As Sharp As It Gets
By Richard Lacayo/Denver                                          [Time], Sunday, Sep. 03, 2006

2. What he knew then, what we all know now, is that 1,600 miles away in Colorado
he had a considerable ace up his sleeve( ...

3. At...
Gehry                                                     (Gehry Libeskind
            , deconstructionist archi...
6. A design as powerful as this can be a problem as a setting for art. The big
question hanging over Libeskind's irregular...
Betty Woodman


                Ponti                                          ...
the Russian Revolution and eventually crushed by it, they produced drawings and
sculptural projects that would dismember R...
[1] Berger, John, 1972. “Ways of Seeing,” London: BBC and Penguin Books. (

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As Sharp As It Gets Digest Wograph

  1. 1. As Sharp As It Gets By Richard Lacayo/Denver [Time], Sunday, Sep. 03, 2006 ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- As Sharp As It Gets as good as it gets( ) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 1. It's hard to believe that the majestic new addition to the Denver Art Museum is Daniel Libeskind's first completed building in the U.S. In 2003 Libeskind won the competition to design the master plan for the World Trade Center site. For the next year or two, he was so pervasive( ) a media presence--the black glasses, the Polish accent, the inexhaustible( ) cheer--that you half expected a spiky Libeskind tower to erupt soon on every street corner. Then the Trade Center project got away from him. The New York City developer who held the lease( ) on the Twin Towers brought in his own architect to "collaborate" on the centerpiece( ) Freedom Tower. Libeskind, who was a canny enough player to have ushered( ) a Jewish Museum into the heart of Berlin, was gradually marginalized. By the time construction began in April, the much revised skyscraper bore so little resemblance to his original idea, he had taken his name off it. Libeskind ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Libeskind 2003 Libeskind Libeskind someone be pervasive a media presence Libeskind Libeskind -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  2. 2. 2. What he knew then, what we all know now, is that 1,600 miles away in Colorado he had a considerable ace up his sleeve( ). Six years ago, he had won a competition to design the addition to Denver's principal art museum, which its director, Lewis Sharp, was pushing to expand into a more significant institution. At the time, Libeskind, now 60, had completed just one major commission, but that building was the Jewish Museum, an architectural thunderbolt( ) that would be endlessly talked about, contested and studied for its zigzag configurations. It took a leap of faith for Sharp and his trustees to place (what would become a $90.5 million project) in the hands of an architect (in love with tilted walls and corkscrewing interiors). But it was a gamble that has paid off spectacularly. Libeskind's museum addition, which opens Oct. 7, is the most captivating( ) building to appear in the U.S. in a while, the first to compare (in complexity, daring and brave-new-world beauty) to the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles that Frank Gehry set loose three years ago. If anyone doubts that Libeskind's ideas are a route to a powerful new model of space and form--and there are people who still think of his work as eccentric(ex + center) grandstanding( )--this is a building to change minds. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Libeskind 1600 someone has a ace up of someone’s sleeve Lewis Sharp Libeskind( 60 ) Sharp 9050 It takes a leap of faith for (A) to place (X) in the hands of (B) A X B 10 7 Libeskind Frank Gehry Los Angeles Libeskind Libeskind
  3. 3. Libeskind ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 3. At 146,000 sq. ft., his addition is not much smaller than the museum's original building, a seven-story curiosity( ) completed by Gio Ponti in 1971. Ponti was a significant figure in postwar Italian furniture and product design, but as an architect--he produced just a handful of buildings--he was the kind of man who could imagine that a castle keep(base ), complete with a few stray( ) crenellations( ) and slit windows that any medieval archer would appreciate, was just the thing for an art museum. You can't really add to an armor-plated canister like the one he provided in Denver. So Libeskind's addition is a freestanding structure. It connects to the Ponti with a glass bridge, a gray-toned exterior and a willingness to think differently but with happier results. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 146000 Libeskind Gio Ponti 1971 7 Ponti Libeskind Ponti ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 4. A museum is a great showcase for an architect but also a challenge. To protect the art, most museums keep windows to a minimum, which eliminates one of the main tools for making surfaces come alive. So for the exterior of the Denver museum, Libeskind chose more than 9,000 panels of titanium, the same material that covers Gehry's celebrated Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain. It's a metal with a soft, refulgent glow and a variety of personalities. Gehry's titanium has a slightly golden cast. Libeskind's shifts from gray to silver and even to a peachy ocher, depending on the time of day and quality of the light. The shimmering surfaces and his endlessly fascinating massing of forms ensure that his Denver museum is interesting even on its windowless sides. Like George Clooney, it has no bad angles.
