With gusto, an exuberant architect considers his life and work.
Libeskind (Daniel Libeskind: Inspiration and Process in Architecture, 2015, etc.) describes his book as “esoteric concepts” transformed into a “visual feast.” In a reprinted page from Horace’s Art of Poetry, these lines jump out: “Such is the book, that like a sick man’s dreams, / Varies all shapes, and mixes all extremes.” It’s an apt description of this book, a lavish array of texts, full-page callouts in large, boldface type, pages of various colors, and sumptuous photographs of the author’s buildings, extreme in their curved and winding shapes and sizes, with massive, metallic edges and intersecting diagonal slashes. Born in Poland in 1946 (his parents were Holocaust survivors), Libeskind’s two early obsessions were the accordion and drawing. The family moved to the Bronx in 1959, and the author studied architecture at Cooper Union. He tells us he was a rebel: “I always try to depart from what has come before.” He was in his 50s before his first building was completed, the Felix Nussbaum Haus. Throughout, he discusses lifelong sources of inspiration: W.B. Yeats, The Little Prince, Michelangelo, James Joyce, Emily Dickinson, and music. Architecture, he writes, is “actually similar to a symphony, which, at its conception, is nothing more than code on paper.” Reassembling the pieces of a broken English teapot inspired his Imperial War Museum in Manchester, England. Libeskind invites us to take a visual and textual tour of some of his most important structures, including Milan’s CityLife, Singapore’s Reflections and Corals at Keppel Bay, Dublin’s Grand Canal Theatre, and the highly challenging and complex World Trade Center Master Plan. He also includes some of his city sculptures and furniture products such as chairs, a chess set, and a chandelier. Quoting Le Corbusier, his advice to young architects is simple: “travel” and “read books.”
The “shock of the new” is evident everywhere in this revealing, accessible, and luscious memoir.