TED Talk: Daniel Libeskind’s 17 words of architectural inspiration

Filmed back in 2009, this TED Talk by Daniel Libeskind has yet to diminish in popularity. Once a free-verse poet, an opera set designer and a virtuoso musician, Libeskind has evolved into an internationally-renowned architect with an illustrious style that has been praised and criticized by many. In just seventeen words, Libeskind describes what inspires his unique approach to architecture. Believing that optimism is what drives architecture forward, he begins by stating, “Architecture is not based on concrete and steel and the elements of the soil. It’s based on wonder.”

Enjoy the talk and continue after the break to review Libeskind’s seventeen words of architectural inspiration.

Libeskind’s seventeen words of architectural inspiration:

  • Optimism vs. Pessimism
  • Expressive vs. Neutral
  • Radical vs. Conservative
  • Emotional vs. Cool
  • Inexplicable vs. Understood
  • Hand vs. Computer
  • Complex vs. Simple
  • Political vs. Evasive
  • Real vs. Stimulated
  • Unexpected vs. Habitual
  • Raw vs. Refined
  • Pointed vs. Blunt
  • Memorable vs. Forgettable
  • Communicative vs. Mute
  • Risky vs. Safe
  • Space vs. Fashion
  • Democratic vs. Authoritarian

It is evident that many will form a variety of opinions about Libeskind’s philosophy; however, it is always interesting to learn about different ideologies and inspirations. Tell us, what inspires you?

Via TED Talks

Cite: Rosenfield, Karissa. "TED Talk: Daniel Libeskind’s 17 words of architectural inspiration" 29 Apr 2012. ArchDaily. Accessed 16 Sep 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=230451>


  1. Thumb up Thumb down +11

    I completely disagry with him.
    Architecture should not disturbe us, it should instead nourish us.
    To say that building made with respect for its surroundings has no opinoinon or value, is so wrong and a bit ignorant.

  2. Thumb up Thumb down +6

    and he missed the 18-th and most important:
    Libeskind vs Architecture

  3. Thumb up Thumb down +6

    I would really like to see him design and plan one of those fancy apartment towers for those people who cannot afford to pay god knows how many thousand dollars per month rent…because that would be architecture, building for the people…so that every human being can afford a decent roof over the head, even those who dont have too much money. libeskind is a true artist, but he is not an architect.

  4. Thumb up Thumb down +6

    Although he makes many good statements, and I sometimes get his point, there’s still something suspicious about his speech. Like, there are to many of these good statements and they are starting to confront each other. For example, he says that every building should be highly individual and expressive, but then, near the end, he declares his belief in compromise. But that was a bit picky from my side. What surprised me more, was then he said that every new building should be giving us a totally new, unknown space experience, yet most oh his own buildings are, in this or that way, the self repetition of the Holocaust Museum in Berlin. And yes! How can he talk about sustainability, when his building style represents the noneffective use of materials? Problem?

  5. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    He seems to be stuck in the mid 90′s still… I am having a hard time seeing how his architecture adresses 21rst century chalenges.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +3

      21st century challenges??? … The only challenge Libeskind is concerned about is how to gratify his own enormous ego.

    • Thumb up Thumb down +1

      Libeskind’s leaky, dysfunctional buildings ARE the problems and challenges of the 21st Century.

  6. Thumb up Thumb down +4

    his speech annoyes me….his spaces are repetitively banal. Trying to push the boundaries for the sake of…and if you add the inefficiency of his designs and their unsustainable nature -rubbish architecture

  7. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    The grandiose words have no bearing on the ugliness of his buildings. His whole portfolio is just repetition of the gimmick he devised for the Holocaust museum. Even there, it was a hideous form.

  8. Thumb up Thumb down +3

    Libeskind was getting away with this junk a few years ago, but the results were so indisputably bad that no one pays attention to him anymore, at least not in the west. I think he’s involved in some developer schlock in Asia now, but he’s probabably the only one foolish enough to think it is “architecture”. He’s a non-event as far as most thinking people are concerned.

  9. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    The best words of architectural inspiration I ever heard were from one of my professors who said: “Avoid doing anything Daniel Libeskind would do. If it starts to look like a Libeskind building, then it is not architecture.”

  10. Thumb up Thumb down +1

    Libeskind doesn’t know the difference between telling the truth and lying. He blurts out the first dumb thing that comes into his head. Same with the dumb sketches he does. No thought put into anything he does … EVER!

  11. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    wow – so much negativity and criticism – you must be all GODS :)
    of course we need people like him, otherwise the world would be pretty boring – and hardly anyone is so fortunate to be like him so no need to fear that all buildings will look like that :)

  12. Thumb up Thumb down 0

    Totally agree with him……we need to think about the future rather than holding the legs of past existence, thinking to create something that would have basics from it.
    I would rather put it as CREATING the UNTHOUGHT

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