A writer explores his father's mysterious imprisonment, and accusations that he was spying for the CIA, in revolutionary-era Iran.
On September eleventh, ten years after the World Trade Center attack, politicians and relatives of the victims will gather again in New York. This time, they’ll meet in a memorial garden, complete with water cascades in the footprint of the original Twin Towers. It’s the first completed section of the redeveloped World Trade Center site. In 2003, Daniel Libeskind’s firm was chosen to design a new master plan for the site. The famed architect talks with Diane about why the project reaffirms his belief in democracy.
- Daniel Libeskind architect, master planner for the World Trade Center site and author of the memoir, "Breaking Ground."
MS. DIANE REHMThanks for joining us. I'm Diane Rehm. The National September 11 Memorial opens to the public next month. The New York Times calls it the city's first great public work of the 21st century. The project began eight years ago when architect Daniel Libeskind was chosen as master plan architect for the World Trade Center reconstruction site.
MS. DIANE REHMHe joins me in the studio to talk about the challenges he's faced and why he believes the project has the power to heal. He has, of course, written about his own life and his adventures in architecture and we are talking about his activities to create this wonderful monument. If you'd like to join us, call us on 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org Join us on Facebook or send us a tweet. Good morning to you.
MR. DANIEL LIBESKINDGood morning.
REHMHow nice to have you here.
LIBESKINDIt's a pleasure to be here, thank you, Diane.
REHMWhen did you first begin to feel strongly that you had an image for this piece of work?
LIBESKINDWell, you know, it's strange that the moment I saw those images on television of the planes attacking New York on September 11th, you know, I was not in New York. I was in Berlin. I had been living in Berlin where I was working with the Jewish Museum. And after 13 years of working on this difficult project in Berlin, the museum opened on September 11th, 2001.
LIBESKINDAnd I remembered going to work that day to studio and saying, you know, this is the first time I don't really have to think about history because people can enter the Jewish Museum, can see it for themselves and it's a, you know it's a new day. And then, about 2:30 Berlin time, we saw those images and I suddenly thought, you know, you can never say history is over. History is always strangely interconnected. And at that point, I said, I'm returning to New York. I said, I'm returning to Lower Manhattan.
LIBESKINDDid I have any idea why? No, it was just an intuition. I wanted to be in Lower Manhattan after seeing this incredible tragedy. And later on, in 2003, there was a competition in which I participated and I have to tell you it was a visceral reaction to what happened. When I went down to the site, to the bedrock, I had a complete kind of revelation of what it was about, that this was not just a piece of real estate with some nice buildings.
LIBESKINDThis was a site of deep memory which also has to rejuvenate New York and the spirit of liberty, the spirit of what we all stand for, for freedom. And I had that vision because, you know, I was an immigrant to New York and I came, you know to New York by a ship right next to that site. And when I stood in the backdrop next to the great wall that we saw, that huge, retaining the slurry wall, I saw myself and my family arriving on a ship and looking at that skyline...
LIBESKIND...via the Statue of Liberty and that's why I incorporated the Statue of Liberty, the torch of liberty, all the symbols, 1776, the height of the tower number one. I thought that was part of the meaning of the site.
REHMSo you truly consider yourself a New Yorker despite having been born in Poland?
LIBESKINDOf course. I mean, the minute I came to New York, I came to the Bronx. My parents were working people in the sweatshops of New York. I didn't speak any English. I went to, you know, Bronx High School of (word?) and I went to Cooper Union and studied architecture. And by the way, as a student, a young student of architecture, I used to come down with my friend to the World Trade Center site because we saw the towers being built and that was an enormous education because nothing like that had ever been built in the history of New York. And we used to go there and marvel at these gigantic structures that were, you know, being built.
LIBESKINDSo, yes, I have a close connection, not to mention my father was a printer. He worked right around Wall Street, you know, commuting from the Bronx by subway every day. My brother-in-law worked as an engineer in those towers of the Port Authority. So the site was very close to my heart.
REHMBut it was the ideas that came to you first, the ideas of what that place stood for in your heart more than the image of what would come next?
LIBESKINDYou're totally correct. I didn't start by saying I want to do the project, I want to do some building.
