Graduate Centre
London Metropolitan University
166-220 Holloway Road
London N7 8DB
United Kingdom

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 gateway...

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 sites

In addition to the museum site above, Daniel Libeskind provides his own account of the building and its design at his own web site.

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