Welcome back to #ModernistMondays! At TTC, we are constantly inspired by modernist architects and artists from past and present. To showcase some of our favorites, we launched #ModernistMondays, where we highlight one modernist each month to explore with quick, interesting facts. Our pick this month is architect and urban planner Shadrach Woods, a champion for multifamily design and urbanism.
Shadrach Woods was born in Yonkers, New York in 1923, and studied engineering at Trinity College in Ireland. Three years after his college graduation, his focus shifted to architecture, and he began working for the legendary Modernist Le Corbusier in Paris.
While working under Le Corbusier, he was often paired with fellow architect Georges Candilis, with whom he designed the French housing complex Unité d’Habitation, and its second iteration, Unité in Marseilles.
In the early fifties, Woods and Candilis moved to Morocco to join ATBAT (Atelier des bâtisseurs), a group of architects and engineers founded by Le Corbusier and others a few years prior. While the group produced successful modern multifamily buildings in Morocco and Casablanca, political unrest caused Woods and his partner to return to France, where they opened a new firm with colleague Alexis Josic.
The same year that Woods returned to France, his firm was awarded the Opération Million, which rendered them leaders in multifamily housing design. The firm received thousands of multifamily housing project requests in the following years, and Woods took on the role of theoretician; slightly removed from the design process but heavily involved in firm workings and partnerships. His two most popular theories were ‘Stem’ (1960) and ‘Web’ (1962), which illustrated the ways a community could be built and replicated to include multifamily buildings that served all community needs, from retail to recreational.
One of Woods’ most memorable projects is his firm’s planning and design of Frankfurt-Römerberg, a central town square in Germany, which illustrated Woods’ “Web” planning concept. The town center often features markets and open-air theater, which was its original use prior to Woods’ reimagining.
The historic 9th Congress of the International Congresses of Modern Architecture generated Team Ten, a group of architects who disagreed with the Congress’s views of urban planning. As a newly formed group, Team Ten became the primary “think tank” for urban planning.
During the Milan Triennale in 1968, Woods teamed with fellow Team Ten colleagues to design a pavilion centered around modern urbanism. Using his theories ‘Stem’ and ‘Web’, he illustrated the connections between urban planning and interaction, pollution, and natural resources. However, due to a destructive protest at the Triennale, the pavilion was never opened or viewed. He published the ideas presented in the pavilion in a 1970 book called, “What U Can Do.”
After teaching at Yale and Harvard during the late 70s and early 50s, Woods served as an urban planner for major Western cities. His plans for the SoHo District in New York (1969) and Karslruhe (Germany, 1970) can be seen around the world today.
When he passed away in 1973, Woods was living in New York and actively working on new urban planning projects. His impact is evident just a few blocks from the Turett studio in the flow and design of the city’s Soho neighborhood, which Woods contributed to in his final years.
SOURCES “Shadrach Woods,” Architectuul; “Shadrach Woods and the architecture of everyday urbanism,” Northernarchitecture.us; “Woods, Shadrach, 1923-1973,” Snaccooperative.org; “Shadrach Woods,” Teamtenonline.org; “Shadrach Woods,” Wikipedia