LIBESKINDNot at all. I was very moved and particularly when I -- you know, it was an interesting encounter when I was selected as one of the finalist architects. We were all together in the Allen D.C. offices at 1 Liberty Plaza overlooking the site on a grim November day. It was very rainy, very dark and somebody from the Port Authority said to these architects, my colleagues, does anybody want to go down to the bedrock? And everybody said, no, no it's better to see it here because we can have a very perfect view of it.
LIBESKINDAnd something moved me and I said, I want to go down. And, you know, we got these rubber galoshes, these cheap umbrellas and as I walked down some 75 feet down that ramp that we saw, really my life changed. Everything that I had in my head evaporated. It was if I was sinking into the ocean, the atmospheric pressure I felt on my head. And, you know, I was with one of the engineers of the Port Authority and by accident, I touched a huge wall that was there and he said, to me, that's the slurry wall.
LIBESKINDAnd, you know, in all the years that I studied architecture I had never heard that word. And he said that's the retaining wall, that's a dam that is holding back the pressures of the Hudson River. If that wall had collapsed, all the subways would have been fried. It would have been an apocalypse. And I thought, my God, at the bedrock where people perished, that wall looking towards the Statue of Liberty, seeing around me this area, which is sacred. It's sacred ground. It's not just a place.
LIBESKINDI didn't think of just some buildings, but a composition that would really sort of harmonize and cohere between memory and also rising out of these ashes and creating something positive, something that is memorable.
REHMDaniel Libeskind, he's principal design architect at Studio Daniel Libeskind. He's also master plan architect for the World Trade Center reconstruction site. Do join us 800-433-8850. Tell us about your experience growing up in Communist Poland, the son of holocaust survivors? How did that affect your work as an architect?
LIBESKINDVery much so, you know living even as a 13-year-old boy, 11, 12, under a Communist oppressive totalitarian regime and being Jewish, anti-Semitism was very -- it was gray. It was depressing. I could see what freedom could -- we longed for freedom. It wasn't an abstraction we read in a book. And when we came to America, these values that we all hold dear, democracy, open society, liberty, these were not abstractions. This was the true place where you could speak your mind, where you could interact with people from all over the world.
LIBESKINDSo that definitely formed my -- you know, my parents were holocaust survivors. They suffered, but they saw the good in life. They, you know, they were not damaged in the sense that they saw life as -- in bleak forms. They saw that people could win out over evils and maybe that's what I picked out from them, that there is no use in being a pessimist. That it's useless to have a depressive outlook, that you can move forward then you can improve that. You can do something better and that you can reaffirm something through your faith and belief in people and in society.
REHMWhat interests me so much is that you really became a professional musician and then you got interested in mathematics and then somehow, in your soul, you put the two together and came to architecture.
LIBESKINDWell, it's true I followed a very strange path because I was a virtuoso performer in music and then I found out, you know, mathematics was so interesting. I loved drawing and I discovered architecture is one of these great arts which combines my interests. It combines scientific interests, which I always had. It combines music because the sound, the acoustics of space, plus the fact that our sense of balance is in the ear, in the inner ear. It's not just in the eye. So the musical quality of space, a scientific interest that I had, mathematics, geometry and the cosmos and at the same time, of course, the interest in making something, in making, you know, making buildings, architecture.
LIBESKINDAnd architecture is the so-called mother of the arts because it does incorporate all the liberal arts. I've often thought that it's really a fantastic thing to be involved in because you can love music, you can love astronomy, and you can love geometry, poetry and dance. It's all part of architecture.
REHMIt's all part of architecture. And when you told your family you wanted to study architecture having had this musical career, how did they react?
LIBESKINDYou know it was very funny. I had a very wise mother. She had a, you know, she came from a famous Hassidic background. And when I wanted to be an artist and just perform and then just a pure visual art, she said, you know, you should be an architect. And I said, why? And she said, because you know it's also something civic, something for the people. It's not just for yourself and, you know, at that time, I listened to her. I listened to my mother. I would have never been an architect without her wise advice.
LIBESKINDAnd there's a truth because there's an ethical dimension to architecture because it's about others. It's not just about buildings and steel and making spaces, it's about people, it's about opening doors and it's about welcoming. It's an utterly humane relationship to others and to all the others so my mother steered me in the right direction. I'm forever thankful for her wise advice.
