New York Architecture Images-New York Architects

Daniel Libeskind


Libeskind's addition to the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto (2007).

The Ascent at Roebling's Bridge, Covington, Kentucky

Jewish Museum Berlin, 1999

Imperial War Museum North, 2001

Westside interior, 2008

London Metropolitan University, London

Military History Museum – Dresden, 2010

Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre, 2011
By VIVIAN MARINO, May 2, 2010

Mr. Libeskind, 63, is a co-founder, with his wife, Nina, of Studio Daniel Libeskind, and is its principal design architect.

He is currently involved in more than three dozen projects worldwide, including the massive New Songdo City, in South Korea, but is best known for his work as the master plan architect for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center.

Q Are you disappointed that the rebuilding at ground zero hasn't progressed further?

A Look, it's clear that this is such a highly complicated project. We're dealing with not only the Port Authority and the investors and their own architects, but we also have different governors, and, of course, families of the victims, the lawyers and the banks.

But we're beginning to see some of the foundations. The Freedom Tower, as it used to be called -- it's One World Trade Center now -- is under way. You can see it in the important corner that it's occupying. It's all gradual: the memorial will open, then Tower Four, then the PATH tunnel, then the Freedom Tower.

Q How difficult has it been coordinating all the players?

A It's a constant challenge -- democracy is never easy. I appreciate that there are different forces and my role is to bring consensus, and that doesn't mean I get everything I want. You lose some of those battles and you have to compromise on issues, but you are never going to quit. I believe that what is being built is aligned with the ideas that were chosen.

Q Tell me about those ideas.

A First of all, this is a story of memory -- so many people perished -- but also memory of what liberty means, what New York means, that this event isn't going to change New York into a sad city. It's about the past, which is irreversible, but also the future.

Q How is this balance achieved?

A It's 16 acres, and a little less than half of that site is for public space, so that it isn't just crowded with a lot of buildings. And nothing is actually built on the site where people perished, so that it has a spiritual quality. It's a park. It has waterfalls, which was part of my idea to screen the sound of the streets.

At the same time, I assembled the buildings so they don't throw shadows on the memorial site. Buildings facing the memorial have a different character than buildings facing Church Street.

Q How important was it for you to win this project?

A It was extremely important. I go by the site every day, I live by the site, so it's not an abstract idea. I saw the original towers being built when I was in school.

Q Before the World Trade Center, you had completed only a handful of projects. Now you have about 40. It's safe to say this catapulted business.

A For sure. Your name appears in the public realm, even when you don't want it to appear.

Q Your designs have a sculpturelike quality, which some may find jolting. Have you ever been told that they're unbuildable?

A Definitely. But I don't find it as something evil or negative. I try to understand my clients -- first of all, they have a budget.

Q Many call you a ''starchitect.'' How does that make you feel?

A I couldn't care less.

But the truth is people have rediscovered architecture. Ground zero had a lot to do with raising expectations, because it was a public process and people were very involved and there was an emotional resonance.

I consider this a renaissance: a rediscovery that architecture isn't just a bunch of concrete slabs, that it's cultural and has to have a sustainable idea to it.

Q Let's talk about sustainability.

A Sustainability isn't just a reference to new technology, it's a rebirth of the idea that buildings are not just consumer items. They're not like cars or hair dryers or refrigerators -- you don't build them and throw them out. They have to connect with the place in which they stand.

Q You were an accomplished musician, even playing accordion alongside Itzhak Perlman. Why did you switch careers?

A I exhausted that instrument. And by that time, my interests shifted. I discovered mathematics and other things like painting, and I kind of stumbled upon architecture because it combined so many of my interests.

Q Do you have any advice for aspiring architects?

A Don't just go with the trends -- think for yourself. Think of the less obvious things.

Q What's your favorite building?

A It's so hard to say. Impossible! It's like asking, what's your favorite piece of music? Each building sets up a mood.

Q Is there a style you loathe?

A I loathe neutral architecture. The idea of creating a space -- a box -- with no expression in it. To me it's a very violent act.



Ground Zero

Project Brief

After 9/11, there were several years of public debate, as New Yorkers worked to figure out how best to rebuild the World Trade Center site. It was necessary to take some time to develop a plan that reconciled the various constituencies’ individual goals. In August 2002 The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) announced a competition for a master plan. Studio Daniel Libeskind design was selected in February 2003.

For the development of the masterplan, Studio Daniel Libeskind has been coordinating with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, City of New York, and the architects of the individual buildings: Michael Arad and Peter Walker (Memorial); Snøhetta (Museum’s entry pavilion), Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (Tower 1), Foster and Partners (Tower 2), Richard Rogers Partnership (Tower 3) Maki and Associates (Tower 4), and Santiago Calatrava (Transportation Hub) to realize the new WTC site.

The WTC Masterplan serves as both the conceptual basis and the technical foundation for the entire complex re-development of ground zero. The Masterplan defines the spirit of the approach to re-building and creates a meaningful conceptual framework for the site. It also defines the spatial organization of all elements of the development within the site with an emphasis on the human experience and the public realm.The Masterplan dictates the location and massing of each program element, building height and relative size, as well as proximity and relationship to one another. The WTC Masterplan also supplies the framework for the site’s infrastructure, transportation, sustainability standards and security strategy and lays out the functional relationship between all the site elements with respect to the surrounding context of the immediate neighbourhoods and the surrounding city.
Memory Foundations

I arrived in New York by ship as a teenager, an immigrant and like millions of others before me, the first things I saw were the Statue of Liberty and the amazing skyline of Manhattan. I have never forgotten those sights or what they stood for. That is what my work on the World Trade Center master plan has been about.

When I was chosen for this project, New Yorkers were not sure whether they wanted to keep the site empty or rebuild it. I thought about this seemingly impossible dichotomy for a long time. It seemed impossible to acknowledge the horror which had occurred while being hopeful enough to look to the future. In search of a way to reconcile these contradictory impulses I decided to visit the site, to stand within it, to watch people walk around it, to feel its power and to listen to its voices.

This is what I heard, felt and saw.

The most dramatic part of the Trade Center to survive the attack was the great slurry wall, an engineering wonder constructed on bedrock to hold back the Hudson River. Somehow it had withstood the unimaginable trauma of the twin towers’ destruction, asserting, as eloquently as the Constitution, the durability of democracy and the value of human life.

I knew that whatever was built had to let us enter this ground while at the same time creating a quiet, meditative and spiritual space. We needed a way to journey down 70 feet into the chasm, past the slurry wall, a procession with deliberation. Regardless of the revitalization going on aboveground, this part of the site had to be maintained to honor the dead.

But the site’s foundation was not only a story of tragedy and death. It was also a testament to life, with its Path trains continuing to traverse the ground, linking the past to the future, it was clear that, at the epicenter of Ground Zero, we should build a museum of memory and hope to serve a literal and figurative entry point to Ground Zero.

In the years since the terrorist attacks millions of people have visited the site, walking around it and peering through the construction walls, trying to understand the tragic vastness created by the absence of the soaring towers. Soon, the Lower Manhattan skyline will be home once again to towering skyscrapers. At a resonant 1776 feet tall, the Freedom Tower — in my master plan, second in importance only to the 9/11 memorial itself — will rise above its predecessors, reasserting the preeminence of freedom and beauty, restoring the spiritual peak to the city and proclaiming America’s resilience even in the face of profound danger, of our optimism even in the aftermath of tragedy. Life, victorious.

— Daniel Libeskind 2003