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Reading between the Lines: An Analysis of the role of text in the Work of Daniel Libeskind

Part 2 Dissertation 2005
Anna Ross
Newcastle University | UK
Since his involvement with the WTC project, Daniel Libeskind is, arguably, fast becoming the most visible example of ‘architect’ to the wider public and, for that reason, the way that he communicates becomes more significant to the architectural profession as it will have an impact on public perceptions and expectations of architecture’s nature and potential as an art form.

Libeskind is a prolific writer and speaker- an example par-excellence of the architect as, in the words of Mark Wigley, a ‘public intellectual’. This dissertation seeks to establish what role Libeskind’s own spoken and written words; the ‘text’ has in his architecture and, importantly, the effects it has on how his buildings are approached, interpreted and understood.

The piece critically analyses the ways and extent to which text can change the meaning of a creative work and its affect on architecture as a form of artistic communication. It also tries to reveal what it is about Libeskind’s approach to architecture that induces him to write so often and at length about his own buildings.

The ideas are investigated in relation to two other buildings: Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp Chapel and Sir Basil Spence’s Coventry Cathedral. The former serves as a comparative example of how a building with limited text from its author is approached and interpreted. The latter is used as a sort of ‘control’ experiment, to aim to establish how and what the architecture- of an architect who uses text in a similar way to Libeskind- can be seen to communicate when his text is absent, and from here, critically compare this reading to the text itself to clarify what affect the text has on the experience of the building.

From these different studies, this dissertation aims to build a holistic picture of the significance of the text, which can be used to interrogate what we mean by ‘architectural communication.’

Anna Ross

This is an excellent piece of work on Daniel Libeskind's approach (and contribution) to the contemporary architectural debate. The student
tackles this challenging topic with intelligence and verve, bringing to it a fresh perspective. The dissertation is well written and well presented visually with a clear structure that supports the argument. There are many good insights into the philosophy of one of the leading architects of today, and sound critical judgment throughout. I feel that I have learnt something from reading this.

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