REHMIf it's also, of course, a profession that includes others, as a sole performer, you are on that stage by yourself. As an architect, you're working with the ideas of others coming into your mind?
LIBESKINDOf course, you know, I could -- an analogy here is perhaps of a composer and a conductor who, you know, are not the first performer. You don't see, you know, the conductor, the composer are not playing the first violin or the cello or piano, but to get everyone together in a consensus to produce the harmony, that's what it is.
REHMDaniel Libeskind, he's master plan architect for the World Trade Center reconstruction site. A short break and we'll be right back.
REHMWelcome back. If you've just joined us, Daniel Libeskind is with me. He's principal design architect at Studio Daniel Libeskind. He's also master plan architect for the World Trade Center reconstruction site. If you'd like to join us, 800-433-8850. Send us your e-mail to email@example.com. A number of people would like to hear you talk about the competition process and to what extent your design itself was the winner or to what extent your impassioned speech played a role.
LIBESKINDWell, I think -- first of all, let me say that I think that architect is not just a building with hard materials and objects. It's about telling a story. It's not just telling the story in words. It's telling the story in buildings and spaces and three dimensions in time. So architecture, as I consider it, is a story-telling profession because the site of ground zero has to tell the story of memory of what happened -- of what happened, what was attacked, how people perished and also that it means something to us, that it does not end. That we take the sacred ground and lift it and rebuild it to prove that we have vanquished the evils, that we will always fight them.
LIBESKINDAnd that out of these ashes will rise, I think, a magnificent new neighborhood. Not just the -- a building or a memorial, but a new neighborhood in New York, which will speak to the spirit of New York, the spirit of America. So the competition, of course, is a tough process because you have to be able to explain your design, you have to be able to draw it, you have to create three dimensional models. It has to be both practical, but also have a significance. You know, you can draw anything that could wind up, you know, in an archive, but to draw something that can be built and that people want to build that can garner consensus.
LIBESKINDAnd by the way, I really do love democracy because democracy's not easy. There are all sorts of conflicts, different interests and there's so many stakeholders. But I would never have preferred a king to give me a piece of land and say build whatever you want. I like this process because that is what an open society is about. And, of course, a master plan that I drew has to be able to garner consensus. The developers have to agree, but more importantly, the family of the victims, the governor, the governors who are on the Port Authority, the path authorities. I mean, all the myriad of people involved have to agree.
REHMHow many competitors were there?
LIBESKINDWell, initial there were seemingly thousands because there were hundreds of competitors and the teams were very large, made up of still other teams of experts. At the end, I think, the number of competitors were reduced to about 12, if I'm not mistaken. So it shrunk down to seven and, you know, so it became more like a marathon.
REHMAnd to what extent do you think that your own presentation, your own speech, influenced the judges?
LIBESKINDWell, it could be that what I said -- I didn't talk about buildings -- just buildings and just organizational principle and traffic flow patterns, which I knew were very, very important. I spoke what this sacred ground means, how to treat it. First of all, by not considering building where people perished. This is a 16-acre site. About half of the site, about eight acres, I left open to the public because the site has changed. You can't repeat what was there because it's no longer just a piece of real estate to build buildings. We have to remember.
LIBESKINDBut out of that remembrance, we have to also construct something inspiring, something fantastic at 21st Century New York that means something where the buildings are not just single elements but are part of the composition that, for example, echoes the torch in Lady Liberty's hand there's the five towers. Tower number one is 1776. It's not the tallest tower in New York. It's a tower that when you look in the skyline you can see that it speaks to the Declaration of Independence. It speaks to the fact that this site is where George Washington came to pray after being inaugurated as the first president of our country, right there where St. Paul Church is.
LIBESKINDSo I created also the Wedge of Light, kind of an extra public space that connects not simply St. Paul's and the rest of Lower Manhattan, but is geometrically a memorial in the skyline. Because it's 8:46 a.m. when the first terror struck is the line of that space and 10:28 is a central line of the path terminal. So even on an everyday commute you will know that there's something special about this space because at that date, every September 11 the light will just define exactly the geometry of that time.
LIBESKINDSo the many features which I felt were not just addendums or foot notes but important symbolic spiritual to tell the story.
