Colour matters: Daniel Libeskind’s ‘Future Flowers’ for Oikos

Working off the theme “Energy for Life” of the Expo Milano 2015, the Italian magazine Interni, known for promoting spaces for experimentation, presents “Energy for Creativity” at the University of Milan. Built in 1456 as a hospital, the university complex, through its various courtyards, set the stage to a large-scale installations by the likes of Daniel Libeskind amongst others.

Future Flowers by Daniel Libeskind // ©Oikos
Future Flowers by Daniel Libeskind // ©Oikos

His installation, “Future Flowers”, is a celebration of colour, light and straight lines and it is set within what’s known as the Pharmacy Courtyard. Taken from the Chamber Works series of drawings, the installation will develop this concept three-dimensionally, structured on folded and cut metal panels, painted in a red colour Libeskind developed for Italian paint manufacturer Oikos.

Future Flowers by Daniel Libeskind
Future Flowers by Daniel Libeskind

Taken from the Chamber Works series of drawings, the installation will develop this concept three-dimensionally, structured on folded and cut metal panels, soaked with an extraordinary addition of densities and colours, which are part of the new colour collection developed by Libeskind for Oikos. “These are not classic flowers,” said Libeskind, “I myself imagined them through architectural design elements thanks to research with Oikos.

the need to shape them into stories. It places the emphasis on a building’s meaning rather than performance. To architects, the enduring attraction of narrative is that it offers a way of engaging with the way a city feels and works. Rather than reducing architecture to a mere style or an overt emphasis on technology, it foregrounds how buildings are experienced. [1]

Remembering the Chamber Works

Chamber Works: Architectural Meditations on Themes from Heraclitus, the famous set of 28 drawings created by Daniel Libeskind and completed in 1983, is an intensely erudite and ultimately open work. It still challenges each individual mind and each generation of architects anew, dazzling us with its mastery of history and technique, and inspiring us to take up the cause of architecture.

Chamber Works by Daniel Libeskind // IV H
Chamber Works by Daniel Libeskind // IV H

In his review of the 1983 exhibition of Daniel Libeskind’s Chamber Works at the AA in London, Robin Evans writes:

“Architecture begins and ends in pictures, but I would urge resistance to the idea that pictures give us all we need…. The question is, how much more is ever brought within the scope of the architect’s vision of a project than what can be drawn?”
Further adding, the drawings

“do not move toward unity nor are they subject to fragmentation. It took me a while to realize that there was nothing to be broken…no subject matter…Lines that do not make bodies cannot be broken.”

Chamber Works, undoubtedly, provokes intense and extended meditation, but what does it mean?

The elaborate and open-ended ordering logic of Chamber Works is only a prelude to the profuse complexity of the drawings themselves. The work is divided into two series—one vertical and one horizontal—each with 14 numbered drawings. Interlaced in this installation, the trajectories of the horizontal and vertical series should nevertheless be traced independently. Additionally, each series can be followed in (at least) two ways. The drawings can be viewed in pairs—the numbers of the paired prints always summing to 15—or tracked as a linear progression from 1 to 14. Viewed this second way, the first pair in each series serves as both a beginning and an ending, and the last pair is either an ending or a midpoint that sends the viewer back along the series to the initial pair.

As Libeskind himself has said (in what could almost be a gloss on Merleau-Ponty), we are compelled “to rethink the widely held belief that there is a predestined and correct expression assigned a priori to each form by the ‘language of Architecture’ itself, as if this ‘language’ belonged to the ceremonies and rituals themselves.” [2] In Libeskind’s tumbling of signifiers from one level to another, meaning must be understood as always yet to come rather than as residing in some pre-existing repository of language. [3]


Footnotes:

[1] Daniel Libeskind, “Symbol and Interpretation,” in Between Zero and Infinity (New York: Rizzoli, 1981), p. 29.

[2] Robin Evans “In Front of Lines That Leave Nothing Behind” AA Files 6 (May 1984)

[3] Jonathan Glancey for The Architectural Review