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An Intimate Conversation With Daniel & Nina Libeskind (4)

Masterplan Sketch (c) Daniel Libeskind World Trade Center - Working process

World Trade Center – Working process

Tsipi:  So what other turns in your career were significant?

Nina:  That’s a good question. I mean, people see the bookends as being the Jewish Museum and World Trade Center. But I would say in every architect’s life, but perhaps more so for Daniel, because we moved from country to country, you know, the work that we did before we came to New York, which was almost exclusively if not exclusively, cultural work, we never did a commercial building, so we did museums, and we did performing arts centers.

That shifted dramatically when we moved here and suddenly people started asking us, and the whole office had to say ok, are we interested in other projects. And I was the first person in the office to say, well of course, why wouldn’t we be interested, why would one try to keep oneself one dimonesional. And Daniel was very adamant he said, it’s how people live, which is equally important as what they see in museums.

After coming here in 2003, when we moved to New York, and had our office here while keeping our European offices, we then moved very dramatically into the world of residential towers, commercial towers, the business of everyday life.

Everyday life. Shopping centers and everyday life. The twists and turns, I don’t know whether they are unique to us, we have been very fortunate to build a lot, now it seems to me an incredible number, of buildings around the world. But you know, once we started with the Jewish Museum it went on in a pretty I guess, almost normal way.

Daniel:  No, that’s not true.

Nina:  Except for Ground Zero.

Daniel:  That’s not really true. Because after Ground Zero our practice changed radically. We had only a few people in Berlin, it was a small office. We had to expand our office not infinitely, but, you know, it’s a significant office.

We have many people working on projects all over the world, some of them very large scale projects, some of them including whole cities. So that’s a verythat’s a shift. Shift from, it’s one thing to design a museum, which is a very discreet, very cultural, very cultivated, very exceptional type of project.

But to work on things that are really affecting people’s lives, which is where they live, where they work, where they play, where they…

Concept Sketches (c) Daniel LibeskindL World Trade Center

World Trade Center – Working process

Tsipi:  So what is the thought process that changed through the years. You touched upon it, from the cultural aspects of building a museum that is connected to life but in some ways is not.

Daniel:  It’s a lucky extension of experience. As I always say, it’s relatively easy to build a museum, but it’s very difficult to build housing, a place where people live, because people have a very set way, whether they are inyou know, in Singapore, or New York, or London, or Paris, or Berlin… they live in specific ways.

And the framework of living is not something that can easily be tampered with. So how do you innovate, how do you create something which is still fantastic architecture? We have such boring cities and spaces, because there’s very little creativity in those fields; they’re like formulas.

Tsipi:  How do you bring it into the reality of the architecture?

Daniel:  You know, simply by saying that the context is not the only thing you see. Most people think that context, you can measure it and it’s obvious and you can see the context. But the context is just as invisible as it is visible. Just as inaudible as it is audible. There’s a lot of history, there’s a lot of memory, architecture is, as I said, is not a clever trick or a nice façade. It has to be rooted in something very very memorable and incredibly bound by tradition, but also open to new ideas.

Tsipi:  But you know, in recent years architecture has dramatically changed, becoming more surprising, different, almost acrobatic in a sense even sometimes somewhat shocking. Many architects want to shock, want to show off, maybe, or, what happened, why? Is it new materials, new technology, new inventions?

Daniel:  No, I would say we’re in a Renaissance of architecture. It’s a rediscovery. For many years, in the 50’s architecture was just for people that didn’t take care about it, they cared more about, you know, other things. Architecture was considered not really part of their lives. But it’s increasingly becoming important because of sustainability questions of cities, questions of lifestyle, questions of economy. Suddenly people are realizing that architecture is very important for them. Maybe the most important thing, because that’s how they live.

Tsipi:  So, how do all the new materials and new technologies and so on affected this Renaissance?

Daniel:  Well, the buildings that we build today could never be built on budget, and on time, without computers. I mean, the complexity of space, geometry, the sustainability of buildings, technology, could never have been done without today’s technology. You could have drawn them, but you could never have built them.

Tsipi:  I see; in terms of Frank Gehry, for instancewhen you look at one Frank Gehry and you find another one in Singapore, or in New York, or Israel or somewhere else, you immediately recognize it as Frank Gehry.  What about your own buildings? They aren’t immediately recognisable as a “Libeskind” building.

Daniel:  For sure not, because they are different. Because I am very interested to respond to a specific place, not so much with a form that I like but with a form that comes out of that particular place, unpredictably, something I have never done before.


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