Mar 27, 201412:58 PMPoint of View

Q&A: Daniel Libeskind on Italy, Product Design, and the State of Architecture Today

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The ICE chandelier by Lasvit

PC: There's also the ICE chandelier, where the angular design element was sculpted by using traditional glass blowing technique.

DL: The chandelier is by Lasvit, a manufacturer from the Czech Republic and is really very interesting. So many chandeliers are really just clusters of light, but how do you really amplify the light and make it something really beautiful? That was the challenge.

PC: What about your titanium ceramic tile designs for Casalgrande Padana? The collection was launched at the Cersaie Ceramic fair last year, and I understand it has an interesting technical and environmental feature.

DL: The tile breathesit has titanium in it, which reacts with sunlight, releasing oxygen into the atmosphere. It's also self-cleaning due to the way its surface molecules interact with rain and humidity. We are using it on the upcoming CHAU residential building in Berlin and the Vanke Pavilion at the Milan Expo 2015.  

Rendering of the CHAU 43 residential project in Berlin, whose facade will be clad in Libeskind's titanium ceramic porcelain tile.

PC: From Milan’s Salone to Venice Biennale—you have been invited to design the Venitian pavilion for the upcoming Architecture Biennale. Can you talk about that commission?

DL: This was truly an honor, a wonderful opportunity. The original pavilion is a Mussollini-era building from the 30’s I believe, a neo-classical pavilion, and we are designing the installation inside. Our project is a continuation, 30 years later, of the three “machines” known collectivelyThree Lessons in Architecture that I presented at the Venice Architecture Biennale in 1985. This one will be “Sonnets in Babylon—the Fourth Lesson in Architecture.”

PC: And what will the installation consist of?

DL: It will be a series of one hundred hand-drawings, silk-screen printed on glass. They will be displayed in an architectural composition divided into chapters along the concave wall of the pavilion. The drawings depict a space in frozen flux, a metamorphic city of the future. 

Libeskind's sketch for 'Sonnets in Babylon, the Fourth Lesson in Architecture,' his installation at the Venice Pavilion for the 2014 Architecture Biennale.

PC: How would you describe the concept? How does it fit in the “Fundamentals” theme of this year's biennial? 

DL: It’s a meditation on the origins and future of form in architecture. It relates to the tensions between architecture and drawing, materiality and poetry, the city and the imagination; form, space, light, and technology. It explores the fundamental relationship between architectural thought and drawing, and raises the question whether form is disappearing into techne, or if it is a product of the permanent expression of the human being.

PC: On that note, in what ways do you see technology changing architecture? Are these positive developments?

DL: When the world is becoming more and more global, the uniqueness of where you are is becoming magnified. Architecture is not for the moment, it is not a commodity. It is something that is part of a deeper sense of being. I think architecture is becoming more important, not less important, because of these changes. 

I think architecture has changed in a positive way. I always say we are living a renaissance in architecture, a re-birth, a rediscovery. For many years architecture was considered a means to an end, something technical. But people are discovering all the other aspects of architecture, whether it's sustainability, the cities of the future, or of energy and urbanism. It has become more open, now everyone gets involved in the discussion. There’s a wider range, and I like that diversity.

Paul Clemence is an artist, architect, author, and award-winning photographer inspired by the cross sections of design, art and architecture. His work is part of many collections, including the Vasari Project /Miami , Escola de Belas Artes/Sao Paulo, and The Mies van der Rohe Archives housed by MoMA, New York.  His “Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House book,” is to date, the most comprehensive photographic documentation of that iconic modern house. Besides curating Facebook's photography page “ARCHI-PHOTO”, with over 400k daily followers, his photography appears regularly  in major publications like  Departures, ArchDaily, World of Architecture News, Metropolis,  Aishti, and  Casa Vogue / Brazil. American born, but raised and educated in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Clemence currently is based in Brooklyn, New York. 

Old to new | New to old
Mar 28, 2014 01:25 pm
 Posted by  VoiceOfReason

I'm not persuaded that Libeskind benefited one iota from his time in Italy. The aggressive forms that typify his work confirm that exposure to humanism left no mark on him. Indeed most of his work seems to embrace antisocial ideas rather than humanistic ones.

And the work of Italians, be it in architecture or product design, always exhibits refinements of proportion and an understanding of human scale, two qualities that are shockingly absent from all of Libeskind's work. (I'd wager Libeskind never once used a legitimate proportioning system in any of his projects. But let him prove me wrong.) It goes a long way towards explaining the unpopularity of his work with the public. People are not attracted to aggressive and repellant formalist gestures that speak only to the ego of their creator.

Mar 29, 2014 10:54 am
 Posted by  Rosario

Strictly speaking, ‘design’ is a methodology that involves fresh and careful examination of a problem with a view to producing something that is practical, useful and has some degree of aesthetics appropriate to the issue. What Daniel Libeskind does is something else entirely. All he does is extend his clichéd brand by forcing his sole, tired idea, the grating, clumsy, one-size-fits-all wedge form, onto every problem he tackles, regardless of whether that is a house, a door handle, or a museum.

Take the door handle he speaks about. Predictably, Libeskind’s ‘solution’ is a harsh triangulated form that ignores every ergonomic instinct that might have produced a graceful, curving handle that would be pleasing to the touch. (Compare Libeskind’s crude handle to the refined ‘hand friendly’ hardware in the FSB line and you’ll see what I mean.) Libeskind’s handle has all the sensual pleasure of grabbing the wrong end of an axe. So much for the humanistic influences he claims to have absorbed in Italy.

And now there’s his bookcase, another convoluted mess of crashing wedges and triangles that is neither efficient, useful nor pleasing to the eye. And, like all of Libeskind’s designs, it will be annoying to use.

If Libeskind were asked to design a baby’s diaper, he would come up with something that was sharp, metallic and have lots of hard, protruding angles. It’s all he knows. He can’t think beyond the one gimmick he’s been pushing for over a decade. This self plagiarism is not a sign of creativity. It’s the refuge of the tired hack who’s trying to squeeze the last dollar out of an idea that was never very good to begin with.

Mar 29, 2014 06:44 pm
 Posted by  Iktinos

Libeskind's technical knowledge is virtually non existent. He wouldn't know or understand the first thing about the materials that go into making a ceramic tile. His only contribution to the Casalgrande Padana product is the superficial and meaningless zig zag lines incised on the surface. (And CP can confirm that.) That's all he's good for - adding silly graphics to things.

Mar 31, 2014 07:57 pm
 Posted by  Phillips

A brief visit to the Jewish Museum and you see how Libeskind is able to use space to express emotion in a way most architects (and detractors) probably don't even understand. And thus put it down, cause that is easier. Sad! Love the zigzags reminding that the right angle is just one option out there. Saw it in person installed; adds a new layer of perception to the tired old tile typical grid.

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