Daniel Libeskind in London

Posted on July 23, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 2 comment(s)

 London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre

London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre on Holloway Road 


Polish architect Daniel Libeskind was in London during London's festival of architecture, though he was not here for the festival, instead he was here to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre on Holloway Road.

I have never been inside this building previously but I remember seeing it from a vehicle for the first time years ago and was quite baffled by it. Although the facade looks intriguing, it is completely out of place on the aesthetically grim Holloway Road. I had no idea who built it but I was certainly curious.

When I received an email invitation for the event at the Graduation Centre, I jumped at the opportunity to book myself a place before the event was sold out. And as expected it did.


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Daniel Libeskind is a controversial figure in the architectural world because of his unusual credentials and architectural style. His buildings are often bold, imposing, asymmetric with jagged edges and sharp angles, and most of the time, they don't seem to be in harmony with their surroundings at all!

At the talk, I learned that he was a professional musician before he became an architect and his wife (and business partner) supported him until he got his first major commission after winning the competition for Berlin's new Jewish Museum in 1989. Libeskind was already 53 then and the building took 10 years to complete.

I visited the museum in Berlin a few years ago and I had mixed feelings about it. I didn't like the facade/exterior very much, but I thought some of the architectural space inside was brilliantly designed. However, the overall result was not very consistent, not sure if it Libeskind could be entirely responsible for this because from the talk, I got the impression that he had issue with the museum's curation and exhibit formats.

In my opinion, the London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre is a more successful design, probably due to its smaller size and more creative freedom. Upon completion, the Graduate Centre has won many accolades including the RIBA prize in 2004, and the Jeu d'Esprit award 2005.


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Berlin's Jewish Museum


Although I don't consider myself a big fan of Liberskind's architecture, I found his talk very interesting. He seems charismatic, down-to-earth, funny and unconventional. He was able to handle the negative comments/ questions very well and was not at all bothered by them. He did not stop praising his wife for her organisation skills and support, and he explained the reason why he refused to work in China for years (until recently) even though many international renowned architects have all left their marks there. His reasons were partly based on ethical grounds, and partly due to the country's poor building regulations and requirements (although he did not explain why he has changed his mind).


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Daniel Liberskind


After the talk, I realised that even for an architect, it is necessary to be convincing, and possesses the ability to deal with politics, crises and most of all, people. Despite the constant criticism from architecture critics, Liberskind continues to thrive, I wonder if it has something to do with his perseverance and people/management skills? Whatever the reason behind his success, he will continue to be in the limelight especially with this year's opening of the new World Trade Centre in New York and various other major projects that are being constructed around the world. The critics can continue to criticise, but Liberskind is definitely here to stay.


This post was posted in London, Architecture, Talks, Contemporary and was tagged with London, talks, contemporary architecture

2 Responses to Daniel Libeskind in London

  • I would not say that Libeskind has "people management skills". What I would say is that he is a slick, but unfortunately slimy and disingenuous marketer of mindless architectural garbage. My own take on Libeskind is that he has an enormous, even insatiable appetite for attention. And he satisfies this craving by designing ugly buildings which invariably attract attention. Achieving notoriety for one's bad doings is an easier path to fame that hard work and development of real skills.

    A talented architect would gain attention by being creative and at the same time being respectful of the aesthetic environment. Libeskind choses disrespect and aggressive shapemaking, all the while promoting himself as a visionary. He'll tell you (and he has done this), that if the public don't understand his work, it is because THEY are the problem, not him. - A critic accurately compared Libeskind and his work to a dog urinating up against a lamp post. The resultant odor is noxious, even unavoidable, but you are forced to acknowledge that he was there.

    Posted on July 24, 2014 at 12:02 am

  • Thanks for your comment. I think our society/property developers are also responisble for nurturing a lot of 'star architects' by allowing them to do whatever they want regardless of the surroundings/environment. This is quite evident in the City of London. Liberskind is not the only one, there are so many others doing the same thing, it's all about power, fame, money and politics.

    Posted on July 24, 2014 at 6:26 pm