SINGAPORE Jan 17 (Reuters Life!) - For Daniel Libeskind,
the master planner of Ground Zero in New York, architecture and
controversy go hand-in-hand.
Libeskind's design was chosen for the 16-acre (6.5-hectare)
site of the former World Trade Center destroyed by the
September 11 attacks in 2001, but the rebuilding of the Lower
Manhattan area has been dogged for nearly five years by
acrimony over designs, security and insurance. Construction is
now moving forward.
Born in Poland in 1946, Libeskind became a U.S. citizen in
1965 and shot to international prominence in 1989 when he won a
competition to design the Jewish Museum in Berlin.
Libeskind, whose designs are known for skewed angles and
intersecting lines, acknowledges his career has been somewhat
unusual as he spent nearly 20 years teaching architecture
before embarking on his first design with the Berlin project.
"Most people think practicing architecture is about
building buildings and working in an office but I had a
different path. I taught, I drew, I wrote books, I researched.
Architecture is all of those things as well," he told Reuters
in Singapore, where he unveiled his design for a residential
project for local developer Keppel Land.
Q: Are you happy with the way Ground Zero turned out?
A: "I am the master-planner for Ground Zero which means I
am responsible for the entire site but there are many different
architects. That is not to detract from the fact that my plan
is moving ahead and moving ahead very successfully.
"I am very pleased. New Yorkers come up to me all the time
to give me their advice on the project but not a single person
has said anything negative."
Q: How have you dealt with the controversy about the
A: "It was a highly sensitive project -- it was politically
charged and very emotional. Yet what you have to do is to
navigate through all this because this was something that is
worthwhile and meaningful. No one can be prepared for such an
experience. In the entire history of the world, there was never
such a competition, never a more highly charged project. And I
am proud to say that my vision is turning to reality and that
it is a way to remember such a terrible event."
Q: How do you deal with criticism?
A: "Whenever you do something new, it's always going to be
in the news. I think that it's good that a project generates
public interest because that is what architecture is about. I
listen to what the people say. But a critic is only an
opinion-maker -- one person. I listen to the quarter of a
million people who come to the museum in a few weeks."
Q: Is Asia too obsessed with big and shiny buildings and
paying too little attention to basics such as urban planning?
A: "Having tall buildings is a human desire. Nobody needs a
tall building but they represent an aspiration, an idea. I
don't think bigger is better, but tall buildings make better
sense ecologically. Asia is also a very dynamic region and
there is a competitiveness and aspiration and that is something
new and interesting.
"But it's not just in the region, the world has
rediscovered the importance of architecture and the value it
adds to society, culture and commerce. It's a rediscovery of
Q: You've worked in South Korea, Hong Kong and now
Singapore. Do you want to build in China?
A: "I have been approached a couple of times but I grew up
in Poland when it was Communist. I like working in open
societies where there is due process. It's a personal feeling."