Daniel Libeskind

Interview: Paul D. Miller AKA DJ Spooky

In a world where architecture has become one of the most important fields facing how we think about the future of cities in response to climate change, overpopulation, and the ever shifting sands of geopolitics, Daniel Libeskind is one of America’s premier practitioners of architecture and urban planning. ORIGIN Magazine caught up with him to dialog about his visions on art, design, and the future of architecture and urban planning.

Paul D. Miller: You’ve always done this kind of hand-drawn aesthetic that’s—for me at least—very lyrical. Going to Ground Zero and some of the politics of urban design, what are some of your thoughts now for the next couple years?

Daniel Libeskind: The truth is, the way you write music, it’s a code. It has to be very precise. It’s scientific, but ultimately it also depends on interpretation. It’s very similar to how you grow a master plan: it’s an objective document, but at the same time it is a lyrical document which allows through interpretation to become a harmonious work of art.

Holocaust-Tower-(c)-Bitter-BredtOf course, on the large scale at Ground Zero, it’s just like a performance of an orchestra. No composer or even conductor is visible on the stage playing an instrument; it is really presenting the score to be able to have a performance and be objectively played by others, and that’s exactly what Ground Zero is. It started with a drawing, a series of drawings, a model, and now it’s actually on the way. You can hear the resonance. You can see. You can walk through some of the spaces.

Not all of it is completed, but it’s a work in progress. I think as it gets completed—and it will be completed—you will see that all of the elements that were so important to me are, of course, not only spatial and urbanistic elements, but symbolic elements, lyrical elements, elements of the unexpected, which will be part of that new neighborhood which will be so central to this great city.

PDM: One of the questions I always wanted to ask you is: View of Atrium Stair from Ground Floor(c)BitterBredtWhat do you think about material? Everyone has so many options now at every level. What becomes part of your repertoire?

DL: Well it’s extremely important, because ultimately architecture is real. You have to open a door, you have to be able to enter a place, you have to have a street, you have to have a scape; you have to have a physical support for your meditation, for your work, for your imagination. As someone who has worked for so many years on Ground Zero, I also wrote the directions for how to materialize it. Where are the entrances? How is the quality? Even though I’m not the architect of each of the elements, I present a kind of score for other architects to be able to follow and create an element of design that is very sensitive to the memorial, to streets where there’s shopping and busy life, and to create a balance between memory and the future.

The massing of the competition proposal shows the spiral of towers in the current design(c)ArchimationBecause I think at the core of my design—and I think that’s very important—is that you can’t shift New York to a minor register after this event. You cannot suddenly make Lower Manhattan into a sad place because we saw such a dramatic loss of life. You have to balance the memory, which is so important, and use it as a kind of Archimedean Point to create a lively, incredibly interesting, and culturally significant piece of a city and neighborhood.


PDM: If you were going to offer advice to a young architect starting
now, because our economy has changed, the materials have changed, and everything is digital, do you have any advice or parting shots for anybody?

DL: Do2013-12-18_Kö Bogen (c) KirscherFotografie_18n’t look at the superficial success, at the short-term success. Look at the deep spiritual questions that architecture has to answer. Who do you build for? Where?
What should you build? Be innovative. Don’t listen to the tried and tested wisdom. Take a risk! Young people have the advantage because they have their whole lives open to
be astonished.

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