Daniel Libeskind (born May 12, 1946) is a Polish-American architect, artist, professor and set designer of Polish Jewish descent. Libeskind founded Studio Daniel Libeskind in 1989 with his wife, Nina, and is its principal design architect. His buildings include the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany, the extension to the Denver Art Museum in the United States, the Grand Canal Theatre in Dublin, the Imperial War Museum North in Greater Manchester, England, the Michael Lee-Chin Crystal at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, the Felix Nussbaum Haus in Osnabrück, Germany, the Danish Jewish Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the Wohl Centre at the Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel. His portfolio also includes several residential projects. Libeskind’s work has been exhibited in major museums and galleries around the world, including the Museum of Modern Art, the Bauhaus Archives, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Centre Pompidou. On February 27, 2003, Libeskind won the competition to be the master plan architect for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site in
Born in Łódź, Poland, Libeskind was the second child of Dora and Nachman Libeskind, both Polish Jews and Holocaust survivors. As a young child, Libeskind learned to play the accordion and quickly became a virtuoso, performing on Polish television in 1953. He won a prestigious America Israel Cultural Foundation scholarship in 1959 and played alongside a young Itzhak Perlman. Libeskind lived in Poland for 13 years and can still speak, read, and write the Polish language.
In 1957, the Libeskinds moved to Kibbutz Gvat, Israel and then to Tel Aviv before moving to New York in 1959. In his autobiography, Breaking Ground: An Immigrant’s Journey from Poland to Ground Zero, Libeskind spoke of how the kibbutz experience influenced his concern for green architecture.
In the summer of 1959, the Libeskinds moved to New York City on one of the last immigrant boats to the United States. In New York, Libeskind lived in the Amalgamated Housing Cooperative in the northwest Bronx, a union-sponsored, middle-income cooperative development. He attended the Bronx High School of Science. The print shop where his father worked was on Stone Street in Lower Manhattan, and Libeskind watched the original World Trade Center being built in the 1960s. Libeskind became a United States citizen in 1965. Libeskind met Nina Lewis, his future wife and business partner, at the Bundist-run Camp Hemshekh in upstate New York in 1966. They married a few years later and, instead of a traditional honeymoon, traveled across the United States visiting Frank Lloyd Wright buildings on a Cooper Union fellowship. Nina now serves as COO for Studio Daniel Libeskind.
In 1968, Libeskind briefly worked as an apprentice to architect Richard Meier. In 1970, he received his professional architectural degree from the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art; he received a postgraduate degree in History and Theory of Architecture at the School of Comparative Studies at the University of Essex in 1972. The same year, he was hired to work at Peter Eisenman’s New York Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, but he quit almost immediately. Since then, Libeskind has lived, among other places, in New York City, Toronto, Michigan, Italy, Germany, and Los Angeles, and has taught at numerous universities across the world, including the University of Kentucky, Yale University, and the University of Pennsylvania. Since 2007, Libeskind has been a visiting professor at the Leuphana University Lüneburg in Lüneburg, Germany. He is both a U.S. and Israeli citizen.
Nina and Daniel Libeskind have three children: Lev, Noam, and Rachel.
Libeskind began his career as an architectural theorist and professor, holding positions at various institutions around the world. His practical architectural career began in Milan in the late 1980s, where he submitted to architectural competitions and also founded and directed Architecture Intermundium, Institute for Architecture & Urbanism. Libeskind completed his first building at the age of 52, with the opening of the Felix Nussbaum Haus in 1998. Prior to this, critics had dismissed his designs as "unbuildable or unduly assertive." In 1987, Libeskind won his first design competition for housing in West Berlin, but the Berlin Wall fell shortly thereafter and the project was canceled. Libeskind won the first four projects competitions he entered.
The Jewish Museum Berlin, completed in 1999, was Libeskind’s first major international success and was one of the first buildings designed after reunification. Libeskind has also designed cultural and commercial institutions, museums, concert halls, convention centers, universities, residences, hotels, and shopping centers. Critics often describe Libeskind’s work as deconstructivist.
Libeskind is perhaps most famous for being selected by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to oversee the rebuilding of the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the September 11, 2001 attacks. He titled his concept for the site Memory Foundations.
Studio Daniel Libeskind, headquartered two blocks south of the World Trade Center site in New York, is currently working on more than forty projects across the world. The studio’s most recent completed projects include Haeundae Udong Hyunai I’Park in Busan, South Korea, Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin in Berlin, Germany, the Bundeswehr Military History Museum in Dresden, Germany and Reflections at Keppel Bay in Singapore.
