Architect Daniel Libeskind has been the hand behind some of the most iconic structures in the world, from the Jewish Museum Berlin and the hallowed site of Ground Zero to this year’s topper on the Rockefeller Christmas Tree and the Archipelago 21 in South Korea. With a career spanning dozens of projects, Libeskind’s designs are instantly recognizable to millions around the world.
Q: Who has been your biggest mentor?
Libeskind: My mother, since she always encouraged me to be an architect.
(Also), my old dean of my school at Cooper Union here in New York – his name was John Hejduk, Professor Hejduk. He always put me in touch with possibilities to support myself, initially teaching positions and so on and so forth. He was just a great friend, great mentor and also, in terms of architectural ideas and the art of architecture.
Q: What has been your most memorable project?
Libeskind: Certainly, two of my projects stick out. The first one, which is The Jewish Museum, and my last one, which is Ground Zero – which is not completed yet – so, my first and my last.
With Ground Zero, I started by having a revelation when I touched the bedrock and the slurry wall and understood that the bedrock itself is a kind of sacred place, on which the footprints would have to go, and the waterfalls and so on. I decided right there and then that (I) never could build where the two buildings stood before. That should become really a spatial memory, a space for people to really access not just from the street level, but all the way, 75 feet down, to the bedrock. And, of course, to all of those people with the slurry wall – the great foundation of the side – and the dam, sort of against Hudson River, which stood up in its own sort of resilient, amazing way.
Q: What does your career path look like, from the earliest days until now?
Libeskind: For me, it’s like a spiral. It’s a spiral because I started my love as a professional musician. Then, I got interested in other things: mathematics, science, and then I really sort of came to architecture. For many, many years I didn’t build anything, I just drew. These drawings and my ideas took me to my first building, which was in Berlin: The Jewish Museum. My career was evolved out of drawing, not out of being onsite and getting commission, so my first building was a major museum. I never built even a small building before then.
I did not have a dream to be an architect as a child, because I was a musician, but I followed the path – the path of reality that took me to unexpected places, which took me to everything I’m doing.