Interview with Daniel Libeskind

by Sandra Andrea O’Connell

blocks on the street side. A theatre building has to be thought-out from the inside out. One has to achieve a balance between the internal workings of the theatre and the need to create external appearance. AI Your practice is engaged in landmark projects throughout the world. How important is ‘place’ in your architecture?

DL Place is foremost in my work; it is particularly important in a global world connected by technology. But place is more than location. It is about inscribing a building into a cultural setting; connecting it to a city’s culture and cultural history. AI Your architecture is therefore less about a real place and more about a metaphysical place?

from Heraclitus, is a set of 28 drawings, published by the Architectural Association in London in 1983. These are abstract drawings that deal with architecture in a fundamental way. The drawings consider architecture as music; they are about rhythm and composition, but also about construction, space, history and craft. Chamber Works reappears throughout my work, as I constantly refer back to them. Palladio worked in a similar way when he was building; he kept going back to the drawings and studies he did on geometry and proportions. In the Grand Canal Theatre, Chamber Works appears in different places, sometimes literally as a graphic, sometimes as a measurement or proportion. It is great to see them in a space that has to do with music. AI How was the design of the project delivered – you have a local office as well as worked with Dublin architects McCauley Daye O’Connell? DL It was a fantastic cooperation. While Studio Libeskind designed everything and were responsible 100 per cent, we collaborated with Theatre consultants RHWL in London and with McCauley Daye O’Connell Architects in Dublin. When we work abroad, we usually collaborate with a local practice but it is equally important for us to remain directly involved. We are not one of those architects who just send over their drawings. AI Irish architecture is undergoing a traumatic time with job losses and few new commissions – what advice would you give your peers in Ireland? DL This is a difficult time for architecture in Ireland but also globally. But architecture is not just about building. It is an art that is greater than the buildings it produces. In periods when there is less building, architects can get more involved in thinking and in the art of architecture. I pursued architecture for many years not building anything. One can be successful in other forms of architecture. AI Thank you very much. For information on current work by Studio Libeskind, see


1. Daniel Libeskind in his New York studio

© Michael Klinkhamer Photography
2. Chamber Works, Meditations on Themes from

Heraclitus, drawing by Daniel Libeskind

Architecture Ireland (AI) The Grand Canal Theatre is your first built project in Ireland. Does this fulfil an ambition for you, following on from your short-listed competition entries for the extension to the National Gallery of Ireland and the Dun Laoghaire Pier? Daniel Libeskind (DL) I love Dublin and the city has been a core experience for me. This is not something new for me. My interest in its culture, and particularly in its literature, has been with me right through my career. So it was wonderful to have the opportunity to finally build something in the Dublin Docklands. AI What inspired the striking form of the theatre, as its cranked geometry emerges amongst the linear grid of the Dublin Docklands? DL You must see the project on different levels: It is not just about what was there before, but how we create new public places. It is about creating a setting. It is about how the prow of the theatre projects into the new plaza and how it connects with the office

DL On the contrary, culture is what makes a place a real place. Dublin resonates with rich culture and history, in particular its literature. In the atrium of the office building beside the Grand Canal Theatre, I have paid the largest homage yet to James Joyce and have chosen key words from Finnegans Wake in reversedout lettering. AI From the Grand Canal Theatre’s upper foyers, building and public space very successfully read as ‘one’. How extensive was the collaboration with Martha Schwartz Partners and have you worked together on other projects since? DL Martha Schwartz is a good friend and we have collaborated on many projects. For example, we are currently working together on the masterplan for the Yongsan International Business District in Seoul. Working closely together on the Grand Canal Theatre Square was essential to achieve a coherent and interesting place. We wanted to create a fluidity and something that is easy to understand for the public; one single composition. AI Another composition features strongly in the theatre: your Chamber Works has been reproduced both in the foyers and in the auditorium. Could you explain the background to this work? DL Chamber Works, Meditations on Themes

