Daniel & Nina Libeskind / Getty
Tsipi: And you still go there?
Nina: Of course
Tsipi: Does the developer asks for your opinion
Nina: Yes, we still have an open contract. So we do little things here and there, they ask us to help us with this, that, or the other.
Tsipi: Ok that is very important because some people think that you are out of the picture completely as far as Ground Zero and the Freedom Tower is concerned…
Nina: The point is that, and that’s actually an interesting one, only when you finish a building is when the building begins to live, because that’s when people enter it. Whether it’s a museum or whether it’s a private house. So that is a very important part of the conversation.
But at the end of the day, people come over and they say, you promised us, and you didn’t let us down. You delivered on your promise. That’s what they all said: you delivered on your promise.
At Ground Zero, delivering on your promise means that what Daniel was talking about: how people will feel, the quietude when you’re standing next to those waterfalls, the ability to grieve openly but still be in a place which resounds with other parts of humanity. The museum, which is going to be astonishing, which we’ve just seen, and we walked through because they had certain things they have asked Daniel to do, it’s just an astonishing thing.
Tsipi: I just want you to know that when I first went to Berlin to the Jewish Museum what caught me, and really got me, was that I felt almost losing my balance in some places. I wasn’t able to really be steady. And then I said, what’s going on here, and they said, that you designed it that way …
Nina: The Jewish Museum in Berlin is actually one of the very few buildings Daniel has done where the walls are 90 degrees, the stairs are completely flat. The only part of the building where you would feel a difference is when you’re walking towards the Holocaust void. There the floor ascends, the ceiling stays the same, but you feel like there’s, until you get to the door and you open the door, and you walk into the Holocaust void. That is the only part of the building that takes you off balance…
Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco / bitterbredt
Tsipi: Being Jewish; does it matter the way you design your buildings? Are there cultural and traditional influences the way you think about your buildings?
Daniel: Sure. How could I design these buildings if I wasn’t Jewish? Of course! I mean how can you divide your deeper sense of orientation without bringing it to your design? You know, the way you live, the way you think, the way you read. The way you are…
Tsipi: So what is Jewish about your buildings?
Daniel: Well I’ll tell you: every building is like a book; each one has many layers of interpretation. Every building has commentaries within it; including commentaries of history. Every building is a text, is a story which is being told. It’s not just a nice space that looks good for a photograph.
There is a continuum that is connected to…to other things. And I think that is what to me makes a building Jewish – that it isn’t an icon in the sense of an idol, it doesn’t just look great and you worship how great it looks. It has something in it which goes beyond just the materials of the building.
Nina: But it’s not the, no no no, I would disagree with Daniel; it’s not that every building is Jewish. Absolutely not. It’s you who is Jewish and what you bring is…
Daniel: No, no, no, I didn’t say…I didn’t mean to say that every building is Jewish. I bring a Jewish sensibility.
Nina: That’s right.
Daniel: I do bring a Jewish sensibility but I don’t mean that every building is Jewish. Of course not.
Nina: But Daniel’s approach, to how to solve certain things, how it looks, how people feel, the idea behind it, I would say brings a unique sensibility, an idea something beyond just the form, an exploration into those aspirations and those dreams and those way people view themselves and view the world. That I would say is very Jewish.
Daniel: But I think, what is a Jewish sensibility? You have said… right, it’s optimism, it’s the fact that there is freedom. That is the ultimate Jewish idea.
It’s about freedom; it’s about the future, it’s not…whatever happened in the past happened in the past. But what is Jewish is that there is joy in the world. And despite shadows that fall on things, you can see through it something very, very different.
I think that horizon informs every building that I do, even very sad buildings, like the Felix Nussbaum Museum. There are buildings with very sad histories in them, yet you build a building as an act of optimism, to bring people, to learn that story, to see beyond that story in their own lives.
Tsipi: So that brings me to my last question. What is the legacy you would like to leave behind and how would you like to be remembered?
Daniel: I never answer this question because I never think of the past…
Tsipi: You never ask… but I ask you…
Daniel: No! I think if something is really creative it continues to be creative. You know, there’s a beautiful sentence of Kafka, Franz Kafka. He said, great writers begin to write after they die. Which means that really great works of art are not of the moment. They begin to really resound, really in terms of what they are, in a bigger world. So legacy is not of the past, it’s in the future. Legacy is coming from the future.
Tsipi: Thank you both very much!