Interview with Star Architect Daniel Libeskind In Times of Crisis 'People Do Extraordinary Things'

Star architect Daniel Libeskind doesn't think small. His current project in Las Vegas is part of the biggest privately funded building project in US history. In a SPIEGEL ONLINE interview, the star architect explains why it's more important than ever to build big -- and why he's sick of the bickering over Ground Zero.


SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Libeskind, you are the designer of "Crystals", a gigantic shopping center that is part of the $8.5 million CityCenter complex in Las Vegas, the largest privately financed building complex in the history of the US. You designed the retail centerpiece complete with luxury stores such as Tiffany, Gucci and Prada. Isn't all that a little anachronistic in these times of economic crisis?

Daniel Libeskind: On the contrary. Projects that are very bold and have a financial value that lasts are really important, especially in times when people don't have money. This is not the time for mediocre projects. Only in crisis times like these do people go out and do extraordinary things. This is how the Empire State Building or the Rockefeller Center got built.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The Empire State Building was built during the Great Depression but was not profitable for 20 years.

Libeskind: True, we won't see any more projects like CityCenter in the next few years. But the vision of my clients was extraordinary. It's a vision of the future. It's clear that this kind of architecture is ahead of its time in many, many ways.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You don't agree with critics like Christopher Hawthorne of the Los Angeles Times, who called CityCenter "one final echo of the boom years"?

Libeskind: Great visions that transform cities are not going to disappear. We won't lose heart and start building smaller houses now. Of course this is a difficult time for many. But it's also a good time to rethink architecture, to rethink what it is we're doing here.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So what is it you're doing in Las Vegas?

Libeskind: My idea was to erase the separation between commerce, culture and entertainment. We're so used to having museums here, housing there, and so on. I wanted to create a bold architectural space that is transgressive. So "Crystals" is more like a spectacular museum where you can buy a Gucci bag.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Are shopping malls our new museums?

Libeskind: It's kind of ironic: Whenever I built a cultural project -- and I've built many museums -- the client always wants to make sure that it is commercially viable, that the museum shop would make money too. But the same is true for commercial clients. They want to make money, yet their interest lies in raising the cultural value, too.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Commerce is culture.

Libeskind: It always has been. Look at the lively streets in cities that we love and appreciate. My idea here was to expand the urban space of the Vegas Strip and make it a magnet for people to walk around.


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