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Dublin. Dublin. Killiney and Glencree Father Collins parT of permaSTeeliSa Group 29 | 29 Architecture Ireland 248 . project management. Henry J Lyons Architects building envelope and cladding specialists a development by Chartered land Grand Canal Square offices.: +353 1 679 1191 . PERMASTEELISA IRELAND Ltd 3 Westland www. pearse Street.PROJECTS Grand Canal Square Theatre . Architekt Daniel Libeskind AG (Zurich) Three Houses by ABK Architects. by applying high technology solutions. Dublin 2 ph. ArArq Ireland/ MCO Projects The Criminal Courts of Justice. manufacturing and installation of architectural envelopes and interiors systems.fax: +353 1 888 3702 dublinoffice@permasteelisa. Dublin Docklands. Dublin 2 permasteelisa Group is a worldwide leading contractor in the engineering.permasteelisa. our mission is to design and build innovative and avant-garde architectural projects in collaboration with the famous names of contemporary architecture. Dublin 2 a development by Chartered land Grand Canal Square Theatre.

the inclined overhanging façades of theatre and north block frame a distant view of the Pigeon House chimneys and create a dramatic sculpted portal leading to Martha Schwartz’s plaza and the theatre entrance. Gerhard Brun (Project Architect). The 2000-seat auditorium has a traditional proscenium arch macken street cardiff lane Site Plan 1 2 3 4 5 6 Grand Canal Theatre Grand Canal Square Chimney Park ESB Substation North block offices South block offices 5 hibernian road 3 4 sir john rogersons quay river liffey misery hill 6 1 2 hanoveer quay grand canal harbour 1 30 | 31 Architecture Ireland 250 . Civil and Services Engineers: Arup Consulting Engineers Acoustic Consultants: Arup Acoustics (UK) Venue Consultants: ARUP Venue Consulting (UK) Facade Consultants: Billings Design Associates Lighting Designers: Pritchard Themis (UK) Fire Engineers: Michael Slattery Associates Health & Safety: Bruce Shaw Partnership Main Contractor: John Sisk & Son Ltd Photography: Ros Kavanagh Project size: 13. A vastly complex process. and punctuated by the louver façades of the two bookend ‘diagonal bars’ at either end. Patrick Cox. it reads as one homogenous block. Anna Poullou. London based theatre specialists RHWL Architects. From Macken Street. During the following two years. it is best to first view from the west or the Macken Street façade. the project was taken over by a new client. In early 2007.Grand Canal Square Theatre Architects: Architekt Daniel Libeskind AG (Zurich) Stefan Blach (Principal Architect). were responsible for the design of back-ofhouse and stage areas. venue consultancy and lighting. and the technical coordination and completion of the final stages of the auditorium design. The theatre entrance façade from the plaza was remodelled based on the concept of the theatre curtain: Two folding glazed screens overlap each other. As a result. bisected by Misery Hill. Chartered Land Project Management: Lafferty Project Management Contract Administrator (Theatre): McCauley Daye O’Connell Architects Theatre Consultants and Architects: Arts Team (part of RHWL Architects) (UK) Quantity Surveyors: Davis Langdon PKS Structural. who assembled a project team. Kaori Hirasawa. and one is aware of the peak of the stainless steel wedge-shaped volume above. an orchestra pit with hydraulic platforms provides lexibility to form either a thrust stage. In 2004 Daniel Libeskind won a competition to develop this site of a former gasworks in the docklands. Maja Leonelli. Guillaume Chapallaz. From the west. with MDO acting in the role of Contact Administrators. The red and green fritt-patterned façades are volumes projecting from the blocks. or a full orchestra pit. which includes two new commercial office blocks. Jens Jessen. Plant and equipment is located in large plant spaces in the roof space above the fly tower and auditorium. the office façades wrap around the theatre’s back-of-house accommodation. south block and north block can be seen in the context of the urban street. with the main theatre entrance nestled in between. Whereas the entire ground floor initially had been retail. Feargal Doyle. in December 2006. drapes or lighting over the stage. the public slip in. On the theatre. Along the west elevation. the building is arranged with the off-street loading bay to the rear of the stage. Matthias Rühl. Architekt Daniel Libeskind AG (ADL) worked with Dublin-based architects McCauley Daye O’Connell on the overall development. off Macken Street. workshops and other back of house accommodation is wrapped around the fly tower on the upper levels. as if through a stage curtain. To understand the overall extent of the development. the commercial model (proposed by the theatre operator) for a 2000-seater West End style theatre required access for loading from street level. and a ‘kick-off’ meeting was held in Dublin. Toralf Sümmchen. Andreas Baumgärtner. the foyer and stage were lowered to ground floor level. dressing rooms. Nathaniel Lloyd. contractor and design team including specialist consultants for areas such as acoustics. Jens Hoffman. The administration. additional rows of seating at stalls level. Anja Bungies and Christian Müller Client: Ramford Limited. with the theatre above. Above the stage is a 30m fly tower with a complex system of counterweighted flying bars for scenery. Dublin Docklands Report by Architekt Daniel Libeskind AG The Grand Canal Theatre forms part of a large new development in the Dublin Docklands. where the theatre. like a crystal on a rock. At the front of the stage. the project involves a large client. with an off-street loading bay to the rear of the theatre.768m2 Value: e75m Duration: 3 years (on site) Location: Grand Canal Square. The stainless steel clad theatre grows out of the urban block. On Misery Hill. major modifications were made to the original concept model. ADL provided full services for all stages of the project.

