Libeskind and AIA join RIBA Israel row
Daniel Libeskind has accused RIBA of being ‘short-sighted’ over its motion to suspend Israeli architects from the International Architects Union (UIA)
The renowned New York-based architect who designed both the Berlin and Copenhagen Jewish Museums is a powerful voice in what has become a heated row following RIBA’s decision to pass the motion condemning Israeli architects that build in the Occupied Territories.
Libeskind said: ‘I am disappointed to learn of this action, especially from such a well-regarded institution as the RIBA.
‘This decision seems to be completely counter to the mission of the RIBA; these actions are short-sighted and appear to be an attempt to simplify a very complex issue.’
In a further twist that will ratchet up the pressure on the institute, the head of the most powerful branch of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) – the US equivalent of RIBA, described the motion as ‘absurd’.
Rick Bell, executive director of AIA New York, which has 5,200 members, said: ‘I wish this had not happened and on behalf of the AIA New York, I wish it would go away.’
Bell said that he ‘thought the world’ of past RIBA president Angela Brady who tabled the original motion in March, but he said the decision was mistaken and called for it to be withdrawn because it was based on the ‘silly idea’ that RIBA could influence world events.
‘The idea that RIBA and the UIA could actively influence events through a resolution is patently absurd. World politics is played out on a much bigger stage,’ Bell said.
‘As a Jew and a non-Zionist this [RIBA motion] is regrettable and I strongly believe this is an issue that RIBA should not be pushing.’
Echoing comments made by Paul Finch in his column this week, Bell added: ‘Does it diminish or enhance the debate when you kick someone out of the room?’
The intervention by Libeskind and Bell follows last week’s revelation that Libeskind’s fellow New Yorker, Richard Meier, had written to RIBA president Stephen Hodder to voice his dismay at the decision: ‘I find this incredible that the RIBA which I thought of as being an extremely honourable institution would vote or agitate for sanctions against Israel,’ he wrote.
‘I and many, many other architects here in New York condemn this action and sincerely hope that it would be reversed.’
A RIBA spokesman said that Hodder would not be commenting on the situation and added that a reversal of the motion, which will be voted on at the UIA conference in Durban, South Africa in August, ‘was not being considered’ and ‘was not something that Stephen would do.’