Last Sunday evening green and leafy Hampstead welcomed guests for Daniel Libeskind’s talk with Samira Ahmed – one of the first events of this year’s LFA. The talk was hosted at the Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands’ designed JW3, which has become one of the main cultural destinations in the area. It was great to see so many people give up their Sunday evenings to hear one of the world’s most famous architects speaking, and I attended with my friend Ivi Vasilopoulou from Heatherwick Studio and Kate Goodwin from the Royal Academy.
I need to say, I haven’t been to a talk this good for a long time. From the beginning to the end, Samira and Daniel had a perfect harmony, which made the whole conversation interesting and accessible to everyone. Samira started with Daniel’s childhood, how he remembers the shelter where he was born as a Holocaust survivor, and how the environment around him affected his visual memory. He mentioned what it means to live speaking only in whispers and told us about his talent for music – he was an accomplished piano player, later switching to the accordion – to becoming an architect. The conversation suited the theme of London Festival of Architecture “Memory” suited Daniel’s storyline perfectly.
He told behind the scenes stories from some of his most famous projects including the Jewish Museum in Berlin and National September 11 Memorial & Museum in New York City which both faced objections and huge public support at the same time. He said that “you can’t trace the lines of the past” when talking about rebuilding a city after destruction -“it deserves a new idea”. When it comes to his expertise in memorials, he said: “Buildings are memorial themselves. Some tells more stories than the others but the ground of architecture is memory.”
Daniel is an incredible storyteller and a daydreamer. We would have been happy to stay and listen to him for a few more hours. I understand now how he uses emotions as a tool for his designs and use memories as way finders. It without saying, Samira Ahmed did a great job in chairing the talk.