London Metropolitan University
166-220 Holloway Road
London N7 8DB
Daniel Libeskind 2004
Three dramatically intersecting
blocks clad in stainless steel make up this graduate center for the London
Metropolitan University, angled as if the metallic bricks had been hurled
into this drab streetscape and forced themselves into the ground.
The defining character of the
building comes from the uncompromising angles created by the three
intersecting blocks. The staircase is slightly dizzying to walk up, as one
wall leans over above the handrail.
Doorways and windows are
irregular, even in the lecture rooms. The blinds, essential since large
windows from the lecture rooms give directly onto the pavement of Holloway
Road, need special guide-wires and pulleys so they descend parallel to the
sloping windows, rather than where gravity would take them.
In this graduate center
Libeskind has used much of the imagery that made him famous in the Jewish
Museum Berlin and, more recently, the UK's Imperial
War Museum North. The windows as acute-angled slashes cut in a metal
facade were symbolic of catastrophic destruction in both those earlier
buildings - but the same vocabulary here is used without obvious symbolism
or relevance. Libeskind's explanation of the building is surprisingly
functional and un-symbolic:
The three intersecting
elements that form the building strategically emphasize certain
relationships: one creates a connection between the public, the new
building and the university behind, one form gestures from the
university toward the tube connection to the city and one more regular
form stitches the new building into the context of Holloway Road. A
small plaza at the entrance provides an accent and an engaging
The building is clad entirely
with embossed colored stainless steel panels creating a shining and
ever-changing surface. Windows are conceived as large geometrical cuts
providing accentuated natural light for the café, galleries and
seminars. The interior spaces are simple, bold volumes which provide
multi-purpose flexibility for programmatic events.
The building is certainly
engaging, inside and out, and a dramatic landmark on a very un-dramatic
road. And its peculiarity is not an extravagance, at a total building cost
of less than £3 million. But part of what it shouts out is arbitrariness
- a bold statement that, unlike Libeskind's previous projects, seems to
have too little to say.
Simon Glynn 2004
How to visit
The graduate center is on the
east side of Holloway Road in north London.
Take the tube to Holloway Road
tube station. As you come out of the station onto Holloway Road, turn
right (heading south towards the town center). The building is very
visibly across the road on your left in a couple of minutes' walk.
The exterior is directly on the
street, but the building is not normally open to the public. To visit the
interior, look out for opportunities in London's annual late-September
'open house' weekend (www.londonopenhouse.org).
Books and other web
In addition to the museum site
above, Daniel Libeskind provides his
own account of the building and its design at his own
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