The chosen materials. Toilets. The primary circulation is provided by two staircases either side of the foyer. brass and the subtle variations in red tone give an intimacy and ambience to the large space. and other services. is modelled on the concept of a theatre curtain 2. a further foyer area provides access to a viewing terrace. and services are arranged in a matrix of intersecting recessed lines. Suspended ‘sails’ conceal the technical gantries and equipment. Above the main frontof-house levels. The large protruding ‘rib’ volumes on the side walls evoke the timber members of an old boat’s hull. circle and upper circle levels. add depth to the layered three dimensionality of the interior. with views over the plaza. cut into the roof. reception rooms and other accommodation are located along the flank corridors. the half landings provide dramatic views and form small pocket spaces off the main levels. 3 5 4 3 2 2 6 1 1 Front-of-house.The theatre’s entrance façade. with lighting to create a lantern effect. and docklands area. walnut. with stalls. the auditorium is expressed as a red volume around which the foyers and corridors are arranged. Arcing lines of lights set into the zig zag side walls. 32 | 33 Architecture Ireland 250 . The auditorium design concept draws on shipbuilding imagery in reference to the former docklands area. facing Grand Canal Square. The foyer and auditorium are fully accessible with provision for wheelchair spaces on each level.A traditional proscenium arch form. The auditorium rear wall is a layer that accommodates bars. recessed in niche spaces. The foyer ceilings are perforated to provide comfortable acoustic levels. and recessed ‘cuts’ in the ceiling soffits. carpet. Daniel Libeskind’s Chamber Works drawings embellish the box and balcony fronts and are set behind woven bronze mesh. The foyer levels are set back from the façade overlooking the atrium spaces and plaza. to present a coherent pattern when viewed from below.2 3 Ground floor plan 1 2 3 4 5 6 Entrance Main foyer Stage Loading bay Commercial building Hotel 4 Third floor plan 1 Foyer 2 Upper circle 3 Fly tower 4 Commercial building (atrium) 1. the auditorium draws on the imagery of shipbuilding as in the acoustic ‘sails’ 3. and private boxes on either side.The ground floor foyer areas connect with the exterior form. which also provide access to the auditorium and boxes.

