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Jewish Museum competition in Berlin.
But once they were in Berlin, he and
his wife and business partner, Nina, say
they realized they had to stay. It was
more than destiny, Libeskind has said.
Still, he laughs as he mentions that
he is sometimes labeled "a German
architect." He is said to have gotten by
at first in Berlin by speaking Yiddish.
He and Nina met at a summer camp
for the children of Holocaust survivors
in New York, where Yiddish was the
Asked if he considers himself a
"Jewish architect," Libeskind said,
"There is a Jewish dimension to my
life in general. It's in my life; how can
I do something foreign to that?"
His Jewish background, he said, is
such that "you could put me at a table
with Chasidim on one side and viru-
lent atheists on the other. And I could
speak to all of them."
Libeskind's family left Lodz for
Israel in 1957 and later moved to New
York to be with his father's sister and
only surviving sibling of 10.
A keyboard prodigy, Libeskind was a
virtuoso performer, first on the accor-
dion — when his family did not have
a piano — and then as a concert
pianist. He studied at the Lodz
Conservatory and in 1959, at age 13,
a jury awarded him the America-Israeli
Cultural Foundation Prize. By 1960
he was performing at Carnegie Hall.
But Libeskind gave up performing
in 1965 to pursue architecture and a
drive to create his own work. At
Cooper Union, he studied under Peter
Eisenmann, among other influential
teachers, and completed a master of
arts in architectural history and theory
at Essex University in 1972.
Libeskind was head of the architec-
ture department at Cranbrook
Academy of Arts in Michigan from
1978 to 1985. From the mid-1980s
until his abortive move to California,
the Libeskinds and their three children
lived in Milan.
Libeskind has called himself the
"quintessential wandering Jew," but he
still identifies as a New Yorker and
cites the writing of Walt Whitman,
Emma Lazarus and Herman Melville
as inspirations for elements of his
World Trade Center design.
As one of the last of millions of immi-
grants to approach the city by ship, he
remembers the buildings as having
"unbelievable power when seen from the
water," as the incarnation of immigrants'
"aspirations, dreams and desires."
For Libeskind, that vision of a "mag-
ical" Lower Manhattan is more than an
image. "It is what America really is." ❑
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