Tonight I attended a lecture at Pier 21 by world renowned architect, Daniel Libeskind, presented as part of NSCAD’s public lecture series. Libeskind’s commission for the Jewish Museum Berlin began a series of monumental and unique buildings with definitive structures. His latest project, designing and constructing the 911 memorial site in New York, will greatly impact the Manhattan skyline.
Tonight, Libeskind detailed his work, his methods, and inspirations. He told us about his different outlook on architecture – he sees his buildings as sculptures, the people that visit them not just statistical ‘users’ but as individuals interacting with the space. Architecture, he says, must be like music, not conformed to the ‘grid’ that has restricted architects for centuries. He talked about taking on projects with meaning, the space and structure has to support . When asked about the civil planning undergoing downtown Halifax, he laughed and advised to never conform, one person can bring together a group of people to make a difference if a different structure is desired. He advised us to never stop dreaming, never let criticism shape your goals or your work. At the end of life, he says, you will only be satisfied with the work you created for yourself, the piece that you built despite negative critique; that is the greatest success.
When he discussed the ground zero project in New York, he said originally they were constricted by three story buildings, and they needed to convince the mayor, the shareholders, corporations and investors to think differently in order to complete what he had envisioned for the project. He told us that is what we need to take away, dream big and see your ideas brought to life by your own efforts, your own commitment – never give up.
A professor of architecture at Dal asked him to give advice at this starting point in their lives, when they feel insignificant and that it will take years to get to the stage where he is, if they get there at all. Libeskind responded by exampling his own life – his first large project, the Jewish Museum Berlin, was at age fifty-four. “I am the perfect example, you are never to old to accomplish your dreams” he said. He told us he never felt comfortable working in an architectural office, he “did it for a few hours” but it could never satisfy, there were to many constrictions.
One phrase he said really affected the way I’ve been viewing history – as the past. He was discussing the commitment to projects where ethics, and emotions, and traumatic histories were involved and said “people think history is the past, history is not in the past, it is in the present, it continues to affect people right here, right now”. He went back to the monument he has constructed for Pier 21 to commemorate the Jews who arrived there during the war seeking refugee from death in European concentration camps and were turned away, and talked about recognizing the names of those who died as a result of racism by the government of Canada.
It was a very inspiring hour as Daniel Libeskind led us through the last ten years of his career. He compared his designs to music and sculpture, and discussed the importance of emotion that is needed to create a space that fits the purposes of the construction. Half of NSCAD was in the room – he left me at least approaching my art career with a positive outlook, accepting the work and commitment it takes to build a reputation in the art world, and the desire to create meaningful and unique work for myself, if for no one else.
Here is a really good interview, well worth the twenty-two minute duration.
A shorter interview, completely talking on master planning ground zero in New York.