At Milan’s Salone del Mobile in April, Daniel Libeskind and his entourage were spotted everywhere, at EuroCucina where he was launching a new kitchen system for Varenna Poliform, and at the off-site premier of an elaborate, shard-like chandelier created for the Czech glass company Lasvit. In all, nearly a dozen household products by the master of the crystal shard made their debut at the biggest furniture event of the season.
Libeskind was also one of the architects profiled in Where Architects Live, a documentary-film based installation on view at the Salone fairgrounds that had such starchitects as Massimiliano and Doriana Fuksas and Shigeru Ban talking candidly about their own homes while a camera panned their living rooms, libraries and kitchens. One of the endearing aspects of Libeskind’s Manhattan loft, which he shares with his wife, Nina, is how unassuming it is, with well-appointed but modest furnishings defining it, and, interestingly, no hard-edged crystal forms to be seen.
The most recent announcement, though, is Studio Daniel Libeskind capturing the high-profile commission to build the $8.5-million National Holocaust Monument in Ottawa. The first of its kind in Canada, the monument is slated to finish in late 2015 and will be located near the Canadian War Museum and Parliament.
The proposal, which won an international competition, takes on the shape of the Star of David, with triangular volumes creating beautiful intimate moments for personal reflection, and larger, open spaces in the centre for collective experiences. It is a venture between Libeskind’s office and famed Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky, who has documented the remains of the death camps and killing fields. The entry also includes landscaping by Claude Cormier of Montreal and museum planning by Lord Cultural Resources of Toronto.
The winning project’s announcement comes just as Libeskind is seeing some his most ambitious endeavours come to light, the most important being the recent opening of the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York. While the museum was designed by Snøhetta and Davis Brody Bond Architects, it is a central component of what defines Libeskind’s Master Plan for ground zero. His feisty battle to beat out a list of top-tier architects vying for the politically fraught commission has been well-documented over the years, especially by former New Yorker critic Paul Goldberger, in his blow-by-blow book Up From Zero (2004).
While portions remain under construction – including Santiago Calatrava’s transport hub, now visible from the street – the site’s physical realization marks one of Libeskind’s finest contributions to contemporary architecture: creating memorable destinations for historic tragedies that respond to the public’s need to both reflect on the past and reaffirm life simultaneously.