I think its safe to say that every creative soul has a moment, or likely several moments, when the clouds part and the light shines through to reveal an inspiring example of artistry. An example of what could be done, an inspiration of what hasn’t been done yet, and more importantly, an example of how to go about doing it.
With the recent passing of Dame Zaha Hadid, it occurred to me that, once again due to the rat race of everyday life, we, as people, often forget to give our inspirations the flowers while they are still able to smell them. W+A seeks to change that. Thus, this is the first of an on going series dedicated to the works of design and their designers (art, architecture, interiors, graphics, etc.) that have provided us at W+A with those “ah ha” or “eureka” moments.
Without further ado, Where it All Began for me was with Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum Berlin.
Making sense of architecture in school and in the work force are two distinct battles. Hopefully, before getting out into the ‘real world’ one has found some understanding while in school of how one might approach architecture and design if he or she were able to actually design something. For me, that understanding came during year 3 of a 5 year program, when we were finally given projects that really let us explore what our designs could be. But what does one do with all of this freedom? How does one apply a creative concept into a building design? Where does one start?
Luckily, we had some direction. Our class was given the task of designing a new African American Museum on the National Mall (this is before they announced David Adjaye as the winner). This was perfect, for in my opinion, the best building type for an exploration in creativity is a civic/cultural project. Now, to tackle the theme of what a museum would be dedicated to, one is forced to investigate what that theme is and what it means to a wide range of people that were or will be affected by said theme. For me, research became a fun and creative way to find precedent of how to go about implementing meaning and reasoning into a design. It was through my investigations of museum designs that I would discover a gem located in Berlin, focused on the history of the Jewish people of Germany.
Of course there are a thousands of other projects that have layers of reasoning and sophistication but Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum made me say “so THIS is what architecture can be.” Before I continue I must admit, I have a thing for angles. I don’t know why exactly, but if forced to explain maybe they possess a dynamic movement through their imagery that always captured my intrigue. They are not safe like curves nor are they as mundane as regular linear designs. They keep things crisp and active. It’s safe to say I was destined to find this building. In my exploration of why it looked the way it did (between you and me, this probably had some difficulties in manifestation) I found a plethora of inspiration.
“Angles are difficult in a functioning building” is the polite summary of what my professors would say when doing parti diagrams with acute or obtuse angles dancing all over my sketch pad. But now I had my ammo. Within the Jewish Museum I found details and narratives for all of the moves that were seen and more significantly, all the moves that were felt. Each angle and space created from the merging of lines and planes meant something specific. The directional slips and cuts on the façade meant something. The procession from the old building into this new parasitic building meant something. All of the decisions that were evident to the naked eye on screen or on page, and those that were only seen by attendees, were a revelation of how in-depth design considerations, in any project, in any field, should be.
This was my ‘Holy Grail.’ My treasure map to finding ‘why’ and ‘how’ to really say you were designing something. What are the gestures that are being made and why? What are the extents to which the design can encompass meaning and significance? What design language were you establishing? Probably the essential take away was, what is the feeling and experience your design establishes? It is one thing to make things look a certain way in order to – well, look a certain way. It’s another thing to understand how to merge appearance and reasoning to establish an experience.
My investigation of the Jewish Museum Berlin as a student supplied me with an approachable education in critical thinking towards creativity. I took my findings and went on to be voted to lead a team of classmates as head designer (1 of 5 chosen) for our in class competition for the African American Museum. Unfortunately, I didn’t win. To this day I’m still perturbed that Peat’s design won the competition, but hey it was nice too.
Regardless, it was a slight validation that I could comprehend how to implement ideas and reasoning into a design concept. Now, could I do that with an actual real life building? Well… who knows. In school though, I was now equipped with a tutorial on how to approach and defend a complex idea for this complex subject we call architecture.
For that I say thank you Daniel Libeskind, Studio Libeskind and the Jewish Museum Berlin, for making architecture a little less confusing while in school.
*I highly recommend searching the specifics of the design of this building if you have not done so already…very compelling!