Daniel Libeskind’s work has always been considered expressive, contemporary, and unique, especially in light of its surroundings. The majority, if not all, of the projects, are like art demonstrations embedded in the fabric of a city. Despite the fact that his studio’s work is inspired by modern technology and innovation, it has numerous roots in the past. 

The work of Studio Libeskind includes everything from hospitality architecture to transportation infrastructure to pavilions and commercial complexes. However, memorial architecture takes up the majority of his work all over the world. 

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From the canal brink: Imperial War Museum North   ©Jason Lawton

The Imperial War Museum North, also known as the IWMN, is an outstanding example of his architectural work. The building, located on the brink of the Manchester ship canal and has a gleaming reflection of the sun on its aluminium cladding form, is unmistakable. The industrial and partially recreational backdrop, which includes various hotel buildings, Manchester Stadium, and other leisure parks, and the fact that it was a WWII bomb site, add to its significance. (IWM, 2021)


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Shattering a teapot analogous to shattering the globe ©Art.IWM PST 16924

The location, severely damaged during the Manchester Blitz, had shrapnel and anti-aircraft cartridge shell remains discovered while being dug for the museum’s foundations. The fundamental goal of this project was to let visitors feel the uncomfortable aspect of the conflict, keeping in mind the value of the location. This could be the reason for its bewilderment. In the permanent exhibition room, less natural light, sloping flooring, and temperature variations add to the impression of confusion. (IWM, 2021) 

The concept of a shattered globe inspired the use of such deconstructed structures. Indeed, wars tend to destabilize a region not only physically, but also emotionally and economically. In this project, the architect has ingeniously and poetically conveyed this message. On a lighter note, Daniel Libeskind is believed to have dismantled a spherical teapot and reassembled the broken bits to order the form. (IWM, 2021) 


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IWMN Plan ©http://www.mainstreammodern.co.uk/

The shattered globe’s fractured pieces represented shards, each representing the natural components of earth, air, and water, through which the war was fought. The main exhibition space formed by the earth shard, is closer to the ground and somewhat flat, as suggested by the name. The air shard soars far into the sky, symbolizing the bunker-like entrance and leaving a lasting impression on the Manchester skyline. The water shard, which includes a cafe, a deck overlooking the canal, and a performance area, pays homage to Manchester’s shipping past by curving like a boat in the canal. 

Even though the plan suggests a coherent structure, the shapes overlap sharply and abruptly, adhering to the concept. As though an airplane has crashed and been hit by some sharp mass in a conflict, the long air shard and the curved water shard puncture the earth shard from the southwest and northeast directions, respectively. Because Manchester is in the northern hemisphere, it receives the most sunlight from the south or the side of the air shard in this design. 

Daniel Libeskind has taken these variables into account, with offices/areas that require a lot of light have been designed to face south to maximize the amount of natural light available. Other locations that require enough lighting face north, receiving less harsh yet direct sunlight and preventing it from entering further into the exhibit areas. The remaining walls are bare, with no apertures, and are darkened in some areas with overlapping roofs to prevent any trace of light from entering the exhibit rooms, as required by the concept. 

The perforations in the main exhibit roof area allow light to enter specific zones on occasion, as though sharp objects had been tossed into the space, adding to the concept. The wide overhangs of roofs on all sides, some of which cover the large mass of walls, produce a double skin effect, shade the bare walls, and aid in thermal protection during the hot summer months.

Materials, structure, and execution

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Steel viewing deck in the air shard supported by steel framework ©BitterBredt

The structure by Daniel Libeskind is a powerful statement of battle made of the most appropriate material, aluminium, which symbolizes the metallic aspect of war. The dismantled form of steel framework wrapped in aluminium sheets summarizes the building structurally. The air shard is a hybrid space that is neither outside nor inside, supported by criss-cross steel beams or a sequence of vertical space frames. Visitors ascend to the viewing deck in the shard through a zinc-clad elevator supported on the space frames by a steel mesh floor bridge.  (Jonathan Glancey, 2002) 

The visitors’ warlike experience is enhanced by their exposure to all of these rough and robust materials. ARUP, a structural engineering firm, established a cooperative working technique that included the use of computer systems such as rhino, Form Z, and its own GSA to reach a middle ground in working with architects at the same time. ARUP outlines such processes in one of its journals, using similar examples as the IWMN. 

Throughout the design phase, this software is used to overlap the building services network and guarantee that there are no overlaps with the structural grid. Their GSA model is layered over the architect’s 3D model to confirm that the design and structure are in sync and that any necessary changes are performed on agreed-upon terms. 

Eventually the model is transcribed to X-Steel (TeklaStructures), and SAP 2000 for final analysis and results compatibility check. These were then given to the contractor for use during fabrication and erection”. (ARUP, 2008) The software has the capability of showcasing both interior and exterior finishes, significantly simplifying the procedure.

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Graphic explaining the concept for the form of the structure ©http://www.mainstreammodern.co.uk/

Every year, hundreds of thousands of people visit Daniel Libeskind’s IWMN, as well as his other museums, to immerse themselves in the experience that the painstakingly constructed facility has to offer. This structure was constructed more than a decade ago. Many aspects of architecture and design have evolved significantly in recent years. Is it required for architecture today to be so magnificent and powerful? Is it necessary to be discreet and buried in its surroundings? Is it necessary for all of the structures around us to be landmarks, or may there be simply a few? 

These are the topics we need to ask and address as architects and designers. The practical translation of Daniel Libeskind’s notion into its outcome, however, is a more crucial takeaway from his work. Every nook and cranny of his design screams out its goal of portraying a war fight. It hasn’t strayed from the fundamentals of architectural design or environmental awareness in the process. We must grasp these fundamental lessons from Architect Daniel Libeskind’s diverse body of work, which he has provided and continues to provide to the world.


Glancey, J., 2002. War and peace and quiet. The Guardian, [online] Available at: <https://www.theguardian.com/arts/critic/feature/0,1169,688710,00.html> [Accessed 4 September 2021].

Imperial War Museums. 2021. 8 Things You Didn’t Know About The IWM North Building. [online] Available at: <https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/8-things-you-didnt-know-about-the-iwm-north-building> [Accessed 2 September 2021].

www. arup.com. 2008. The Arup Journal. [online] Available at: <https://www.arup.com › arup_journal_3-2008> [Accessed 3 September 2021].