of the intimate views participants will get through Artistshare include the behind the scenes glimpses into the lives of the musicians involved in the project.

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Planetary Coalition Alex Skolnick

Planetary Coalition represents a global collective of musicians, listeners, artists, architects, ecologists, researchers, writers and everyday citizens coming together for the sake of our own planet Earth.

We hope you’ll join us! Also, spread the word around to friends you think may be interested.

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(p.s If there is a glitch in the project link on artishare and it takes you to Maria Schneider’s project instead, click of the Planetary Coalition project videos on the sidebar. http://artistshare.com/v4/Projects/Experience/325/439/1)

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Art ‘n’ August – 3

The only attitude (the only politics–judicial, medical, pedagogical and so forth) I would absolutely condemn is one which, directly or indirectly, cuts off the possibility of an essentially interminable questioning, that is, an effective and thus transforming questioning.–  Jacques Derrida.

New York, 2013. Labor Day weekend. A section from a giant paper collage. “The Grid” – based upon the way there is a thrust to create some sort of orthogonal “order” on our organic, sinuous landscapes and geographic contours, without consideration of natural processes, landforms or the fractal geometry and elaborate intricacies with which ecology and ecosystems work. Instead, planners in North America superimpose “The Grid”  – a network of roads, by-laws, zoning ordinances with little understanding of far more environmentally-conscious alternatives which could instead take the matrix of Landscape Ecology into consideration. And all this is done to appease the almighty Automobile and creating an illusion of “order” while enormous amounts of environmental waste is produced.

The collage was 3-dimensional with layers of images and cut-outs which could be lifted to reveal the layers within. I’d made it as part of a university urban planning art project in Canada. The following picture is a segment of the total piece.

"The Grid." Collage. © 2000. Maddy (The Gipsy Geek) Click to enlarge.

“The Grid.” Collage. © 2000. Maddy (The Gipsy Geek) Click to enlarge.

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Art ‘n’ August – 1

Art ‘n’ August – 2

Art ‘n’ August – 1

Art  ‘n’  August – 1.

New York, August 1, 2013. An acrylic, ink and paper painting/collage I had made earlier. Ici. It was a quick one – took about a couple of hours. (You can click twice to zoom in for paint and texture details). Since the blazing summer sun of August has been pulverizing the city, the work is named Áine’s Quilt, Áine being the Gaelic goddess most associated with the sun, or “brightness/joy/radiance/splendorous glory.” In Gaelic mythology, Áine represents the light half of the year and the bright summer sun (an ghrian mhór), and Grian the dark half of the year and the pale winter sun (an ghrian bheag). Which means I’ll now have to paint Grian’s Blanket at some point in the later half of the year as a companion piece…..

Áine's Quilt. (Ink & Acrylic) ©Maddy, 2013.

Áine’s Quilt. (Ink & Acrylic) ©Maddy, 2013. (Click to zoom)

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I was wondering after I made the painting, why I picked those particular colors while drawing a metaphorical image of heat, summer and a Gaelic goddess. I then remembered that subconsciously, perhaps, the colors of an image I had taken in Dublin, Ireland in 2009, had seeped through my memories and found a way through the paint palette. While making the above painting, I was also listening to some lively Celtic music. The photo’s inserted below. Strange how art and music can express our subconscious synapses, dreams or connections better than language ever can…..

Dublin, Ireland, an evening in July 2009, before a U2 concert (which I did not attend). Photo uploaded here exactly as I clicked it - no retouching. Really.

Dublin, Ireland, an evening in July 2009, before a U2 concert (which I did not attend). Photo uploaded here exactly as I clicked it – no retouching. Really.

