A former musical prodigy who studied in Israel for two years, architect Daniel Libeskind never forgot his first glimpse of the Manhattan skyline. It happened in 1959 and left an indelible impression one that has informed his work ever since, as he has gone on to design iconic buildings that mark the skylines of cities all over the world.
Libeskind, whose "Freedom Tower" design was initially chosen by New York Gov. George Pataki to replace the Twin Towers, started his architecture studies at New York’s Cooper Union College in 1965, but it was in 1989 that he got his first break. Just as he and his childhood sweetheart, his wife Nina, were moving to California from Germany, he learned he had won the design competition for the Jewish Museum in Berlin.
As a master of memorial architecture, one of Libeskind’s newer projects is "Flames of Memory," the 80-foot-high, ‘5,000 square foot Jewish War Veterans of Canada Memorial, which is slated to be finished in Toronto this year. Its amphitheatre seats up to ‘,000, and is encircled by Walls of Honour and Remembrance which display the flags of 30 countries and the insignia of several Canadian armed service branches.
Libeskind’s addition to the Denver Art Museum is under construction, and he’s the architect in charge of the Center for Arts and Culture project in Boston, an $80 million venture. The list of projects on tap fills an entire Web page and includes an apartment high-rise in the center of Warsaw.
Libeskind’s luxury condominium in Union City has a unique twist.
Libeskind recently designed a luxury condo tower perched atop the ’00-foot-high Palisades in Union City, where residents will enjoy spectacular views of Manhattan and New York Harbor. The commercial property twists at its center and will be completed in ‘008.
Libeskind is famous for using voids to denote the absence of essentials, whether they are souls or memories. When he worked on the museum in Berlin, bureaucrats hounded him about his empty spaces. Libeskind’s reply to them was that the spirit of Jewish culture is invisible and indestructible.
Libeskind’s -Jewish Museum in Berlin.
He often collaborates with others and is amazed when people think that’s not a productive road to take. "Too many people are skeptical about democracy," he has said. "They think that if a lot of people are involved, a project won’t turn out well. I don’t believe democracy leads to mediocrity. If you find answers and meaningful ways to do something, that’s when you build something that will endure into the future and not be a folly . A building is more like a story than an air conditioner or a piece of plumbing. Of course, you need those to make it work. But a building has to mean something."
When Humboldt University in Berlin awarded Libeskind, the Lodz-born son of Holocaust survivors, an honorary doctorate for his work, he addressed the audience with an intellectual tour de force in which he laid down his architectural philosophy.
"One should attempt to retrieve the spirit of architecture, to recall its humanity, even within a situation in which the goal and the way have been eclipsed," he told the crowd, as quoted on his Website, www.daniel-libeskind.com. "The erasure of history and its carriers, the obliviousness of the market economy to the degradation, and ongoing genocide of human beings must be countered with a deeper awareness and action. Architecture is and remains the ethical, the true, the good and the beautiful, no matter what those who know the price of everything and the value of nothing may say."
The highly regarded and sometimes-controversial artist/architect will speak at the United Synagogue of Hoboken, on March ‘1 at 7:30 p.m.
"The lecture is part of the organization’s centennial celebration," said Ken Schept, the congregation’s president. "Part of the centennial involves restoring our own building, which was built in 1915 in the Eastern European tradition. In the 1970s the community almost disappeared, and the building deteriorated. Now we have a growing community of about ’00 families and 100 children at the learning center, and we chose Daniel to speak because we think that [the] story we have to tell is emblematic."
The congregation has hired an architect, Alex Gorlin, who has worked with Libeskind in the past.
"As an architect, Daniel starts with stories and has a profound sense of Jewish history," said Schept. "So who better to invite, when we have our own story that resonates with his spirit?"
Who: Architect David Libeskind
Where: United Synagogue of Hoboken
What: The USH Centennial Series
When: Tuesday, March ‘1, 7:30 p.m.
How: Visit www.hobokensynagogue.org