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Daniel Libeskind – Architecture is a Speech

By Vladislav Strnad, The Institute of Cultural Diplomacy 

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For those who are interested in modern architecture, the Gallery of Architecture in Brno is offering a remarkable exhibition on the work of the architect Daniel Libeskind from the 6th of August to the 3rd of September 2013. The department of Architecture SPOK in Ostrava, Gallery of Fine Art in Ostrava and the Museum of Architecture in Wroclaw collaborated on this project. The Gallery of Architecture, Brno has been a natural meeting place for architects, artists and lovers of architecture from the early nineties. The gallery offers the public a wide range of activities presenting high-quality architecture, design and art.(1)

Daniel Libeskind is an American Jewish architect, one of the leading figures of the world of architecture, celebrated author and he is best known for his role as master plan architect for the new World Trade Center project in New York. He belongs to a group of modern architects known as deconstructivists, therefore his work is characterized by a freedom of imagination, musical harmony, and at the same time, precise mathematical calculations. Thus, his work is not only architecture, but also philosophy and music. Libeskind is highly professional in all those areas; for him, music, geometry and the written word are considered as sources of inspiration.

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He was born in Lodz, Poland, on 12th of May, 1946. His parents were among the few Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust, while most of his extended family had been murdered: “I was born into a family of survivors, luckily I was born after the horrific events, but I was born in a milieu and went to school under a communist totalitarian regime, so I experienced kind of at first hand and in continuity the events that befell this part of the world, Europe, European Jewry and that’s part of my background.” says Daniel Libeskind.(2) Libeskind has a deep emotional connection with these tragedies which is significant as he is able to carry it through into his architecture better than others.

Throuhgout his childhood, Libeskind learned to play the accordion and swiftly became a virtuoso, moreover he even performed on Polish television in 1953. At the age of eleven his family immigrated to Israel and in 1959 the Libeskinds moved to New York City on one of the last immigrant boats to the United States, where he became a United States citizen in 1965.

When Daniel Libeskind was 19 years old, he won a prestigious America Israel Cultural Foundation scholarship to continue in musical education but he eventually turned to architecture and later received his professional architectural degree from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York. In addition, he received a postgraduate degree in History and Theory of Architecture at the School of Comparative Studies at the University of Essex, England.(3)

In 1989 he founded the Studio Daniel Libeskind and lived in Berlin until 2003. When he won the competition for the new building of the World Trade Center, he relocated and re-established his studio in New York.

Libeskind’s first major international success was the Jewish Museum in Berlin that was completed in 1999. Libeskind has also designed cultural and commercial institutions, museums, concert halls, convention centers, universities, residences, hotels, and shopping centers.(4)

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“Well architecture is a public art, it’s not something done in private for private reasons, it has to reach the public, and part of the art of architecture is also language.” says Libeskind “…and it’s not just some sort of container, some abstract piece of glass and concrete, it is part of a communicative system, and we understand old traditional buildings because they signal to us things about our culture. The same thing is true for new museums, they have to signal the connection between the past and the future.”(5)

Among his architectural achievements, we can mention the Jewish Museum Berlin (Berlin, Germany), Felix Nussbaum Haus (Osnabrück, Germany), Imperial War Museum North (Greater Manchester, England), Danish Jewish Museum (Copenhagen, Denmark), extension to Royal Ontario Museum and the renovation of ten of its existing galleries (Toronto, Canada), CityLife (Milan,Italy), Złota 44, Apartment Tower (Warsaw, Poland), the Bundeswehr Military History Museum (Dresden, Germany), Jewish Museum Berlin Academy in the Eric F. Ross Building (Berlin, Germany), West Side Shopping Center (Switzerland), Tangent (South Korea), Media Center (HongKong) and many more.

Daniel Libeskind is the chief designer of the winning project Memory Foundations – the new World Trade Center in New York, part of which is the Freedom Tower which is 1,776 feet high, symbolizing the year of Interdependence of USA and also a memorial to victims of the terrorist attack on the WTC of 11th September, 2001. This project is probably the best known among the general public.

“I believe that design and architecture are the foremost communicators of all—they tell a story. Without them, there would be no history, no reference about where we are, where we’ve been and where we are going; not only as individuals but as a society“. The major examples are the Jewish Museum (Berlin, Germany) which depicts the suffering of the Jews during the Second World War, and the WTC site, reflecting the sentiments of thousands of people whose relatives suffered from 9/11.(6)

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Daniel Libeskind is not only the architect of many unique buildings in different countries, but also an architectural theorist. He has given lectures at many universities around the world – the University of Toronto, Yale, Pennsylvania, Karlsruhe University of Arts and Design (Germany). He has an honorary doctorate from the Humboldt University of Berlin, the University of Essex, University of Edinburgh, DePaul University of Chicago and the University of Toronto (2004). He also led the Faculty of Architecture at the Cranbrook Academy of Art. In 1986-1989 he founded and led the Architectural School in Milan. Mr Libeskind is one of the seven architects who participated in the exhibition “Architecture Deconstruction” (1989).(7)

In addition to his architectural projects, Libeskind has worked with a number of international design firms to develop objects, furniture, and industrial fixtures for building interiors, and he established a design company in Milan called Libeskind Design.

Mr Libeskind has also designed opera sets for productions such as the Norwegian National Theatre’s ‘The Architect’ in 1998 and Saarländisches Staatstheater’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’ in 2001. He also designed the sets and costumes for ‘Intolleranza’ by Luigi Nono and for a production of Messiaen’s ‘Saint Francis of Assisi’ by Deutsche Oper Berlin. He has also written free verse prose, demonstrated in his book ‘Fishing from the Pavement’.

He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Hiroshima Art Prize, which is awarded to artists whose work promotes the understanding and peace among nations and had never before been granted to an architect. Two of Libeskind’s structures won the 2004 RIBA prize (London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre and Imperial War Museu
m North). Libeskind was appointed as the first Cultural Ambassador for Architecture by the U.S. Department of State (2004), Honorary Member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, England, Gold Medal for Architecture at the National Arts Club, he was the first recipient of an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Fine Art (DFA) from University of Ulster in recognition of his outstanding services to global architecture and design.(8)

Daniel Libeskind’s work has been exhibited in many major museums and galleries around the world.

  1. http://www.denik.cz/ostatni_kultura/vystava-ve-znovuotevrene-galerii-architektury-brno-predstavi-daniela-libeskinda.html
  2. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/legacy/programs/atoday/stories/s229284.htm
  3. http://www.architoday.com/2011/daniel-libeskind/
  4. http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2007/oct/11/architecture
  5. http://www.abc.net.au/rn/legacy/programs/atoday/stories/s229284.htm
  6. https://thearchiblog.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/daniel-libeskind-jewish-museum-berlin/
  7. http://www.evreyskaya.de/archive/artikel_549.html

Center for Cultural Diplomacy Studies Publication
Institute for Cultural Diplomacy
http://www.ccds-berlin.de
http://www.culturaldiplomacy.org

The London Art as Cultural Diplomacy ConferenceAugust 21st, 2013

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