Christian Long

Daniel Libeskind: 17 Words of Architectural Inspiration

In TED Talks on May 1, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Reflection by HAGEN F.

Original TED page w/ speaker bio, links, comments, etc:

Daniel Libeskind: 17 Words of Architectural Inspiration

I want to start off by saying that I was a little “shaky” before listening/watching this video. The “17 Words” part of the title kind of makes you think that this video will be boring and the speaker will ramble on about meaningless words that you will forget in the next moment.

However, this is not the case because I ‘walked’ away from this video with many of the 17 words still in my head. It may just be my bias to want to be an architect, but if you watched this video, than odds are that you too are interested in architecture. The title clearly states that this video is primarily about architecture, you cannot complain when Libeskind talks about architecture because you knew before you watched this video.

With that out of the way, I will talk more about the way the video is presented. I would like to say that Libeskind talks quite fast in his video and at times it is hard to follow his speed, and I found myself pausing and rewinding the video a couple times. Libeskind is under a time limit, and he has seventeen words to say and explain in less than twenty minutes. The whole talk is a little under nineteen minutes, so if you take out one minute for the introduction and one more minute for the conclusion, than that only leaves one word for each remaining minute. I am pretty sure that Libeskind could spend nineteen minutes on just one word and really explain it, but he has to get his whole idea across to us. This is why he must speed through the different words to explain how he designs buildings.

I want to talk about each word, but put them into groups and analyze them together.

The first grouping will be the words political and democratic. These two words are put together for obvious reasons because they both are modeled around a governmental system. Libeskind uses them in different context to mean that, politically, all members of a city are all together and the buildings in that city represent the people of the city. If the buildings are boring and unexciting then the town is as well. Take New York City as an example because we know that that city has magnificent, tall buildings. We also know that most New Yorkers are people that always seem to be running around and dressed in business attire. Whereas in other, suburban cities, we do not see this because the buildings there are not tall office buildings for business related work. The connection of people and their city goes hand-in-hand with the definition of the democratic side of architecture. All the members of the city have to enjoy their buildings to actually want to live there. If you were a person that did not like the “hustle and bustle” of the city, then you would not live in a busy city. The tall business buildings attract business people, so to avoid that you would live in a more suburban area.

The next couple words I would like to talk about are the words risky, unexpected, raw and radical. All three of these words have a very significant meaning. All together they represent the remarkable aspect of anything that you create. To me, risky projects and raw projects border on the same thing because to have a risky project it most likely needs to be raw and creative. You cannot get anywhere in life, or in your job, if you do not take a risk here and there, and if you do than you can create something that has never been made before. With that creativity that building is something radical because no one has ever seen it before. The building is also unexpected because you took a risk to think outside the box and no one would expect anything from that ‘region.’

Those words lead into the next word, and that is memorable. If the building is not of the ‘norm’ than it will be remember by the people that saw it, then they will tell more people and your radical, risky idea will spread farther. To be memorable requires more than just being radical and risky, your project has to be, the next word, complex. Complexity is not always the best policy, but there are more ‘famous’ complex projects, than there are simple projects. Yet even a simple project can have far more complex attributes to it and may inspire more complex feelings in a person; the building needs to be emotional. Emotion is another tool that can be used to help make a person remember that project. If people are ‘moved’ by the project then it will ‘stain’ their mind easier. In that sense, the building has to communicate with the viewer to be able to retain the emotion. If the building communicates to the viewer then they will feel some sort of emotion in them that is stirred up; communicative projects and emotional projects go hand-in-hand. To communicate though, your buildings have to be inexplicable. They must tell a story based on the shape and materials that are used in the building. Architecture is not a language of words, so it needs to communicate to us in some other way.

The next words are more about the process of creation involved in architecture. The first word is hand, which literally means to use your hand for sketches. The overarching meaning, is to not let technology overtake the human capacity fro creativity and rely on technology for help. The hand was given to us by a ‘superior power’ and we need to use this gift to help create buildings that represent power. Second is that the project has to be real and by this Libeskind means that the creation comes from the creator, not technology or a book; the creation is you’re your own expressive mind. Next is the word, space because architects have this recurring mention about space and architecture. Architecture is all about space and creating something to utilize the function of the space for a greater benefit than what it was before. The project has to be focused on something too, or pointed. The use of space has to be focused at the benefit of the building and its inhabitants. Then to really sell your idea, you have to be expressive in your designs. Being expressive is another way in which to be memorable. If you have a style then you must use it in its raw form to be expressive in your own way. Last, and an always-important word to be, is optimism. You have to be happy about the future and your work because the happiness in your life reflects in the work you do. If one is not happy then their work suffers and it is not as good as it could be.

All these words really coexist with each other beautifully. Each connects with the next and forms a long chain or a process to go through. The words make connections with themselves and through these words architects are bale to create astounding buildings that make us look at with awe. To be a good architect and for the building to be magnificent, I believe, along with Daniel Libeskind, that there are 17 words that the buildings need to be able to do and these words are: political, democratic, risky, unexpected, raw, radical, memorable, complex, emotional, communicative, inexplicable, hand, real, space, pointed, expressive, and optimism.


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