REHMI know that you talked to many people. You mentioned the governor, you mentioned the mayor, you mentioned -- did you talk to the survivors of those who had died?
LIBESKINDYou know, I started with the survivors. I was not interested in anything else. You know, I -- you know, I forgot about the buildings. I was not interested in any -- I just was interested because I identified with them. You know, as a child of survivors I understood that that was the most important thing, that those people who lost their loved ones, who lost their wives, their sons, their fathers, that's what the project really is the center of it. That's the flame that is eternal on that site. And so that's where I started and we became very close friends with many, many members of the families who suffered in this event.
REHMAnd what about first responders?
LIBESKINDThat too. That was something that, I have to tell you, changed my life totally. As I was standing on the site, I think it was with Lee Ielpi, one of the fathers of one of the -- his son was a firefighter who perished, young son of 29. And I saw a map and it was a map of the site but it had thousands of red dots, thousands. And I couldn't fathom what it was. And it was a map of those who perished there, policemen, firemen, body parts found. And, you know, it -- you know, I thought -- you know, I'm a New Yorker so I see firemen, I see policemen, but the hero was most of those people who came there to help others.
LIBESKINDYou know, the word hero has been abused, it has been made cheap, it's a cliché. But I truly believe that the people who were there, how they behaved was a lesson in what America is, the solidarity of people in a tragedy and post-tragedy. The magnificent pulling together of New Yorkers and others to understand that this was not just one event out of many, but an event that has changed the world and will continue to change it.
REHMThere has been some controversy over the fact that Mayor Bloomberg has said that there is no room on September 11 for the first responders or their survivors to participate at the site. I wondered what your reaction to that was.
LIBESKINDWell, I can't comment on it because all I can do is fulfill the spatial program. But I think there is a validity in being able -- for everyone to be able to come to the site as a sacred site. Since this is no longer just another site in New York -- and, by the way, in the plan that is being built, while you see the magnificent memorial with the waterfalls, it's deep. It's three dimensional because the waterfalls fall all the way down. And when you can access the bedrock, which will be next year through -- and get into the museum, you will not only see the artifacts, but you will feel the power of New York rising from that bedrock where people were lost rising into the foundations and into the aperture of the skyline and the magnificent buildings that will really provide the background of this new really civic plaza for New York.
REHMTalk about, if you would, the memorial garden -- the plans for the memorial garden and the plaza.
LIBESKINDWell, they're, I think, beautiful. What has been done is that the footprints are really magnificent. They're delineated, they are deep, they go down and there are waterfalls. And I felt from the very beginning of the competition as a master plan that waterfalls were a very important element to screen the traffic noise of Lower Manhattan to give a kind of intimate feeling to people who will be there. And also to bring nature to an area which is a lot of hard-scape, a lot of, you know, tall buildings and a lot of asphalt to bring nature into the area so that people will enjoy be there -- spending time there.
LIBESKINDAnd so we have -- Peter Walker did the park and Michael Arad did the memorial. And I think it's very moving. You know, I walked through it many, many times and you see New York in a different perspective. You suddenly see different vistas. You're close to the Hudson River. You suddenly see that between East River and Hudson, between the north and south neighborhoods that were so damaged, you know, Chinatown, Tribeca, Battery Park, Wall Street suddenly come into the composition, are part of the new neighborhood. So I think it's a very moving, interesting...
REHMAnd before we open the phones, how much of the plan that you created originally has changed?
LIBESKINDYou know, the plan has developed but I think if I would show you or the audience the original sketches, it's extremely close. Of course, I drew everything as if with one hand but I knew very well that this will have to be coordinated between hundreds of hands. So there might be a division of labor but as a unity of the master plan, unity of an idea of space, of form, of character, of light, of sound, of traffic, of connectivity. So it's very, very close.
LIBESKINDOf course it'd have to, you know, garner consensus. It would have to be -- you know, there would have to be compromises. There has to be an infrastructure built. I mean, it's a very complex piece of a city. Even as an infrastructure project, will be one of the biggest in the world. As a cultural project it will be one of the biggest in the world. As an office center it will be one of the biggest in the world. As a memorial, it's one of the biggest, so all of those in one place.
