ASK AN AR­CHI­TECT DANIEL LIBE­SKIND

Libe­skind is one of the most fa­mous ar­chi­tects in the world, with pro­jects rang­ing from the award-win­ning Jewish Mu­seum in Ber­lin to the Ground Zero site in New York. He has also re­cently de­signed fur­ni­ture with Moroso

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What in­spired you to be­come an ar­chi­tect?

I used to be a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian: I played the ac­cor­dion along­side the leg­endary Is­raeli-amer­i­can vi­o­lin­ist Itzhak Perl­man. Then I at­tended the Bronx High School of Sci­ence, where my in­ter­ests quickly turned to math­e­mat­ics, but I al­ways drew and painted; by chance I re­alised that ar­chi­tec­ture com­bined all of my in­ter­ests. It wasn’t the first thing I con­sid­ered do­ing, the idea evolved over time. What does the word ‘ home’ mean to you? It’s a sanc­tu­ary; a place to be with your fam­ily, with friends, to read, to draw. You need to have some­where that’s re­ally for you – I try not to even look at my phone when I’m at home.

What is your favourite room in your house?

The whole house! I live in a ren­o­vated ware­house in Tribeca, New York. When I bought it, I took many of the in­te­rior walls out – I re­ally wanted one big open-plan space. It was my daugh­ter Rachael who asked to keep some walls in­tact, she be­ing a teenager at the time and want­ing pri­vacy. What has been your favourite project? One of the most mem­o­rable ones was a pri­vate home in Con­necti­cut ( 4, see it in full in next month’s is­sue). It was the very first time I had com­pleted a house from scratch – most of my pro­jects are mu­se­ums and mas­ter plans like Manch­ester’s Im­pe­rial War Mu­seum ( 1) and the Ground Zero site in Man­hat­tan ( 5). I de­signed ev­ery­thing from the sofa and car­pet to the shower and bed – it was so much fun. The ex­te­rior is an­gu­lar and clad in dark stain­less steel; in con­trast, the in­te­rior is cov­ered in rich oak, like a cosy log cabin. What’s your work­ing process? I al­ways start with a draw­ing. I love how artis­tic Re­nais­sance ar­chi­tects cre­ated beau­ti­ful build­ings that we all cel­e­brate to­day – they all came from a pen­cil and pa­per. That said, I now use an ipad to draw. I was scep­ti­cal us­ing it at the be­gin­ning but it’s so pre­cise, and I can in­stantly send my draw­ings to clients.

Is there a build­ing in the world that you wish you had de­signed?

I re­cently vis­ited the San Gio­vanni Bat­tista church near Florence ( 6), de­signed in the early 1960s by Ital­ian ar­chi­tect Gio­vanni Michelucci. It sits on a busy high­way out­side the city. It’s a mas­ter­piece – it’s as­ton­ish­ing, mod­ern yet com­plex. I love the idea of spirituality on a high­way – if you’re pass­ing you can pop in and speak to God, like a drive-through for re­li­gion.

What is the big­gest chal­lenge for ar­chi­tects to­day?

To make sure the great cities of the world are not just places for the rich; that there is equal­ity in the city cen­tre for ev­ery­one. I’m cur­rently work­ing on a project to pro­vide af­ford­able hous­ing in the his­toric, wealthy part of Ber­lin ( I want to show

2).

that good ar­chi­tec­ture doesn’t have to cost a huge amount. Cities be­come great be­cause of the mix of peo­ple and the di­verse types of cre­ativ­ity.

Why did you start de­sign­ing fur­ni­ture?

I have de­signed light­ing and other small pieces in the past, but it wasn’t un­til I met Pa­trizia Moroso that I thought about de­sign­ing a full col­lec­tion of so­fas and chairs ( 3 ‘Gemma’ sofa). Pa­trizia ap­proaches de­sign with great pas­sion. Plus, cre­at­ing fur­ni­ture has a per­sonal touch: it’s im­me­di­ate, it doesn’t take ten years to com­plete (libe­skind.com).

‘A home is a sanc­tu­ary, a place to be with your fam­ily and friends. You need to have some­where that’s for you’

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