  4. 4. Libeskind Gehry (Gehry Libeskind , deconstructionist architect) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Libeskind Gehry 9000 Gehry Libeskind Libeskind ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 5. Although there's only one gallery in the museum with its own window, Libeskind has provided a spectacularly angled 120-ft.-high atrium( , ) that fills with light, which it communicates to any of the many galleries that have sight lines leading to it. And what light. He has positioned the atrium's windows so that it cascades in sheets or cuts oblique shafts through the air that mimic the diagonals of the walls and stairways, as though ( ) the sun itself had been recruited into his angular scheme. Architects are not known as humble souls, especially in this era of global stars. Yet what can you do but smile when one of them demonstrates that even the elements can be bent, literally( ), to his will?( ) ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Libeskind 120 Libeskind -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  5. 5. 6. A design as powerful as this can be a problem as a setting for art. The big question hanging over Libeskind's irregular galleries is whether they will overwhelm the art--the eternal accusation( ) against the mighty rotunda( ) of Frank Lloyd Wright's Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan. As it turns out, for a good deal of modern and contemporary art, Libeskind's careening( ) lines provide a perfect force field, a reminder of the dynamic rethinking of space that was behind so much of modern art to begin with. Naturally, Cubist work looks right at home here. Likewise the angular channels of Frank Stella's shaped canvases. Even Donald Judd's no-nonsense boxes look better with something to play against( ). ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Libeskind Frank Lloyd Wright Libeskind Frank Stella Donald Judd ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 7. Anything gentler or more sinuous may have a harder time. A multipart installation by Betty Woodman, the ceramic artist whose work is full of liquid lines, looks like somebody dropped a Matisse into The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. And Libeskind's plunging vectors will never be the ideal resting place for Vermeer or Monet--which might explain why the Denver museum will continue to house most of its older art in the more conventional galleries of the Ponti building. Daniel Kohl, the museum's installation designer, has taken on the job of mediating between Libeskind's building and the art, mostly by way of( ) partitions ( ) that softly mimic Libeskind's angles in ways that bring the pictures to a soft landing.( ) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  6. 6. Betty Woodman Libeskind Ponti Daniel Kohl Libeskind Libeskind ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 8. One complaint that's brought against Libeskind is that, like Gehry's, his unruly creations refuse to blend into their surroundings. But Denver has given Libeskind an unusual opportunity to prove that at the very least, his buildings can coexist happily with others like them. Directly across from his museum, he has designed a six-story condo(=condominium) building. Most of the walls are perpendicular to the floor, but the apartments feature just enough of his prismatic layouts and angled passageways to allow buyers to imagine that the muses themselves will turn up at the closing to applaud. The developer, George Thorn, is happy to tell you that (in a city where Rocky Mountain views are usually the ones to go for,) the units on the side facing the museum sold first. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 9. Libeskind likes to point to those mountains as one of his inspirations. And it's true that the peaks rising just to the west of Denver call to mind the museum's wind-sheared( ) escarpments( ). But to arrive at the deeper sources of his work, you need to go beyond landscape into history. A place to start is with the unmistakable traces of the Russian Constructivists. Flourishing just before and after
  7. 7. the Russian Revolution and eventually crushed by it, they produced drawings and sculptural projects that would dismember Renaissance space. In Libeskind's knife-edged obliques, the interrupted discoveries of Vladimir Tatlin and El Lissitzky are brought back to life. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Libeskind Libeskind ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 10. But it would be a mistake to comb through Libeskind's work looking for this or that historical ancestor. He's not conducting a seminar on the past. He's looking for ways to restore to architecture the intricacies that Modernism wrung(wring) out. "You could just as well say the inspiration also comes from the Baroque era," he says, "that desire to complicate space." What he proves with this tour de force( ) in Denver is that sometimes complications are just the thing we've been looking for. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Libeskind Libeskind Libeskind -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
  8. 8. [1] Berger, John, 1972. “Ways of Seeing,” London: BBC and Penguin Books. ( ) [2] Bloomer, Kent and Charles Moore, 1977. “Body, Memory and Architecture,” Yale University Press. ( ) [3] Alexander, Christopher. Et al. 1977. “A Pattern Language,” New York: Oxford University Press. ( ) [4] Aldous Huxley, “Brave New World,” Harper Perennial Modern Classics ( )