REHMAt the same time, this whole project has been delayed because of some funding, some disagreements, some -- delays are part and parcel of a huge project like this. Were you at all bothered by some of the changes to your original plan?
LIBESKINDI wouldn't -- again, I don't think that changed the developments. And architecture is a dynamic village, you know -- if you wanna do a nice painting and put it in a museum, that's another thing . If you wanna build a piece of a city, a neighborhood that shines with its own light, that provides spaces for the inhabitants that is an attraction, that has a emotional connection, a physical connection, an economic and cultural connection then you have to be able to develop a scheme. And of course, from a drawing that I did in six weeks in the competition to come to create this place, of course, you have to work very hard to do it.
REHMWhat about the politics involved and the connection between what you do in your heart and mind and the political realities?
LIBESKINDWell, there was a lot of politics, but the then Governor Pataki supported the project, Mayor Bloomberg, the families -- primarily the families of the victims. It could have never been built with -- and Port Authority and many, many others. And I think -- you know, I don't think of it as my design. It's not about me, it's not about -- you know, it's about New York. As a New Yorker I thought, you know, what about New York? What does New Yorkers want? And you will remember that some people said, don't build any tall buildings here. Let's have a low-scape. I said no. As a New Yorker, no New Yorker wants to reduce Lower Manhattan to a village. This is the center of New York. This is the financial -- this is the capital.
LIBESKINDSo I followed my intuitions as a New Yorker and I think New Yorkers responded. And of course there will always be controversy, always be differences but that's part of a project of this sort.
REHMDaniel Libeskind. He's master plan architect for the World Trade Center reconstruction site. We're going to open the phones now so if you'll put those headphones on we'll go to first Lyman, New Hampshire. Good morning, Mark, you're on the air.
MARKYes, good morning. I really appreciate the beauty of what Mr. Libeskind has designed. But as a first responder, an unpaid civilian volunteer on the site and after witnessing these towers fall from the tower that I was building not 700' away and 500' in the air, I know that they are using these same construction techniques as the first tower. And I'm wondering why these towers were built using sheer bolts, number one, which failed and caused the massive steel structure to fail in the original towers.
MARKAnd the other thing I wondered is why they haven't instituted a massive fire stop and seal program in all of the conduits and raceways throughout the blue buildings, which would have -- which would prevent, obviously, jet fuel from cascading down buildings, but also run in the fires from floor to floor. I think there's a big design failure in these buildings and I'm wondering why nobody has ever took this into consideration and just went with the mass building and sheer bolts again.
REHMMark, thank you for what you have done.
LIBESKINDWithout getting -- I'm not an engineer of these buildings, but I have to say that safety and security was a very, very predominant concern. And some of the delays, as you know, were because of security issues. There were even differences between New York City police department, FBI and other organizations. I think a lot of thought has gone into safety of the site, safety of buildings, sustainability of the buildings as well.
LIBESKINDThese buildings are not really just repetitions of what was there before. And I think, in my plan, I didn't want to just build tall buildings. I tried to bring the buildings down so they are not -- you know, there used to be two buildings there that had the 10 million square feet of density. I distributed that density into five buildings so that they could be closer to the ground, they could -- one could have better streetscape and reduce the impact of these issues on tall buildings. But I think they were designed with great care.
REHMThank you for calling, Mark. To Cecilia. You're in Detroit, Mich. Good morning.
CECILIAGood morning. My dad was an architect with Yamasaki and Associates who -- they're the original designers of the World Trade Center. He started there in 1963, but the project, I understand, went from 1962 to '74. It took 12 years. But I just wondered if your guest had spoken to any of those architects who had worked on the original project. I know some of them were still alive when the towers came down and also if any of them might have been invited to the new memorial.
LIBESKINDWell, I used to be a head of architecture school at Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan. And I knew -- I had visited Yamasaki and I had students who actually worked for Mr. Yamasaki. I was a great admirer of his. Certainly the knowledge of what was there, the knowledge of the history of the site was very, very important to everyone...
LIBESKIND...who worked on the site.
REHMHad to have been.
LIBESKINDAbsolutely. And I think those incredible trident structures which supported the original twin towers are magnificent and emblematic symbols in the new visitors pavilion and in the 9/11 museum. They will be incredibly powerful because they were retrieved after the attacks. And I think they will serve to guide people both in memory and into the future of the site.
