Dezeen Magazine

Daniel Libeskind star NYC

"I thought about the immigrants because I'm one of those immigrants," says Daniel Libeskind

Daniel Libeskind's Swarovski star tops the Rockefeller Center's Christmas tree for a second year. In this interview with Dezeen, the architect says the design, like much of his work, is strongly influenced by his experience as an immigrant.

Libeskind designed the crystal-filled topper for the Christmas tree, which is erected each year in the Rockefeller Center plaza in Midtown Manhattan, in 2018.

The star, which has been used again this year, replaced one that had topped the iconic New York tree since 2004.

"The star is a universal symbol"

Citing his own experience as a Jewish immigrant raised in New York, Libeskind said he wanted to create a design that all of New York's multicultural population could relate to.

"The fact is that the star is a universal symbol – it doesn't belong to Christians, or Muslims, or the Jews," he told Dezeen.

"It's a universal symbol of hope, peace and solidarity among people. The one bright star has always inspired people across time, across religions and across all divides."

Daniel Libeskind star NYC
Libeskind spoke to Dezeen last month when the star was lifted atop the Rockefeller Center's Christmas tree

Libeskind's star is entirely symmetrical and features dozens of spikes filled with three million Swarovski crystals.

"It is a burst of powerful imagination in the skies of New York," Libeskind said. "People get it. It's not something abstract. It's very visceral and it's very emotional."

Libeskind emigrated from Poland as a child 

Born in Poland, Libeskind left with his parents as a child and was raised in New York's Bronx neighbourhood. He said this upbringing has strongly influenced much of his work.

"I thought about the immigrants because I'm one of those immigrants," he said.

"My parents were Holocaust survivors. I grew up under communism, under antisemitism, under really oppressive regimes based on fear and making people scared and terrified."

He continued: "One of the beautiful things about New York is that, whatever the rhetoric is emanating against foreigners – you know, 'Let's build a wall' – New York is just the opposite. Always has been and will always be."

The architect has spoken out against aspects of Donald Trump's presidency, condemning travel bans placed on migrants, but remains positive about America and its diversity – especially in New York.

"New York does not feel like Trump City at all"

"I'm not a pessimist at all," he said. "Whatever emanates from Washington is not the true picture of America. America is different."

He added: "[New York] does not feel like Trump City at all. It's really New York. It has always been a beautiful city with immigrants. That's what America is about."

For the first time in his career, Libeskind is designing projects on every continent in the world. Past projects include Berlin's Jewish Museum, social housing in Brooklyn for the elderly, Dublin's Grand Canal Theatre and Canada's first Holocaust memorial.

Daniel Libeskind star NYC
The star comprises dozens of spikes filled with three million Swarovski crystals

While these projects vary in form and function, Libeskind believes they share the common trait of aiming to bring different people together.

"Every one of our buildings – whether it's commercial, cultural, urban – is always part of that sense that architecture can really improve life in a major way, not just by giving a habitation, but creating a home for people wherever they are," he said.

"It's not just the glossy look of the external, it's what it communicates about society in the world we live in. And it communicates something very important – freedom and liberty and the sense of individuality – and that is part of what I think is the modern world."