The words of an architect: Daniel Libeskind

Everyone knows a picture is worth a thousand words, yet architects typically like to add onto that number. Architects can not stand next to every building they’ve ever designed and tell passersby what was the driving concept for the building’s mass and how the location of the plumbing fixtures promote a positive feng shui throughout the restroom. So instead we give talks to anyone willing to listen to us.

I posted this talk to give people an idea of what one of the most popular architects (starachitects) sounds like. Now “most popular” does not necessarily mean “best” or even “above competent.” Libeskind does provide an opportunity to compare what he says with what he has designed.

In fact one of the best pieces of advice I can give someone relating to understanding architecture is something I heard Scott Bayless on ESPN ask – “what are your eyes telling you?” A lot of people by default will merely nod in agreement to an explanation they feel is above their heads, but architecture allows people to judge buildings with what they see as well.

Libeskind’s talk alludes to the function versus form argument where a purely functional architecture is a strip mall (you can park your car and shop, but is devoid of most emotional and spiritual [i.e. human] characteristics) and the purely formal architecture is something close to the designs of Libeskind (abstract of most historical context but lacks the integration and progression of the building’s function and inhabitants, and apparently the wherewithal for keeping the natural elements out).

Architecture should not be conveyed (especially not by architects) as a mystical art only understood by a black turtleneck wearing subculture. If you’ve ever lived inside of a building or have ever seen a building, then you have the foundation for understanding and appreciating architecture. Libeskind actually speaks in a more layman tone than most “starchitects”, but there still exists a level of contradiction and ambiguity in his talk.

So, what are your eyes telling you about Libeskind? Does he create an architecture that responds directly with the history of the construction site and the culture of the area’s inhabitants, or is his architecture a post-rationalization of a singular formal expression where every one of his buildings looks like one of his previous designs?

The video can be seen at TED’s website –


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