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Strangely, since this morning, I can’t seem to get Erik Satie’s piano compositions out of my head, especially his sparse, contemplative and singularly elegant Gnossienne No. 3. Here goes, and you’re welcome :)

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Goodbye to a genius: Remembering Lebbeus Woods

New York, November 30, 2012. Exactly one  month ago, on October 30th, during the arrival of hurricane Sandy upon Gotham City, one of the most imaginative and fiercely anti-authoritarian architects and theoreticians of our time, the inimitable Lebbeus Woods passed away. For those who have never personally met Woods or been acquainted with his work, you still may have inadvertently seen his concepts – whether it was in the sets of the movie Alien 3 or on the cover of science fiction-writer Arthur C. Clarke’s book, or his work plagiarized in the brilliant Terry Gillian film 12 Monkeys. But regardless of his contribution to futuristic imagination, what made Woods so unique was his “non-conformist anti-starchitecture” way of thinking and working, and “resisting the temptations of money and fame.” (source: http://hyperallergic.com/59590/remembering-radical-theoretical-architect-lebbeus-woods/)

Just a day before his death, I had the pleasure of running into and conversing with one of Labbeus’ oldest friends architect Steven Holl, who invited me to his talk at the Cooper Union to be moderated by another favourite writer/philosopher/professor of mine Sanford Kwinter. Little did Holl  know on that evening that his completely sold-out and house full lecture would turn out to be a touching tribute in memory of his friend.

As written in the New York Art & Architecture blogazine Hypperallergic:

Last month, as New York City was overwhelmed by Hurricane Sandy, one of the world’s foremost architects passed away in the darkened and chaotic city that was almost overcome by nature. It was a cosmic confluence — environmental mayhem coincided with the last breath of a great creative individual who was always dreaming for more, and embracing an out-of-control world.

Lebbeus Woods and Christoph a. Kumpusch discussing Martin Lodman work at Columbia’s GSAPP Final review of Kumpusch-Studio. (photo by Siting Zhang)

Defiantly non-conformist, anti-starchitecture architect Lebbeus Woods died on Tuesday, October 30. He was 72. Through a lifetime of work, the vast majority of which only exists on paper, Woods challenged the architectural establishment, railing against boring buildings and resisting the temptations of money and fame that turned architects like Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas into celebrities.

“With the triumph of liberal democracy and laissez-faire capitalism, the conversation came to an end. Everyone wanted to build, which left less room for certain kinds of architecture,” Woods told Nicolai Ourrossof of the New York Times when describing the political situation driving an anodyne architecture fully in the service of wealthy patrons.

Woods studied at the University of Illinois and Purdue University. He worked in the office of designer and architect Eero Saarinen from 1964 to 1968, and there, according to his colleague, collaborator, and friend Christoph a. Kumpusch, he learned to “explore limits.”

“Saarinen’s work was something in motion for Lebbeus — not structurally but virtually. It determined boundaries rather than defined limits,” Kumpusch explained.

But soon after his time with Saarinen, Woods turned toward entirely theoretical, experimental architecture that often created more impact in its virtual state than real buildings in real cities ever could. Some compare his work to science fiction, because it resisted being fixed in the now and was always traveling past boundaries to what possibly could be. He was first and foremost an iconoclast. “I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms,” he wrote in his iconic pamphlet War and Architecture.

The world of Woods was complex and forward thinking. He was a seer of spaces, who imagined the seemingly impossible. “Lebbeus saw the world — its energies, whether spatial, political, or social — as an undiscovered reality …  imagined, or, in fact, real — something unfinished — not provided, discovered through architecture; one that doesn’t answer but questions; one that doesn’t find solutions but challenges,” Kumpusch said.

Lebbeus Woods and Christoph Kumpusch, “The Light Pavilion,” is an intervention in a Steven Holl building constructed in Chengdu, China. Architect renderings (on the left) demonstrate the intended result, while on the right a photo is a recent photo of the pavilion. (photo by Manta Weihermann, rendering Daniel Kereler)

Lebbeus Woods and Christoph Kumpusch, “The Light Pavilion,” is an intervention in a Steven Holl building constructed in Chengdu, China. Architect renderings (on the left) demonstrate the intended result, while on the right a photo is a recent photo of the pavilion. (photo by Manta Weihermann, rendering Daniel Kereler)

For more  –  a must-read – this thoughtful piece:    http://hyperallergic.com/59590/remembering-radical-theoretical-architect-lebbeus-woods/

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Excerpt from the New York Times article on October 31, 2012:

Lebbeus Woods, an architect whose works were rarely built but who influenced colleagues and students with defiantly imaginative drawings and installations that questioned convention and commercialism, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 72.

