Creative Minds Talk - Libeskind

Daniel Libeskind was invited this week to Miami's design district to have a conversation with John Stuart, Associate Dean of Cultural and Community Engagement in FIU’s College of Communication, Architecture + The Artst. The event started with a brief introduction and a video detailing Libeskind's core architectural values, and the inspiring influence his wife Nina has had throughout their journey. The talk comprised mostly of anecdotes from many different phases of his career that give great insight into what Libeskind thinks of humanity, the arts, and his approach to design.

Libeskind was born in Poland and is the child of two Polish Jewish Holocaust survivors, a fact that lingers in the mind as he tells the profound meaning behind the orchestrated details of the Jewish Museum in Berlin. The faces of the audience that are squinting and those that are nodding with a smile give a clear indication of who has visited the museum before. The most remarkable thing is that this was his first built project, which opened over a decade after winning the initial design competition. The weight the project holds serves as an indication of Libeskind's understanding of the way space can communicate a narrative, and touch upon human emotion.

About an hour into the discussion, John Stuart points out the common approach architecture students have of focusing and manicuring their project towards a specific interest. However, in practice, an architect has many voices influencing a design. Stuart then asks Libeskind for his approach to resolving these factors and to evolving his process. The Polish designer began declaring that his process has not changed, then continued with a quote and a parable from Vitruvius: "Architecture begins with language;" if there is a house on fire, and someone yells "Fire!," others will come together and coordinate. Architecture is then most powerful after a tragedy, and is often rediscovered in the community through a call for action. Libeskind felt he had "to be able to express intentions that are not visible, but that in some way resonate within the people;" an answer that foreshadows the story of how he found out he won the competition for the master plan design of the 9/11 memorial. He noted his realization of the true power propaganda, publicity, and marketing hold in the industry after the proposal presentations for ground zero at Winter Garden. The morning after the presentation, The New York Times reported the winning team. So the Libeskinds and his team began to pack, until he received a phone call from the competition committee to appear at a certain location within 30 minutes. He took his drawings, and was brought into a room with the mayor of New York City and the governor of New York. After a 10 minute meeting and some more packing, he received another phone call, informing him he had been chosen as the winner. Combining that with the story of how he came to win the competition for the museum, one could think this man was predestined to convey human sorrow and the progress that follows.

"Life is unpredictable."

There were many more memorable stories throughout the evening:

  • Applying for permanent residency in Italy in order to move to Milan, with no reason whatsoever, only to end up mentoring about 70 students. Many of them carried on to lead successful careers and still stay in touch with him.

  • Establishing an office in Berlin after winning the museum competition and developing many more projects across Europe.

  • Designing art installations and coordinating art gallery events in NYC.

However, it becomes very clear that his child-like passion, which lead him to become an accordion virtuoso, is what gives direction to his drive. Music, he says, is at the heart of everything he does. True knowledge and appreciation for the arts has developed into a deep understanding of human consciousness, which has in turn produced arguably one of the most sensitive and transcendent designers alive. A linchpin. An artist. A philosopher. An architect.

More about the event: