His portfolio spans the Jewish Museum in Berlin and the master plan for New York’s Ground Zero site, but Daniel Libeskind suspects that his residential work in Asia will be what defines his legacy.
“I was lucky, as an architect, to do many cultural projects,” Mr. Libeskind, 65 years old, said. “But I always say we don’t judge [architects] on their museums. We judge them on the way they make people live, their boulevards and their waterfronts.”
He will soon have his chance. Reflections at Keppel Bay, six curving high-rise towers overlooking Singapore’s waterfront, recently opened its doors. Mr. Libeskind is visiting the building in its completed form for the first time this week.
He is working on a mixed-use development in Busan, South Korea, that includes three condo towers and a 34-floor hotel, as well as the master plan for Archipelago21, a major redevelopment in the Yongsan district in Seoul that will be home to a cluster of office, retail, cultural and residential buildings.
Mr. Libeskind, who was born in Poland but lives in New York, said his goal is to erase the lines between his residential and more esoteric work. “Are part of our lives acting as cultural beings and another part about going home?” he asked. “No. We are integrated beings.”
For the Singapore project, which includes more than 1,000 apartment units, Mr. Libeskind sought to blend the design with the area’s geography, which includes the bay on the south side and the hilly area of Mount Faber toward the north. “It’s not similar to any of my work,” he said. “There’s never been a doubly curved tower.”
Well-known architects have been flocking to Asia for years, but Mr. Libeskind was relatively late to the game. Four years ago, he told a group of architects in Dublin that they should consider boycotting China because of its history of seizing land from residents. “I won’t work for totalitarian regimes,” he said at the time.
He has since softened his stance. Late last year, the Libeskind-designed Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre, a building at the City University of Hong Kong, opened, marking his first project in Greater China. He took on a commission to design a museum in Wuhan, a metropolis in China’s Hubei province, for China Vanke Co. Ltd.
“I have the right client who is interested in philosophy and architecture,” Mr. Libeskind said of the Wuhan project. “I liked that it wasn’t government-sponsored and that its ambition was very social.”
Currently under construction, it is scheduled to be complete at the end of 2013, though given China’s breakneck development, he admitted he may have to rework his timeline. “This is China, so maybe in a year,” he said.
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