His death was confirmed by a longtime colleague, the architect Steven Holl. Details were not immediately available.

In an era when many architecture stars earned healthy commissions designing high-rise condominiums or corporate headquarters, Mr. Woods conceived of a radically different environment, one intended for a world in conflict.

He conceived a post-earthquake San Francisco that emphasized its seismic vulnerability. He flew to Sarajevo in the 1990s and proposed a postwar city in which destruction and resurgence coexisted. He imagined a future for Lower Manhattan in which dams would hold back the Hudson and East Rivers to create a vast gorge around the island, exposing its rock foundation.

“It’s about the relationship of the relatively small human scratchings on the surface of the earth compared to the earth itself,” Mr. Woods said of his Manhattan drawing in an interview several years ago with the architectural Web site Building Blog. “I think that comes across in the drawing. It’s not geologically correct, I’m sure, but the idea is there.” 

Jacket painting by Lebbeus Woods for Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sentinel, Berkley Books Book Club Edition, 1983

Jacket painting by Lebbeus Woods for Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sentinel, Berkley Books Book Club Edition, 1983

Mr. Woods’s work was often described as fantasy and compared to science-fiction imagery. But he made clear that while he may not have expected his designs to be built, he wished they would be — and believed they could be.

“I’m not interested in living in a fantasy world,” Mr. Woods told The New York Times in 2008. “All my work is still meant to evoke real architectural spaces. But what interests me is what the world would be like if we were free of conventional limits. Maybe I can show what could happen if we lived by a different set of rules.”

He spread his message from many platforms. He was a professor at Cooper Union, spoke at symposiums around the world and built sprawling temporary installations in Austria, Italy, Southern California and elsewhere. He also wrote a well-read blog.

Earlier this year, in a post explaining why he chose to become an architect, he said winning commissions was not a major motivation.

“The arts have not been merely ornamental, but central to people’s struggle to ‘find themselves’ in a world without clarity, or certainty, or meaning,” he wrote.

Mr. Woods often criticized what he saw as a complacent and distracted status quo in his field. But his colleagues said his commitment to creating an alternative showed that he had hope.

……”Outside-the-box” thinking has become a cliché used in advertising, corporate strategy and politics, Mr. Moss said (Eric Owen Moss, an architect and his longtime friend), but Mr. Woods took it to another level. “There’s another box, and he’s outside it,” he said, “He’s outside all the boxes.”

For the complete article go here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/01/arts/lebbeus-woods-unconventional-architect-dies-at-72.html

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And finally, for an excellent interview with Woods, please go to the following links from one of my favourite blogs.

http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/lebbeus-woods-1940-2012.html

and

http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2007/10/without-walls-interview-with-lebbeus.html

An excerpt:

“….In any case, it isn’t just the quality of Lebbeus’s work—the incredible drawings, the elaborate models—or even the engaged intensity of his political writings, on architecture as politics pursued by other means or architecture as war, that will guarantee him a lasting, multi-disciplinary influence for generations to come. There is something much more interesting and fundamental to his work that has always attracted me, and it verges on mythology. It verges on theology, in fact.

Here, if I can be permitted a long aside, it all comes down to ground conditions—to the interruption, even the complete disappearance, of the ground plane, of firm terrestrial reference, of terra firma, of the Earth, of the very planet we think we stand on. Whether presented under the guise of the earthquake or of warfare or even of General Relativity, Lebbeus’s work was constantly erasing the very surfaces we stood on—or, perhaps more accurately, he was always revealing that those dependable footholds we thought we had were never there to begin with. That we inhabit mobile terrain, a universe free of fixed points, devoid of gravity or centrality or even the ability to be trusted.

It is a world that can only be a World—that can only, and however temporarily, be internally coherent and hospitable—insofar as we construct something in it, something physical, linguistic, poetic, symbolic, resonant. Architectural.

