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Ground Zero in 288 Pages

An annotated look at Libeskind’s opinionated new memoir.

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Ground-zero architect Daniel Libeskind, subject of blanket local coverage, hopes to fill in the remaining gaps in his new memoir, Breaking Ground: Adventures in Life and Architecture. One of the biggest adventures, of course, has been his very public battle with architect David Childs, chosen by lease-holder Larry Silverstein to execute Libeskind’s master plan.

An index

Childs, David
Compared to the Jabberwocky (243)
Gives Libeskind “a warm hug” (244)
Ground-zero takeover plans compared to The Brothers Karamazov (249)
Libeskind’s “forced marriage to” (243–266)
Power-sharing arrangement compared to North–South Korea border tensions (255)
Treats wife Nina and female Libeskind CEO “like dogs,” says Libeskind lawyer Ed Hayes (255)
Storms out of a meeting (263)

Early employment
Constructs whalebone corsets for his mother, sees them as “applied Euclidean forms” (58)
Asked to perform “mindless, robotic action” as assistant for Richard Meier, quits (41)
Asked to sweep Peter Eisenman’s office, quits (42)

Eisenman, Peter
“No one has ever called him a mensch” (41)

Ground-zero developer Larry SilversteinM
Compared to Nikita Khrushchev (261)
“Not a man who cares much about how things look” (244)
Tells Libeskind, “I don’t want you touching my building” (245)

Jewish Museum in Berlin
Called an “architectural fart” by Berlin building director (134)
Opens on September 11, 2001 (13)
Philip Johnson says, “My God! It’s not possible that this building is actually going to get built, is it?” (140)
“Would not be about toilets” (6)

Johnson, Philip
Calls architecture “this queasy feeling in my stomach” (107)
“Gestured at the AT&T building and laughed—laughed at his own work!” (140)

Libeskind, Daniel
Accordion child prodigy (8–9)
Attends Cooper Union in the sixties, misses out on all the drugs (159)
Contributes a list to Rolling Stone’s “Cool” issue (156)
Labors manually at kibbutz as a child (225–226)
Late bloomer (6, 81, 98)
Lumped in with Sartre and Mao in the London Times (194)
“More cornball than cosmopolite . . . a grateful immigrant” (159)
Possibly a direct descendant of Prague’s Rabbi Loew, creator of the Golem (111)
Storms out of meetings (31, 134, 260)
Upstages a young Itzhak Perlman (9)
Upstages the New York Times’ Herbert Muschamp (31)
Work is brilliant, with human imperfections, like Mozart’s (128–130)

Libeskind, Nina
At age 20, first impression: “so beautiful she must be stupid” (105)
Single-handedly saves the Jewish Museum project (140–146)
Smooths things over with Muschamp (31)

Meier, Richard
Perry Street towers as gross violation of privacy (69–70)

Muschamp, Herbert
Comes out against Libeskind’s ground- zero proposal; Libeskind comments, “What insanity was this!” (167–172)
Has “wrapped his power around himself like a luxurious fur-lined cloak” (21)
Internal compass “swings quixotically” (22)
Keeps Libeskind waiting for an hour because he’s taking a long bath (22)

New York
A place where “nobody has said anything nasty to me” (274)


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