Robb Report (Malaysia) - - Global Luxury - Jan­uary – 2 017 Photo CHARLES CHUA

Ar­chi­tect Daniel Libe­skind dis­cusses how lux­ury res­i­dences are be­com­ing more about the qual­ity of space rather than the iconic­ity of the fa­cade, and how his ex­pe­ri­ence as a Holo­caust sur­vivor has shaped his body of work.


I n Sin­ga­pore, star­chi­tect Daniel Libe­skind is prac­ti­cally a house­hold name thanks to his work on Re­flec­tions at Kep­pel Bay, its dra­matic for­est of twist­ing spires pierc­ing the is­land’s south­ern coastal sky­line. By con­trast, his lat­est project – Co­rals at Kep­pel Bay – is more nu­anced, with its 366 units or­gan­ised in a se­ries of or­ganic, un­du­lat­ing build­ings that range in height from four to 12 storeys.

Glob­ally, the 70-year- old prin­ci­pal of Stu­dio Libe­skind – who’s of Pol­ish Jewish de­scent – is best known for de­sign­ing in­sti­tu­tions such as the Jewish Mu­seum in Ber­lin and Dan­ish Jewish Mu­seum in Copen­hagen, and for craft­ing the master plan for the re­con­struc­tion of the World Trade Cen­ter site in New York.

It’s been more than a decade since res­i­den­tial prop­er­ties de­signed by cel­e­brated ar­chi­tects started com­ing onto the mar­ket. Do you think the needs of home­own­ers and in­vestors have changed since those early years?

I think peo­ple are very in­tel­li­gent th­ese days. They have ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion, such as how peo­ple in other parts of the world live. Peo­ple don’t want rep­e­ti­tion, trans­pos­ing a bit of Lon­don or New York onto Sin­ga­pore. They want unique­ness that’s con­nected to a place. And that’s a chal­lenge. It’s a chal­lenge to cre­ate views, spa­ces and in­ti­macy. It’s about a com­mu­nity, not just an ab­strac­tion.

Be­cause of its low-rise mass­ing, Co­rals is not as dis­tinc­tive on the sky­line as Re­flec­tions is. Are you con­cerned that it isn’t as iconic?

I think it is iconic. There’s a sub­tlety and a del­i­cacy to it. It’s not high-rise, but it takes only one glance to see how de­lib­er­ate and del­i­cate it is. It’s like a coral, which is very re­fined. It has a mil­lion facets that re­flect light and na­ture. Not ev­ery icon says ‘ look at me’, but if it’s a true icon, it ra­di­ates a cer­tain en­ergy and sup­ports the life of peo­ple and fam­i­lies liv­ing there. It’s not about the fa­cade, but about the plea­sure and the joy of be­ing here.

Would you say that this marks a shift in the way lux­ury prop­er­ties are per­ceived … to some­thing more in­ward­look­ing?

Yes. (Here,) the site sug­gests that. It’s lower at the front and higher to­wards the east. (The lay­out is) like a large open gar­den, with shared views within.

What emo­tions do you hope to stir in fu­ture res­i­dents of/ vis­i­tors to Co­rals?

It’s ev­i­dent that there’s a cer­tain seren­ity here. The en­joy­ment of life. That’s what a home is for. To be able to cel­e­brate the ev­ery­day.

How have your child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences as a Holo­caust sur­vivor in­flu­enced your per­sonal phi­los­o­phy as well as your pro­fes­sional sen­si­bil­i­ties?

It’s made me aware that the num­ber one thing to cher­ish is lib­erty and free­dom. (It’s made me con­sider) the ethics

“It’s a chal­lenge to cre­ate views, spa­ces and in­ti­macy.”

of space, the ethics of ar­chi­tec­ture, to see the world in a pos­i­tive light and not to run with the crowds, nec­es­sar­ily.

Many of your projects are memo­ri­als to hu­man­ity’s worst tragedies. Has work­ing on them – es­pe­cially the Jewish Mu­seum in Ber­lin and Dan­ish Jewish Mu­seum in Copen­hagen – been a form of cathar­sis for you?

No. It’s just like work­ing on ev­ery­thing else. It’s proof of the vic­tory of life over tragic events. It’s (a way) to re­mem­ber and heal the wounds. We look for­ward. We use that mem­ory, not cover it up. We use it as a foothold for the fu­ture.

While you have de­signed a myr­iad pro­saic projects, your best-known works are memo­ri­als and mu­se­ums of trauma. Is be­ing type­cast as the go-to ar­chi­tect for that

genre a con­cern for you? Well, peo­ple can call me what­ever they want. I think we’re all af­fected by the trauma. Who has not been af­fected by the Holo­caust or by the atomic bombs in Ja­pan? And if you’re af­fected by it, you have to act pos­i­tively to­wards a dif­fer­ent fu­ture, a bet­ter fu­ture, a peace­ful fu­ture. And use ar­chi­tec­ture to cre­ate that kind of space.

Are you an op­ti­mistic per­son? Are you hope­ful for the fu­ture of ar­chi­tec­ture and of hu­man­ity?

I would never be an ar­chi­tect if I did not be­lieve in it. On top of that, I think it’s the only qual­i­fi­ca­tion you need to be an ar­chi­tect. Ar­chi­tec­ture is al­ways build­ing for­wards into the fu­ture. libe­ ’

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