REHMCecilia, is your father still living?
CECILIANo. He passed away December 24 of 2006. But I know that there were some articles in the Detroit News with some of his coworkers. He had not worked on the project himself 'cause he just started there in 1963...
CECILIA...when I was five years old. But it was a huge project at the time, of course, and, I mean, Minoru Yamasaki was a perfectionist.
REHMYes. Thank you so much for calling and joining us. We'll take more of those calls, comments after a short break. Stay with us.
REHMWe're talking about the World Trade Center and on September 11 of the people who will be at the site is Daniel Libeskind, master plan architect for the reconstruction site. One of the questions that I asked you earlier about first responders and the mayor's decision that there was not enough room for them to participate in the ceremony, I think, has really touched a lot of people.
REHMWell, I disagree with the -- with the decision. I think the first responders were the heroes of that day. And, I think, there must be a way to give them, not only space, but priority because the first responders were really the key to the resurrection of the site. So I can't fathom a situation in which first respondents would not be, not only venerated, but given prime possibility to be there.
REHMDo you think you might talk with the mayor himself about that?
LIBESKINDI certainly will. I certainly will.
LIBESKINDI think it's very, very important. You know -- and I know many first responders.
REHMHere's an e-mail from Bernadette who says, "One of my cousins died in the towers on September 11. Did Mr. Libeskind consider just leaving the site as is without any embellishments? I'm somewhat upset with the design in trying to make it over.
LIBESKINDWell, I thought about in because when my original plan I sort of -- where the memorial is -- where the tragedy happened I had a cut, some 75 feet down, and just left it kind of as it was (unintelligible) . The designers of the memorial brought that ground up to street level, but I think that was good because I think we have to somehow connect this to the life of the city.
LIBESKINDIt is not an embellishment, I would say the memorial. I think the memorial with its names, with its -- with its kind of dignity will be a very moving and permanently moving -- not just moving for us who were witnesses to events, but to people who will have only read about them. And, I think, what is so special about this site and what I attempted doing in the master plan is that you cannot simulate the site.
LIBESKINDEven on TV or in movies or in virtual reality you have to be there. And you have to feel. And I say feel because it's not just a mental exercise with your eyes, but you have to feel your own body in that space and, I think, people will with the bedrock, with the waterfalls, with the cuts in the ground where the footprints were and with the trees and the meditative quality of a space that it still has to be a positive space for New York.
LIBESKINDAfter all, this is the center of New York. We cannot shift New York, and that's what I always said, into a sad register after this event. We cannot make something that will make New York a depressed and sad city. New York is the most fun city. It's the most incredible city of people, of humor, of business, of culture, that's what I tried to do. You have to balance the memory, but, at the same time, reaffirm the future as a fantastic future.
REHMAnd the question becomes will the new tower be a symbol of what occurred or will it become commercial real estate?
LIBESKINDI think it's a tower. It's a commercial tower; no doubt about it, but I insisted that it has two elements, which are symbolic; one, is that it soars in the skyline. It's not just, you know, a hundred stories, that it soars beyond the heights of the World Trade Center to 1,776 feet, but it's some 400 feet higher than the buildings were of the World Trade Center because I thought that emblem in the skyline was very important point down to the memorial and to what happened.
LIBESKINDAt the same time I insisted that there be platforms for visitors at the levels of the World Trade Center so people could ascend to that height. And, of course, other than that you also have to understand that these towers were supposed to be, and are, part of New York's life. They are designed for offices and so on. That was not a choice of the architects. That was just a program given by the authorities.
REHMAll right. We'll go back to the phones. Let's go to Charlotte, N.C., good morning, Fred, you're on the air.
FREDGood morning, Diane. Hey, and I want to say congratulations to Daniel. We can clearly hear the compassion in his voice for the Trade Center and if the final design is anything like the compassion he has, I know it's going to be probably the eighth wonder of the world.
LIBESKINDThank you so much.
FREDMy question is in front of 2wo World Trade there was a monument that was twisted up and dangling and I remember us having a hard time trying to decide was it take -- finish taking this thing down or to leave it. Well, in the end, we did leave it and was that -- or did Daniel -- Daniel, did you include that monument or that piece of structure that was all twisted and mangled?