After Hurricane Katrina, Libeskind designed the proposed building of two glass condominium towers, each 30 stories in height, on the site of the defunct Jefferson Plaza shopping center on the Jefferson Highway in Jefferson Parish in suburban New Orleans, Louisiana. He was hired to perform the design by real estate developer James St. Raymond, a former member of the Louisiana House of Representatives. St. Raymond recruited purchasers who made a $1,000 deposit to reserve condominiums. Not only was the shopping center never demolished, but work was not initiated on the proposed condo towers, which St. Raymond had estimated would cost $350 million. In 2010, St. Raymond owed Libeskind $955,000 and filed for bankruptcy. He had further debts exceeding $361,000 to credit card companies, $29,000 to those who put up the $1,000 deposits, and another $13,000 to the Louisiana Department of Revenue. The Internal Revenue Service placed a $144,447 lien on St. Raymond’s properties.
In addition to his architectural projects, Libeskind has worked with a number of international design firms to develop objects, furniture, and industrial fixtures for interiors of buildings. He recently established a design company in Milan, Libeskind Design, which has been commissioned to work with design companies such as Fiam, Artemide, Jacuzzi, TreP-Tre-Piu, Oliviari, Sawaya & Moroni, Poltrona Frau, and others.
Libeskind has also designed opera sets for productions such as the Norwegian National Theatre’s The Architect in 1998 and Saarländisches Staatstheater’s Tristan und Isolde in 2001. He also designed the sets and costumes for Intolleranza by Luigi Nono and for a production of Messiaen’s Saint Francis of Assisi by Deutsche Oper Berlin. He has also written free verse prose, included in his book Fishing from the Pavement.
While much of Libeskind’s work has been well-received, it has also been the subject of often severe criticism. Critics charge that it reflects a limited architectural vocabulary of jagged edges, sharp angles and tortured geometries, that can fall into cliche, and that it ignores location and context. In 2008 LA Times critic Christopher Hawthorne wrote: "Anyone looking for signs that Daniel Libeskind’s work might deepen profoundly over time, or shift in some surprising direction, has mostly been doing so in vain." In 2006, in the New York Times Nicolai Ouroussoff stated: "his worst buildings, like a 2002 war museum in England suggesting the shards of a fractured globe, can seem like a caricature of his own aesthetic." In the UK magazine Building Design, Owen Hatherley wrote of Libeskind’s students’ union for London Metropolitan University: "All of its vaulting, aggressive gestures were designed to ’put London Met on the map’, and to give an image of fearless modernity with, however, little of consequence." William JR Curtis in Architectural Review called his Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre "a pile-up of Libeskindian clichés without sense, form or meaning" and wrote that his Hyundai Development Corporation Headquarters delivered "a trite and noisy corporate message".
In response, Libeskind says he ignores critics: "How can I read them? I have more important things to read."
The following projects are listed on the Studio Daniel Libeskind website. The first date is the competition, commission, or first presentation date. The second is the completion date or the estimated date of completion.
1989–1999 Jewish Museum Berlin – Berlin, Germany
1995–1998 Felix Nussbaum Haus – Osnabrück, Germany
1997–2001 Imperial War Museum North – Greater Manchester, England, United Kingdom
1998–2008 Contemporary Jewish Museum – San Francisco, California, United States
2000–2003 Studio Weil – Majorca, Spain
2000–2006 Extension to the Denver Art Museum, Frederic C. Hamilton Building – Denver, Colorado, United States
2000–2006 Denver Art Museum Residences – Denver, Colorado, United States
2000–2008 Westside Shopping and Leisure Centre – Bern, Switzerland
2001–2003 Danish Jewish Museum – Copenhagen, Denmark
2001–2004 London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre – London, England, United Kingdom
2001–2005 The Wohl Centre – Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel
2002–2007 Michael Lee-Chin Crystal, extension to Royal Ontario Museum and renovation of ten of its existing galleries – Toronto, Ontario, Canada
2003–2005 Tangent, Facade for Hyundai Development Corporation Headquarters – Seoul, South Korea
2004–2005 Memoria e Luce, 9/11 Memorial – Padua, Italy
2004–2007 Glass Courtyard addition to the Jewish Museum Berlin – Berlin, Germany
2004–2008 The Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge, residential condominium building – Covington, Kentucky, United States
2005–2009 MGM Mirage’s CityCenter, retail and public space on the Las Vegas Strip – Paradise, Nevada
2004–2010 Grand Canal Square, Grand Canal Theatre and Commercial Development – Dublin, Ireland
2010 Wheel of Conscience monument, M.S. St. Louis Memorial, Pier 21 – Halifax, Canada
