“I always felt slightly repulsed” by deconstructivist label says Daniel Libeskind

Daniel Libeskind portrait

Alt headline: Deconstructivism “not a style at all” says Daniel Libeskind

Deconstructivism was not a suitable name for the architecture that it represented argues architect Daniel Libeskind in this exclusive interview as part of our series exploring the 20th-century style.

Polish-American architect Libeskind, who is considered a key proponent of deconstructivism, told Dezeen that the movement’s name is better suited as a term for philosophy.

“The style doesn’t mean very much to me,” reflected Libeskind. “[Deconstructivism] was not a great word for architecture,” he explained.

“I don’t find usefulness in this term in architecture, I always felt slightly repulsed by it because it became a kind of intellectual trend.”

“It has very little to do with how I view architecture”

Deconstructivism is a term that was popularised by an international exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York in 1988. It derives the deconstruction approach to philosophy and the architectural style of constructivism.

While being too philosophical for architecture, Libeskind also believes that the name has negative connotations, prompting thoughts of buildings “falling apart”.


“I personally have always felt that [deconstructivism] was not a good term for architecture, because deconstruction in architecture seems to suggest falling apart,” he said.

“It has very little to do with how I view architecture, which is really an art that has a grand history, that is social in its character, that is cultural and that has a huge longevity to it.”

Deconstructivism is “not a style at all”

Though Libeskind does not have an affinity with deconstructivism today, he was one of seven renowned architects who took part in the seminal MoMA show. The others were Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Peter Eisenmann, Bernard Tschumi and Wolf Prix.

At the time, he had never completed a building and instead presented a conceptual project called City Edge, which imagined the renewal of the Tiergarten district in west Berlin.

To Libeskind, the exhibition did not represent the emergence of an architectural style, but rather a turning point within the industry, just as it was “running out of ideas”.

“[Deconstructivism is] not a style at all, but something in the air about the demise of former logic and former notions of harmony and former notions of beauty,” Libeskind said.

“These architects had a very different idea than the sort of corporate and conventional styles of the late 80s,” he added, referring to his fellow MoMA exhibitors.


Libeskind explained that buildings of this era are all underpinned by an ambition to tear up the rule book and reestablish architecture as a form of art.

“It was the moment when architecture was again an art, when people realised that all these restrictions on architecture are really political and social and have little to do with the art of architecture,” he said.

“It’s no longer just something taken out of a catalogue of existing typology in a historical way.”

Era of deconstructivism is not over

According to Libeskind, the MoMA exhibition show marked “a very important moment” in architectural history.

This is because its influence on architects continues to be evident today, and the era of architecture it represented is not over, he said.

“It wasn’t a matter even of style, or a matter of the name, it was just something that has suddenly exploded into the world,” explained Libeskind.

“In that sense, I think it was a very important moment of time, and we are still part of it.”

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“I think every student of architecture who goes to school today would not be doing what she or he is doing, without having a sense that something has happened to architecture that will never go back again,” Libeskind concluded.

“That’s thanks to this exhibition and this group of really brilliant architects.”

Read on for the edited transcript of the interview with Libeskind:

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Deconstructivism is of one of the 20th century’s most influential architecture movements. Our series profiles the buildings and work of its leading proponents – Peter Eisenman, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Rem Koolhaas, Daniel Libeskind, Bernard Tschumi and Wolf Prix. Read our deconstructivism series ›

The portrait of Libeskind is by Stefan Ruiz.

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