The chess set you’ve designed for Swarovski’s new home accessories line looks like a mini city. Is this what you wanted to achieve? “They are all my buildings so it creates an architectural family, but it is also about ideas and forms so the chess set is also a kind of imaginary game of the city. Chess is a game of power, so here you can have some fun with buildings. You don’t even have to know the building but, hopefully, it would encourage players to be curious about the form.”
Why have you used luxurious materials (marble, silver and Swarovski crystal) for the chess pieces and then added concrete? “It puts concrete on the same level as gold and crystal. I think concrete is an undervalued material. People call it brutal but without it how would we house the population of the world? It is a heroic material. I also wanted the different chess pieces to have different feelings and weights. You play chess for the pleasure of the mind so the feel of different materials gives a sensual experience that goes beyond the visual.”
Do you draw or go digital when you’re designing? “I draw every day; drawing is the basis of my career. Sometimes I have hundreds of drawings just to investigate an architectural space. I think it is the fundamental skill in architecture. It was only in the 19th century that drawing became an adjunct to architecture.”
What are you working on now that excites you? “I’ve just done my first house. It is in Connecticut [in the United States] and the clients are art collectors. They wanted the house to be their artwork, and I had so much fun. What a great assignment! Now I have my second house project, which I am really enjoying. When building a house that is a home, you have to love and know your client very well.
“Actually, when I think of it, all the architects of my age started their careers with a house. I think I am the only one who never had the chance. I’m living my life in reverse!”
Of all your buildings, which is your favourite?“I have three kids, how could I choose one as my favourite? But Ground Zero [Libeskind is behind the master plan of the World Trade Center site in New York] will always be special for me.”