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Q & A with architect Daniel Libeskind

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(CNN) -- Polish-born architect Daniel Libeskind talks about what he hopes his buildings will achieve, what he would like to build in future and the Jewish Museum in Berlin, one of the most talked-about pieces of architecture in the world.

CNN: Before you became an architect, you were a professional pianist. Is music still a part of your life even though you no longer perform?

Libeskind: I feel that I have never given up music. Music is certainly part of my life and it is part of architecture. When I was designing the Jewish Museum in Berlin, the acoustics of the building, the sound of the building was one of the primary dimensions of creating that space of the void.

And music is part of architecture -- the acoustics of the building, the sound of a city, inspire you and give you kind of a connection. And certainly, even the way that architecture is produced is very similar to music. You have to write an abstract score. You know, the plans, the sections, elevations, but in the end it has to be performed by others and it has to kind of seem together and be harmonious.

CNN: Talk me through your initial inspiration for the Jewish Museum in Berlin, which was your first building to be constructed.

Libeskind: I approached it in the way that the Jewish Museum is not about experience it is about that experience, that originality of what that means. What does death and devastation mean -- not just for Jews, but for Europe, for people? And I did not want to imitate anything. This was not imitating other buildings that existed elsewhere but addressing this site, which was in Berlin, after all, with all the emotions. It is one of the buildings that I never had to research, I did not have to research the history because it was my history, my family. I have hardly any uncles and aunts, cousins -- countless members of my family were exterminated. It was not as if I went to study that period and (decide) what to do, it was an almost immediate emotion to create a building that would direct itself, both to the past -- which is irretrievable -- but also to something hopeful in the future because there is, there must be, a hope in the future in order to build something.

CNN: Can you explain one or two particular features, for example, the void and the holocaust tower and the use of light?

Libeskind: Well the void was something that has never been (built) before. Usually the center of a building is where you find an atrium, you find something for people to enter, but I thought there must be a place in the museum that, even for a second, there is nothing displayed. There is nothing, just emptiness and that is part of what the building communicates, that across the fragments of what remains. You have to think of those people who are not there with their stories and that moment of silence is what also creates the memory of what it is.

The Holocaust Tower, again it was a very unusual structure because it was not meant to have paintings and sculptures. It was meant to show you the sharpness of a light. It is a tower that is accessible from the labyrinth from the underground roads and then you come and the door closes and you are alone or with a small group and again it is to communicate something that is not communicable just by exhibitions. The space, the darkness, the hope of light, which at the edge of that creates an atmosphere, which makes you wonder about the future.

For the longest time I worked on the Holocaust tower without any light, I made models and I created it. And then, by accident I read a story of the Holocaust survivors in the Chassidic Tales about the Holocaust. One woman said when she was taken on to a train, cattle carts, going through the concentration camps, she saw through the crack of the car a line of light and she said, "I held on to this line of light," and she survived. She was telling the story in Brooklyn now. And she said I don't know why I survived, I but I believe myself that I survived because of the light. And I don't know what it was. Maybe it was the plume of an airplane. And I thought, "Yeah, there has got be a light to hang on to." And I put that cut of light, and I'm glad I did.

CNN: What do you hope your building achieve?

Libeskind: I always think that if you create something that is really good, then when a child comes -- whether it's Ground Zero, whether it's a museum or a shopping center -- and they will see the world is really open. It's not closed. You can do anything, there is something to celebrate here, and I think if architecture can open this kind of emotion to a child, then it's good. If you come to a place and everything is finished here, and there is nothing more to do, if everything has been done, then it is a pretty sad place.

CNN: What do you dream of building?

Libeskind: I've never had the utopian streak in me, somehow. Most architects do imaginary castles, imaginary fantasies, I've drawn a lot but I've never drawn actual buildings because you need clients, you need social context, someone has to approach you, "I need something, I need a home." It's just like a pair of shoes or a jacket, it's also a kind of service. And without that social relationship, to me, architecture is just a folly, you create big buildings which are built but have don't have a relationship to the social realm. And I've always thought if someone approaches me with anything, "Libeskind, build us a hospital, a store, a house," I would love to do that because then there is a conversation, a dialogue.

CNN: Have you ever been back to your birthplace, Poland?

Libeskind: You know, I hesitated for many years because of the emotions I felt. There are so many negative images between anti-Semitism and communism. But I went back and suddenly I saw the reality has changed, history always moves on. There is a new generation, there is a Renaissance in Poland, and I thought even my city which is so poor, Lodz, a very poor city -- abandoned, so to speak for many years, can come back to life, can be a beautiful place, and it is a beautiful place. I mean I looked at those buildings with new eyes and I thought even if they are gray and haven't been cleaned in a few years, and neglected, look how beautiful this place once was and it will be again.

CNN: What would people find surprising about you?

Libeskind: They might not know that in my spare time I don't just look at architecture magazines and think about architecture. I read poetry, I love music. Some very obscure music from the Baroque era, or Bach's less performed choral works. Perhaps they might not know that I am the only person who is on the airplane without a computer, I take Emily Dickinson or I take my favorite poets and I read plays. And I think that the meditative part is a pretty private person. Although I appear a lot in public because of my projects, I like to hide away and dream about something else.

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A former professional musician, Libeskind says music still plays an important role in his life even though he no longer performs.


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