Friday, 23 April 2010

Something for the weekend...


The V and A extension that (thankfully...) was never built

May 16th An update! A video interview with The Great Man ! Unmissable!

Thanks to Chris Matthews*, a small piece of archived radio.

So, yes, it takes time to listen, but hey it's Friday.   Save it for savouring.  Live a little. Crack open the Lambrusco you've been keeping for that special occasion,  feet up, and ... Daniel Libeskind. Who appears to not think he's excessive, not at all. No sireee.

Architecture in the 20th CenturyMedia: Listen now (30 minutes) Availability:In RealMedia only.

Last broadcast on Thu, 25 Mar 1999, 21:30 on BBC Radio 4 (see all broadcasts).

Synopsis: Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the rise in so-called spectacular architecture at the end of the 20th century. Is architecture to do with what we live in, where it’s located, the buildings that accommodate at best so much more than a few private bodies, or is it the spectacular, even show-off, extravagance, even fantasy, of architects - or is it engineers who see the huge swash of public money as an opportunity to plant a place in posterity?

Daniel Libeskind has been heralded as one of the greatest architects of his generation and of the latter half of the 20th century. He is the architect of some spectacular buildings - two of which are the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the highly controversial Spiral Extension to London’s own Victoria and Albert Museum, which his critics have described as looking like imploding cardboard boxes.

But why are we witnessing at the end of the century a sudden glut of spectacular buildings, such as Libeskind’s? What do they say about the state of contemporary architecture? And do they show a blatant disregard for history? Is it merely‘the architecture of excess in a world of diminishing resources, a chic counterpoint at the end of the 20th century’?

With Daniel Libeskind architect of the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the Spiral Extension to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum; Richard Weston, architect and lecturer at De Montfort University.

However, while I know you can't wait to listen, it's possibly not convenient right now, seeing as how you are browsing this on the quiet at work, so here's a little reading:

The building is shaped like a deconstructed Jewish star. Arriving in the new building from the old one, you are presented with three different routes,each one symbolic of a different aspect of Jewish Berliners' experience. One terminates in "the Holocaust void", a tall empty unheated space through whose bare concrete walls you can hear the muffled sounds of the city outside. It is lit up by a single high up slit that offers no view of the sky. Libeskind describes this space as "literally a dead-end"--an expression of hopelessness. Another passageway leads outside to the "Garden of Exile", originally called the ETA Hoffman garden, a close-packed forest of pillars open to the sky where no surface is horizontal or vertical--this creates a sense of the exile's disoriented view of the world. The third and longest route winds through the buildings interior. Its exhibits will describe the joint histories of Berlin and its Jews--it will show all sides of the story, "contribution, assimilation, then termination...

An interview with Hugh Pearman from 2001:

Daniel Libeskind interview. The full version of the article published in The Sunday Times Magazine, 29.4.01.

Libeskind understands context, he just treats it differently. "It’s the same context. You just take it one more step. It’s not just that the building fits into its context and is just a passive, inert bit of matter. A building also has a responsibility to transform the context, give it back something more. Not just taking from its surroundings, but also contributing. Enlivening, transforming."

Er ... right. No, of course that's not bollocks, it's just our minds are on a lower plane than Mr L's.

And a recent piece in the Torygraph...

The thin end of the wedge: an artist's impression of Daniel Libeskind's extension to the Dresden Military History Museum Photo: DANIEL-LIBESKIND.COM

I never open the New Yorker without finding something revelatory, and a recent issue proved the point. It was an account of the cultural conflicts in Dresden over the rebuilding of the city after it was bombed first by RAF Lancasters and then, the next afternoon, by the US Air Force, 65 years ago this weekend.

The author, George Packer, explained how it is important to many Dresdeners to try to pretend that the bombing (and, indeed, the whole war) never happened. When the city was in East Germany, some of the more important buildings were restored, though the Frauenkirche was left as a pile of rubble as a spurious “monument” to capitalist aggression. After reunification, a movement began to rebuild the great church, and that is now completed. The mood in the city is to try to rebuild as much as possible in the same place and on the same scale as before February 1945.

Some new architecture is shockingly. . . good. There is one glaring, and ironic, exception. Almost the only building of note to be spared the conflagration was the old garrison, a large and solid 18th-century edifice. It has for decades been a military museum of one sort or another, and that is its function today. However, Daniel Libeskind, a radical architect of Polish parentage, is building an extension to it. We have controversy enough in this country when it is proposed that glass appendages be added to our great old buildings, whether it be the National Gallery or the British Museum. Libeskind has designed something far more determined than that.

As one looks at the long frontage of this grey stone baroque building, one will see near its left extremity a huge end of a glass wedge, taller than the existing construction, breaking through and jutting forward, like the transparent prow of a great ship. Libeskind has designed a V-shaped addition to the museum, and it is the tip of the V that is slicing through and out in front of the existing building. Inside, all angles are unpredictable and apparently quite crazy.

On his website, Libeskind says that he is creating (bollocks alert)

 “a space for reflection about organised violence” and that he “opens up vistas to central anthropological questioning”.

If you know what that second point means, please tell me, as I haven’t a clue. I cannot decide whether Libeskind has been brilliant or utterly appalling. I suspect he is the latter, though the mock-ups on his website of how the finished product will look are rather incredible: and there is a poetic justice about taking the only undamaged building from that night and allowing it to share in the proceeds of destruction in this way.

No doubt when it is built it will be a wonder of the world: I am determined to go to see it as soon as I can after it is finished this year. However, most Dresdeners appear to be in shock, not so much for the violation of the old garrison, as on account of a determination by an outsider to interrupt their plan to rebuild as much of their city as possible, and to maintain that the bombing can be erased from the collective memory....

Read on:

Cheapest of cheap shots I know, but hey, irresistible: spot the Libeskind:

With architecture writers' columns full of  round ups of  the triumphs (few) and disasters (many)  of the Labour years now appearing in every paper, all predicting the icon is dead, hubris is soooo last decade dahlings, at the bottom of your soul, no matter what you may say in public as really,  it's not done to say the Emperor is naked, you have to give a small cheer.

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  1. Excellent! Always good to see someone call it like it is. And congrats on showing enough professional restraint to resist calling him a shithead.

  2. Despite his recent years in captivity, Libeskind has proven remarkably resistant to the refinement that this exposure to civilization should have affected in him. I suggest we put an end to any further attempts to try to cultivate this paticular savage. Libeskind should be released back into the wild where he belongs. Let him run naked with the wildebeests and sleep in a cave. He is not suited to architecture or capable of understanding it.

  3. Glad it wasn't just me who thought Libeskind was confusing poor old Melvin. The way he skirted round some simple questions with overly complex language reminds me of they same way how the bankers are currently wriggling themsleves out of the muck. It may sound clever at first but by the time Libeskind has left the room, you've realised it's just smoke and mirrors.