by Rick Bell FAIA Executive Director AIA New York
At a ceremony on November 16, Daniel Libeskind, AIA, was presented with the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, one of that country’s highest civilian honors. Dr. Hans-Jürgen Heimsoeth, the Consul General of Germany, spoke of the work of Libeskind, describing the role of the Jewish Museum of Berlin which “honors the past, celebrates the present, and looks to the future,” and of the Felix Nussbaum Museum in Osnabrück, where the artist who died at Auschwitz is celebrated by a building that “is a monument to his life and death, but which transcends his biography.” An historian and political scientist, Heimsoeth, in conferring the Order of Merit, praised Libeskind, saying that his work in Germany “greatly benefits the country, which has a collective longing to understand the past and to move into the future.”
The Governing Mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, co-officiated at the ceremony, stating that “We, the people of Berlin, are proud to be able to call the global citizen and architect Daniel Libeskind one of our city’s master builders, and we are happy that Jewish life is blossoming again in today’s Berlin.” He said, “The Jewish Museum has become ours, an essential part of Berlin. The people of Berlin have taken it to their hearts and have found new access to Jewish history.” The mayor hoped that Libeskind “will have the opportunity to create many new projects in New York, in Berlin, and throughout the world.” Mayor Wowereit subsequently visited the Berlin-New York Dialogues exhibition, on view through January at the Center for Architecture. The exhibition will travel to Berlin, re-opening at the German Architecture Center (DAZ) in early March 2008.
Heimsoeth commended Libeskind, who, he said, has “the ability to reconcile Germany’s difficult and exacerbating history with its future by means of architecture,” adding that “it is reasonable to say that Mr. Libeskind’s experiences in Berlin served him well in New York. He also knows New York’s politics very well now, and it is to his great credit that he remains a guiding voice of optimism regarding the reconstruction of the World Trade Center site.” He concluded by noting “the common themes in this work on both sides of the Atlantic are urbanism and memorial, expressed through profound positive challenges to our understanding of architecture and its potential to change our lives.”