On February 19, Polish-American architect Daniel Libeskind will be presented with the 14th Dresden International Peace Prize—or, simply, the Dresden Prize—at the Semperoper, an opulent 19th-century opera house located steps from the Elbe River in the war-ravaged-and-rebuilt core of the German city that shares the prize’s name. Libeskind is the first architect to receive the prestigious annual honor awarded by nonprofit association Friends of Dresden. He joins past laureates including reformist Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, war photographer James Nachtwey, Syrian educational activist Muzoon Almellehan, the “forefather of all whistleblowers” Daniel Ellsberg, and Olympic gold medal–winning American athlete and civil rights icon Thommie Smith.
Per a statement from the 2023 Dresden Prize jury, Libeskind is being honored with the prize for a “very special part of his work, which can be referred to as memorial architecture.”
“Like hardly any other architect, the artist created an appropriate architectural framework for remembering the victims of the Holocaust, war and terror in recent decades,” the jury remarked. “How we remember could also determine whether history will repeat itself. We need places of remembrance and warning. And they should be like the ones designed by Daniel Libeskind: highly visible.”
In its announcement, the Friends of Dresden notes that Libeskind’s approach to such projects—the Jewish Museum Berlin, the Dutch Holocaust Memorial of Names in Amsterdam, and the Imperial War Museum in Manchester among them—“leaves no room for ignorance and relativization.” In Dresden itself, leveled by wartime bombing raids carried out by American and British troops in 1945, Libeskind’s eponymous New York–based studio led the redesign of the long-shuttered Military History Museum, adding a soaring transparent arrowhead to the hulking former armory building’s neo-classical facade. Dresden Prize organizers refer to the Libeskind-reimagined museum, which reopened in 2011, as the “most important place in Dresden for coming to terms with the consequences of militarism and wars.”
Closer to home, Studio Libeskind, joined by local firm Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, is leading a major transformation of the Tree of Life congregation’s building in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood. On October 27, 2018, the synagogue was the site of an antisemitic terrorist attack in which 11 congregants were killed and six others wounded. The reimagined building will include a museum, modernized sanctuary for worship and events, memorial dedicated to those lost in the attack, and a center dedicated to countering antisemitic hate.
In addition to Libeskind, 2022 Dresden Prize laureate, the Dutch climate lawyer Roger Cox, will also be on hand at the February 19 awards gala at the Semperoper to belatedly receive his prize.
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