[Image: “Einstein Tomb” by Lebbeus Woods].

Architecture, for Lebbeus, was a kind of counter-balance, a—I’m going to use the word—religious accounting for this lack of center elsewhere, this lack of world. It was a kind of factoring of the zero, to throw out a meaningless phrase: it was the realization that there is nothing on offer for us here, the realization that the instant we trust something it will be shaken loose in great convulsions of seismicity, that cities will fall—to war or to hurricanes—that subways will flood, that entire continents will be unmoored, split in two, terribly and irreversibly, as something maddeningly and wildly, in every possible sense outside of human knowledge, something older and immeasurable, violently shudders and wakes up, leaps again into the foreground and throws us from its back in order to walk on impatiently and destructively without us.

Something ancient and out of view will rapidly come back into focus and destroy all the cameras we use to film it. This is the premise of Lebbeus’s earthquake, Lebbeus’s terrestrial event outside measured comprehensibility, Lebbeus’s state of war.

[Image: “Einstein Tomb” by Lebbeus Woods].

Because what I like about Lebbeus’s work is its nearly insane honesty, its straight-ahead declaration that nothing—genuinely and absolutely nothing—is here to welcome us or accept us or say yes to us. That there is no solid or lasting ground to build anything on, let alone anything out there other than ourselves expecting us to build it.” –  Geoff Manaugh  of http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/ 

For more, click on the Bldgblog links on Woods listed above. http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/lebbeus-woods-1940-2012.html

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labbeus woods 1

Lebbeus Woods, “Havana, Radically Reconstructed” (1994) (Image via bldgblog.com)

 Lebbeus Woods, Havana, 1994

Lebbeus Woods, Havana, 1994

Woods’s “Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber,” which was copied without credit in the film “12 Monkeys”

Woods’s “Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber,” which was copied without credit in the film “12 Monkeys”

Lebbeus Woods, System Wien, 2005

Woods Zien

Lebbeus Woods, System Wien, 2005

Lebbeus Woods, Lower Manhattan, 1999

Lebbeus Woods, Lower Manhattan, 1999

 War and Architecture by Lebbeus Woods

War and Architecture by Lebbeus Woods

To view more of his work and learn more about him, in addition to the excellent articles in the above links, you may go to his site for a visual, emotional and intellectual treat: http://lebbeuswoods.net/

To close, another excerpt from the Hyperallergic article:

“He often said, ‘I never sit down to draw for the sake of drawing. I only draw when I want to say something.’ His drawings are not drawings, they are projects,” Kumpusch said.

Lebbeus’s shunning of the spotlight and dedication to the ideas of architecture beyond than its current pragmatism makes one wonder if Woods lacked the ego typical of high-profile architects who build for legacy. “I don’t think Lebbeus was concerned with ‘legacy,’” Kumpusch said. “He was concerned with ‘future.’ This is his legacy. I deeply miss him.”

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LWoods

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1473876751_8d5e7e0cce_zLebbeus Woods. Future structures of the Korean demilitarized zone (1988) juxtaposed with two views of the architectonic tip of some vast flooded machine-building, from Icebergs (1991)

Lebbeus Woods, “Berlin Free-Zone 3-2” (1990)

Lebbeus Woods, “Berlin Free-Zone 3-2” (1990)

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“Architecture and war are not incompatible. Architecture is war. War is architecture. I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms. I am one of millions who do not fit in, who have no home, no family, no doctrine, no firm place to call my own, no known beginning or end, no “sacred and primordial site.” I declare war on all icons and finalities, on all histories that would chain me with my own falseness, my own pitiful fears. I know only moments, and lifetimes that are as moments, and forms that appear with infinite strength, then “melt into air.” I am an architect, a constructor of worlds, a sensualist who worships the flesh, the melody, a silhouette against the darkening sky. I cannot know your name. Nor you can know mine. Tomorrow, we begin together the construction of a city.” – Lebbeus Woods (1940 – 2012)

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