Born in Łódź, Poland on May 12, 1946, Libeskind was the second child of 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. That summer, the Libeskinds moved to New York City on one of the last immigrant boats to the United States.
In New York, Libeskind 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. 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 Essex University in 1972.
In 1968, Libeskind briefly worked as an apprentice to architect Richard Meier. In 1972, he was hired to work at Peter Eisenman’s New York Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, but he quit almost immediately.
Though he had been an architectural theorist and professor for many years, 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.” The first design competition that Libeskind won was in 1987 for housing in West Berlin, but soon thereafter the Berlin Wall fell and the project was cancelled. Libeskind won the first four projects he entered into competition for.
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. My comments to one of his critics…
…“the point” of Liebskind’s architecture… it is meant to provoke, to stimulate a new perspective, to find new boundaries… as every artist who has worked to do the same and advance society culturally, artistically. And as every artist over time has suffered the slings and arrows of “the resistance,” so do today’s outstanding and forward architects. History does not remember the ordinary or the derivative; it notes, recalls, and documents the extraordinary.
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 over 40 projects across the world. The studio’s most recent completed projects include the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, California, The Ascent at Roebling’s Bridge in Covington, Kentucky, and the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Ontario.
In addition to his architectural projects, Libeskind also designs 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.