FREDIs that included in your final design?
LIBESKIND...yeah, let me say that there is the National 911 Memorial Museum. And it has curators, directors, experts who have collected incredible materials, which were stored at a terminal. All the materials that were selected to be part of that story of that day, what happened. And I'm sure that there are -- and I'm not the one who was really given that task.
LIBESKINDBut, I think, one will be very moved to see many, many remaining objects, some of them twisted out of shape, fire trucks, police truck, the remnants of what people lost -- shoes. It's going to be a very moving, powerful, powerful museum. It'll open 2012, one year after this memorial and, I think, people will be able, not only to see the remaining objects, but to see it in a space which brings them back to that bedrock, brings them back to the light of that day.
LIBESKINDAnd, I think no one will remain oblivious. No one will remain just neutral. People will feel what it meant for New York and how New Yorkers responded and the creativity of the people of New York and the compassion of New Yorkers and Americans.
REHMFred, I know you also wanted to talk about the cracks in the slurry wall.
FREDYes, yes. I remember us having a hard time trying to find somebody that could seal those cracks and it was leaking a little. And I want to know if Daniel is -- I mean, did you do anything with that slurry wall?
FRED...part of the new design?
LIBESKINDYes, it is. You know it's -- it's a very interesting component. I insisted and I'm so glad that port authority agreed with me that the slurry wall should be maintained and visible to the public. It's an amazing artifact and, usually, you know, it's a foundation. Usually, we don't see foundations because we build on top of them. But to leave a foundation open, which is a living foundation.
LIBESKINDIt's not a foundation, you know, in Rome or in, you know, in Athens, it's a living foundation supporting the site, this huge retaining wall, of course, was a very delicate engineering operation. How to stabilize it, how to make sure that it works and, I think -- I was just there a couple of weeks ago. I have to tell you just coming close to it gives you that visceral feeling that this was built by New Yorkers.
LIBESKINDThis is where it happened. This is also coming from that bedrock into the skyline into the (word?) of the skyscraper. I think that slurry wall will be, itself, a witness and, I think, one of the largest artifacts of that attack.
REHMFred, thanks for calling. Here's an e-mail from Matt who says he visited the Imperial War Museum of North Manchester, U.K. when he was living in that area. He says, "The building really captured the spirit of what is contained in it. Can you comment on how you approach such different projects like a museum commemorating war versus an art museum versus what you're doing in New York City?"
LIBESKINDThat's a very perceptive question. I think I'm very interested in memory. You know, memory is not just something that we choose or something we can play with. It's part of being human. And without memory we would have no future. And every site and every program, whether it's a museum of art or a museum of conflict, deals with memory and how to make the memory into something positive, how to take it, emancipate it, liberate it, give it life.
LIBESKINDAnd so whether it's addressing, you know, I'm opening a museum in Dresden in October, which is the national history military museum, history of the military in Dresden, Germany. Again, you don't want to celebrate war. You don't want to celebrate evil, violence, but you want to communicate. You want to tell people, empower people, to understand so that these events would never happen again.
LIBESKINDAnd so every project is unique. You have to approach it uniquely. You have to be inspired by something that is not just obvious, but, you know, by a light of the eyes of someone you speak about. Some invisible corner on the ground that nobody has touched, by a voice that you can hear still there, even though the people are not there, so each project demands its own solution.
REHMAnd to Provincetown, Mass., good morning, Dan.
DANGood morning. I'm originally from Denver, Colo. and I wanted to say that Mr. Libeskind designed the new art museum at the Denver Art Museum. And, I think, it is just a wonderful, creative, imaginative structure.
DANAnd I am -- I am so happy that you have been chosen to design the building at the World Trade Center site. And I can't wait to go to New York and see it myself.
LIBESKINDThank you so much. I really appreciate that, thank you.
REHMThanks for calling, Dan, now to Andrew in San Antonio, Texas, good morning.
ANDREWI -- I'm a recent graduate with a master of science in architecture from a college here in San Antonio and I'm just -- personally I've had a chance to go to your -- to the site in Berlin with the Holocaust Memorial and I -- it's a very moving experience. And I'm just -- I know the symbolic element in any architectural project is difficult to express. Sometimes it -- the symbolism becomes (word?) that it's difficult to, you know, really, like, understand its sort of layers.