Daniel Libeskind’s Chamber Works drawings. 4 5 Curtain Unfold Elevations Primary Steel Structure Section Glass Facade . enabling the space to be tuned for orchestra or amplified use. enabling the string brightness balance to be adjusted. but with a good natural acoustic for opera and other unamplified performances. Where the geometry of the ribs is beneficial acoustically. A tender process led to the selection of Heritage Property Ltd (who subsequently sold the development to Chartered Land) with Studio Daniel Libeskind as Architects. the ribs are solid. The theatre is flanked by the two office blocks 6.In the auditorium. The balustrade between the orchestra and the audience is adaptable. providing a blend of sound-reflecting and sound-transparent surfaces in a room geometry that embellishes the sound clarity whilst maximising the acoustic volume.0 10 C4 . The zigzag wall shaping on side walls helps redirect sound towards the centre of the room. The Grand Canal Theatre in the Masterplan for Grand Canal Dock By John McLaughlin The Dublin Docklands Masterplan emphasises the importance of creating cultural capital alongside social and economic value in the urban regeneration project.0 ° . The Authority then set about finding a private sector cultural use and market analysis indicated that there was capacity in Dublin for a 2000-seat West End type commercial theatre. The acoustical requirements were integrated into the striking architectural concept. In design meetings two key issues emerged – the relationship of the space to the theatre.The glass curtain has been constructed from high performance glazing with exposed pre-fabricated steel box sections 5. The Authority identified a key site in the centre of the Grand Canal Harbour. as the location for a major cultural building. the new hotel and the water so as to more than double the size of the public square. The second issue was one of transparency of the theatre from the square.2° C1 C2 C3 G3 90 . ° 0° 81 58 ° 5. have been used to embellish the box and balcony fronts.8 92 ° C5 135. and that Studio Daniel Libeskind redesigned the main façade as a glass ‘curtain’ onto the stage of the foyers. The seats were rigorously tested in an acoustic laboratory to ensure that they complied with a stringent acoustic specification. The acoustic design balances these differing requirements and is damped enough to enable the high performance sound systems to deliver high fidelity show sound. The surface masses of the wall linings were carefully chosen to ensure that natural sound from an orchestra in the pit will be rich and warm. allowing everyone to enjoy the opening night spectacle. The design proposed for the theatre was bold and confident. which we argued should be increased so that the foyer spaces become a stage to the city. Acoustically transparent expanded metal mesh sails (carefully oriented and lit to appear visually opaque) allow the sound to pass into the upper heights of the room volume and back out again. while relief in the form of architectural motifs provides some high frequency scattering. Initially it was hoped that a national cultural institution could be attracted to the area and discussions were held with a number of institutions but in each case the site did not match their requirements. but is sufficiently warm and reverberant to provide a sympathetic acoustic for opera. and the façade that the theatre would present to the space. aiding clarity and the feeling of spaciousness. These surfaces in sound-absorbing mode also control noise buildup and create good working conditions for musicians.3 119. The Docklands Authority is delighted with the result and hopes that the theatre will add to the cultural infrastructure of Dublin City.0 ° C6 4. The motif reoccurs in the carpet 34 | 35 Architecture Ireland 250 . The balcony fronts both provide useful sound reflections to seats and prevent adverse sound reflections back to the stage. Sound reflecting surfaces hidden by the sails are designed carefully to reflect early sound to the audience. The ribs on the walls also include soundtransparent sections to allow the side wall reflections to reach the audience at the back of the room.From Macken Street.Architectural Acoustic Design By Arup Acoustics (See images 2 & 6) The brief for the Grand Canal Theatre was to provide an acoustic principally suited to amplified West End shows. facing the new square. Variable acoustic surfaces in the orchestra pit provide absorption and reflection on demand. The result of these discussions was that the Authority commissioned Martha Schwartz to reconfigure Grand Canal Square. Analysis showed that there was an opportunity to reconfigure the existing public space to achieve an integrated relationship with the theatre. the theatre’s loading bay is accessed. Sound-absorbing slots on the underside of the seat pans help to limit the acoustic difference between times when the room is occupied and unoccupied. Similar but larger scale shaping on the rear wall breaks up large plane surfaces to prevent echoes from amplified sound back to the stage.

