eL Masterpiece by Daniel Libeskind for Zumbtobel. All photos: Zumbtobel
Over the last decade, Daniel Libeskind has exhausted the formal vocabulary he developed best at the Jewish Museum in Berlin--what will undoubtedly prove his greatest contribution to Western architectural heritage. Since then Libeskind has failed to find an opportunity where he could not scale up and down the sharp edges and intricate folds so incredibly potent the first time around, unfathomably bland, even harmless ten years on. Of course, Libeskind's austere spatial language was bound to not take kindly to its reappropriation in several low-brow projects, ranging in everything from shopping malls and office parks to a "signature series" of villas, unusable tea sets, and now, lamps. The "eL Masterpiece" is an overly intricate chandelier that perpetuates the trend with more spikes, facets, and folds.
The large, hypertrophied light fixture, which debuted last month at Art Basel Miami Beach, spans the full height of an average room and is wide enough to pose a sizable barrier in the space it inhabits. A series of stainless steel panels spindle around a hollow 23k-gold-plated core.
But the piece is more than just a celebrity architect's extravagance. Libeskind recruited his astrophysicist son, Dr. Noam I Libeskind, to develop an algorithm which would simulate the "cosmic light that fills the universe." Using 1,680 LEDs, Dr. Libeskind programmed a light sequence that renders the genesis of the universe in vivid colors. "The idea is based on the theory that the Universe is around 14 billion years old and that its building blocks – galaxies like the Milky Way – grew larger as the Universe aged. As they grew larger, the light their stars emitted changed, visible as the eL emits different colors." One billion years are here compressed in one second, so that the color patterns run in a loop 14 seconds in length.
Now, the architect's proclivity for lofty conceptual narratives, meant to inform (or justify) the formal and spatial expression of a project, is well known. Libeskind usually begins with a hasty sketch (see above) that gets blown up to encompass all the intellectual conceits you could throw at it, but this is the rare time when the architect has involved a collaborator to shape the end result.