ANDREWAnd considering that -- what we associate with the site is embroiled in contemporary concerns with the wars we're engaged in, you know, how do you plan on, like, expressing our current engagements through the form because, you know, it's different than what it would be immediately after the fact, if we have constructed this thing in 2002, let's say.
ANDREWBut considering the political climate, I mean, it seems that -- that the nature of expressing the art would be different than it might have been, you know...
LIBESKINDWell, I think, first of all, I did not design the Holocaust Memorial. It was the Jewish Museum in Berlin. That's a different project, but, of course, what you're saying is right. That every project deserves to be thought about in a sensitive -- how -- what is it. It's not, you know, we don't choose these symbols. Symbols are not gimmicks or metaphors that are pinned to a building. You have to create a space that tells that story, that tells and communicates to a new generation the meaning.
LIBESKINDAnd the meaning is not that history is irretrievable and you can't change the past because we cannot change the past, but we can change the future. And I think that's why the building -- every building that deals with difficulties, even tragedies, has to be -- have the light of hope built into it because that's how we are as human beings. We can see a better world and a building has to have that light to be relevant.
REHMDaniel Libeskind, he is master plan architect for the World Trade Center reconstruction site and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." The Guardian newspaper -- an article July 31 said, "All are driven by a pervading fear that whatever is built to honor 911 will not be enough. So everything, waterfall, towers, museum, plaza, station is huge. And the question was it really necessary to try to build the tallest building in the world creating immense security issues in the process, especially now that New York has been thrust out of the tallest building game by Dubai?"
LIBESKINDYou know, I never thought building -- about the tallest building in the world. It's not the height of a building, it's the height of aspirations that I was interested in. It's the height of its meaning. It's not how many floors it has. And, of course, we also have to understand that tall buildings are about sustainability, about high density, so people can use public transport, so they can have access to creativity, to jobs.
LIBESKINDIt's -- we don't want to spread development, you know, into the suburbs continue to waste our resources so height in city building is not a sort of a flattery or an architect, it's a necessity in the modern world. And, I think, Ground Zero is creation of a new neighborhood in New York. It's a 21st Century neighborhood, which is vital with culture, with traffic, with communications, with public transport, with cultural facilities.
LIBESKINDIt's not just a stand-alone building. And many people often talk about a stand-alone building or a stand-alone memorial, but the whole idea of this master plan is to create a neighborhood. A neighborhood that is open to the Hudson River, that takes advantage of the beautiful views at the tip of Manhattan and that can bring people together socially into a space that is meaningful.
REHMWhat are your thoughts about the controversial mosque being built near Ground Zero?
LIBESKINDWell, I'm of the belief that, in this country, religion can be practiced. It's unambiguous. It's not yes, but -- anybody can practice if a religious group buys a site wherever commercially and wants to make it into a mosque or a synagogue or a church. You know, who are we to tell people they're not allowed to?
LIBESKINDNo, it's, first of all, the proposed mosque is not at Ground Zero. You know, I live, you know, right next to Ground Zero and I know it's not at Ground Zero at all. You know, all of lower Manhattan is altogether -- we are altogether in the same beautiful space in the world, but I'm of the belief that people have a right to practice their religion. That's what I love about America. That's what I love about separation of church and state. And I believe in that.
REHMYou have a project, perhaps coming up, here in Washington?
LIBESKINDWell, if I'm lucky, perhaps, yes. Well, we were working on a national Jewish museum in Washington, which is, you know, a very interesting small site that had a previous building, which is no longer used, and I created a building, which, I think, would add to the beauty of Washington because this is really our capitol and it's one of the great cities of the world.
LIBESKINDSo I thought that would be a very fascinating place to -- because Jewish values are not just ethnic values, they're universal values. Thou shall not kill, you know, that's part of the mosaic laws and I thought that would be an interesting cultural experience.
REHMDaniel Libeskind, he's master plan architect for the World Trade Center reconstruction site, which he hopes will be, for the most part, completed by the year 2013. Thank you so much for being here. What a pleasure.
LIBESKINDWhat a pleasure, thank you so much.
REHMAnd thanks for listening all, I'm Diane Rehm.
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