At each level. He is a performer on a world stage. Midway lie the stages of the space between auditorium and glass. The flytower. The roof terrace. as if the relationship forged in New York had cooled in the chill wind from the Irish Sea. He is also an architect of unquestioned talent and ability. and the combination of these qualities must have been irresistible to those who chose him to design the Grand Canal Square Theatre.. sometimes internal to the foyer. and that he has been successful is one of the triumphs of the design. They have already experienced the external play of form. accessed from a minor bar space and divorced from the tiered interval balconies. thrusting. providing the dominant red carpeted paved route and the redder still pickup stick lights to define a ceremonial approach. a dynamic urban gathering place and icon mirroring the joy and drama emblematic of Dublin itself. Daniel Libeskind has expressed his wish that this theatre will establish a powerful cultural presence within the city. watching the Pigeon House chimneys as they catch the last of the evening sun. conventional. and perhaps this building which has promised so much can be the catalyst that will bring to the South Docklands the vibrancy and energy that is so badly needed. an offer of conviviality in the moments that flank a performance. the variety and inventiveness of found and irregular spaces in the zone between envelope and volume. but its warm red womb is an unchallenging place of comfort. proposed as a “garden overlooking the piazza with spectacular views out over Dublin Bay” is diminished in scale and importance. exchanging proximity for panorama. its huge stage a single space with neither rehearsal rooms nor studio spaces and designed to cater for touring productions. What could be more agreeable to a Dublin audience than to spend time over a late evening drink with friends. The tiered spaces are jagged and complex in to build a powerful cultural presence expressed in dynamic volumes sculpted to project a fluid and transparent public dialogue with the cultural. and an engagement once total and committed has become more ordinary.. 6 36 | 37 Architecture Ireland 250 . here providing an incidental area to meet and laugh. Can a receiving house. He writes poetry. a place for all with no admission ticket necessary. a “grand outdoor lobby for the theatre”. an outward looking series of jagged platforms and meeting places. It radiates energy.. It seems a fine auditorium. even symmetrical. extending the idea of balcony as stage and audience as performers. here approaching the glass. Daniel Libeskind set out to create a dialogue between the outward looking platforms of the internal space and the public square outside. The room is familiar. The steelwork which both supports and layers leans against the more orthodox structure of the central volume of the auditorium. Landscape designers Martha Schwartz and Partners describe life and light spilling outwards from the theatre towards the water and through the piazza. He designs buildings. this theatre will offer something unique. The composition is assertive. The design of the square has always favoured the theatre over the flanking buildings. he has described the project in theatrical terms. is here encompassed within the total volume as it rises from the square. Daniel in Nighttown Daniel Libeskind understands theatre. Outside is the stage of the square. there retreating.. an iconic destination. To those who see the art of theatregoing as a broad and communal experience of which the performance on stage is only part. The design of the project has changed since it was first promoted. Admirers of the building. there offering a framed vignette through layers of structure and folded wall. will perhaps be surprised by the auditorium. there is the players’ stage. From the earliest stages. He designs theatrical sets and costumes for plays and opera. dancers and singers engage their talents for our entertainment. polygonal. and falls vertically to form the edge to Cardiff Lane. peaks. and explaining the building as a series of stages. so often the embarrassing and unmentioned add-on. volume and material. combining professional performance with public behaviour. He reads Joyce and Shaw. the complexity of structure and layer. and in return are granted views over Grand Canal Square. commercial and residential surroundings whilst communicating the various inner forces intrinsic to the theatre and office buildings. The deletion of the ascending entrance ramp due to an overall lowering of the building has modified the relationship of building and landscape.. Most obviously. As the sun dims the red and blue and green lights of the square.Review by liam tuite “the concept of the Grand Canal Square theatre .. a connection of meeting places linked and separated by paths and lines that cross and recross. while in the square below the coloured lights brighten and the restaurants come alive with warmth and noise? The folding glass plates of the entrance elevation rest on oversized structure. cut through with openings that are sometimes external to the square. across the harbour and to the city as it meets the sea. His work reflects his personality. the white lights of the water’s edge and the yellow lights of Dublin create paths and patterns not at first discerned. The carpet was recently redesigned to stop shy of the entrance. They are described by the architect as a series of glass theatre curtains. Here theatregoers become the spectacle for those below. The roof ascends dramatically. . a vast space behind the proscenium arch on which actors. “ Studio Daniel libeskind. an intersection of public routes. the experience subtly alters. be that? Perhaps it can. and will no doubt do all that a theatre should. and of the architect.