2001–2011 Military History Museum – Dresden, Germany
2002–2011 Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre at the City University of Hong Kong – Hong Kong
2006–2011 Reflections at Keppel Bay, high-rise and low-rise villa apartment blocks – Keppel Bay, Singapore
2007–2008 18.36.54 private residence – Connecticut, United States
2007–2011 Haeundae I Park Marina, skyscraper complex – Busan, South Korea
2007–2013 Złota 44, apartment tower – Warsaw, Poland
2009 Libeskind Villa – prefab smart house – Rheinzink GmbH & Co. KG Global Headquarters, Datteln, Germany
2010–2012 Jewish Museum Berlin Academy in the Eric F. Ross Building, academy – Berlin, Germany
2012–2015 Mons International Congress XPerience, Mons, Belgium
2014–2015 Life Electric, sculpture – Como, Italy
2003–2014 World Trade Center master plan – New York City, New York
2004–2015 CityLife (Milan), masterplan – Milan, Italy
2005–2013 L Tower and Sony Centre for the Performing Arts Redevelopment – Toronto, Canada
2009–2013 Kö-Bogen, Königsallee, Düsseldorf, Germany
2010–2014 Vitra Tower – Sao Paulo, Brazil
2015–2016 Odgen Centre for Fundamental Physics at Durham University, Durham, United Kingdom
Proposed or in design
2009–? Archipelago 21, masterplan – Seoul, South Korea
2009–? Harmony Tower, Seoul, South Korea
2009–? Dancing Towers, Seoul, South Korea
2008–? New York Tower, New York, United States
2010–2013 Tampere Central Arena – Tampere, Finland
2018 – Vilnius Great Synagogue restoration, Vilnius, Lithuania
Libeskind design products
2007 Royal Ontario Museum Spirit House Chair, Nienkamper, Toronto, Canada
2009 Tea Set, Sawaya & Moroni
2009 Denver Door Handle, Olivari
2011 eL Masterpiece, Zumtobel Group, Sawaya & Moroni
2012 Torq Armchair and Table, Sawaya & Moroni
2012 Zohar Street Lamp, Zumtobel Group
2012 The Idea Door 1 & 2, TRE-Più
2013 The Wing Mirror, Fiam
2013 Flow, Jacuzzi
2013 Paragon Lamp, Artemide
2013 Nina Door Handle, Olivari
2014 Ice Glass Installation, Lasvit
Gold medal for Architecture at the National Arts Club (2007)
RIBA International Award for Wohl Centre at Bar-Ilan University (2006)
RIBA International Award for the Imperial War Museum North (2004)
RIBA Award for the London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre (2004)
Appointed as the first Cultural Ambassador for Architecture by the U.S. Department of State (2004)
Honorary member of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, England (2004)
Man of the Year Award from the Tel Aviv Museum of Art (2004)
First architect to win the Hiroshima Art Prize, awarded to an artist whose work promotes international understanding and peace (2001)
Goethe Medal for cultural contribution by the Goethe Institute (2000)
Time Magazine Best of 1998 Design Awards for the Felix Nussbaum Haus (1998)
Elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters (1996)
Venice Biennale First Prize Stone Lion Award for Palmanova Project (1985)
National Endowment for the Arts Design Arts Grant for Studies in Architecture (1983)
American Institute of Architects Medal for Highest Scholastic Achievement (1970)
First recipient of honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Art (DFA) from University of Ulster in recognition of his outstanding services to global architecture and design (2009)
In 2003, he received the Leo Baeck Medal for his humanitarian work promoting tolerance and social justice.
Doctor Honoris Causa of the New Bulgarian University from 2013 in recognition of his influence on the contemporary architectural research and practice.
Studio Libeskind is involved in designing and realizing a diverse array of urban, cultural and commercial projects around the globe. Our Studio is a collaboration of architects and designers that believe architecture is a practice of optimism. We approach our projects with the attitude that to make great places, you must believe in the future, but also remember the past.
Studio Libeskind’s architecture emerges from the idea that a building should be expressive and reflect contemporary life. Innovation is at the core of our design process. We believe that bold design must be realized with sustainable technology and we strongly believe that the art of architecture lies in creating a maximum impact within the constraints of budgets and functionality. We know from experience that great architecture comes from working with great clients; however, architecture is a public art and we hold ourselves accountable not only to the client, but to the communities, and cities in which we build.
Daniel and his partner Nina Libeskind established Studio Daniel Libeskind in Berlin, Germany, in 1989 after winning the competition to build the Jewish Museum Berlin. In February 2003, Studio Daniel Libeskind moved its headquarters from Berlin to New York City when Daniel Libeskind was selected as the master planner for the World Trade Center redevelopment. The Studio has offices overlooking the World Trade Center site in New York, and is also located in central Milan. The Milan Studio includes a product design division, Libeskind Design.