Lebbeus Woods and 12 Monkeys

lebbeus woods 12 monkeys
left: still from 12 Monkeys, right: Lebbeus Woods’s Neomechanical Tower

This is old news (circa 1995), but I think it’s pretty interesting. During his lecture last week, Lebbeus Woods mentioned that he had filed a lawsuit against architect-beloved film director, Terry Gilliam. Someone in the production crew for 12 Monkeys decided to base one of their sets on Woods’ illustration Neomechanical Tower (upper) chamber.

Down to the last detail, it’s almost exactly the same. Woods however, said that he was more upset about Gilliam’s interpretation of the image than the appropriation of it. In the film, the chair was used an a torture device and although it does look somewhat insidious, Woods actually intended the room to be ambiguous in nature. Is it a seat of punishment or a seat of authority? Why couldn’t this be where The Philosopher sits as he ponders the world with his mechanized globe?

The court ruled that the film must remove the footage but Woods allowed it to remain, happy with the financial settlement. And from what I hear, he should be.

I’m reminded of the “What Dreams May Come,” a film with sets based on Etienne-Boullee designs. And then there’s the Jedi Archives in Episode II – an exact replica of the The Old Library of Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland. What other film sets have been inspired by real-world works of architecture?

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Jimmy Stamp

Jimmy Stamp is a freelance writer, researcher, and recovering architect. He has contributed to The Guardian, Wired, Smithsonian, The Journal of Architectural Education, and many other websites and publications. His first book Pedagogy and Place: 100 Years of Architecture Education at Yale comes out in spring 2016. If you need a writer with a penchant for Piranesi and pop culture, or if you just want to say hi, you can find him on twitter @LifeSansBldgs or email him at jamestamp@gmail.com

3 thoughts on “Lebbeus Woods and 12 Monkeys”

  1. This is an outrage! And Lebbeus is rightfully paid. He should have gotten a least million if not 10. If the movie was budgeted for 29 mil, I’m sure it made close to if not over a billion.

    That scene(ry) was indeed brilliant. Good thing the chair stayed. I saw it more as a chair for dissection of the sitter’s psyche in the movie, the subject being interrogated because of being worshiped. The overall implication of the drawing/concept suggests the egocentricity and capitalist nature of postmodernism as it relates to the reason for our creation of technology, computers, and other machinery. It has a nostalgic quality to the “industrial feel” that modernism represented, like “City of Lost Children”. But in a postmodern context, it implies technology’s service to us as a way to further to analyze ourselves and our own evolution. Like Australian cyber-artist Stelarc’s mechanical arm, and the cyber-culture of blogging!

  2. If the movie was budgeted for 29 mil, I’m sure it made close to if not over a billion.

    You seem to have no knowledge of calculation of money, only about 5 films ever made a Billion. He got a standard sum of money for a designer on a film if not more.

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