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Libeskind wins landmark Essex University project

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The University of Essex has chosen starchitect Daniel Libeskind to design a ‘world-class headquarters’ for a new international institute working towards democracy and conflict resolution around the globe

With a minimum budget of £5 million, the scheme will be Libeskind’s third completed, permanent building in the UK.

The Polish-born American architect has already built the Imperial War Museum North in Manchester, which was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2004, and the London Metropolitan University Graduate Centre in Holloway which opened in the same year.

The new Institute for Democracy and Conflict Resolution (IDCR) will become the ‘anchor’ to a new Knowledge Gateway research park at the university’s Colchester Wivenhoe Campus, bringing together existing departments.

The university launched the search for an ‘eminent architect’ to build the flagship headquarter back in February through the OJEU process.

The victory marks an unexpected return to the campus for Libeskind who received a Master’s degree in the history and theory of architecture at the University of Essex in the 1970s.

Libeskind said: ‘I consider it an honour to be involved in a project with such visionary humanitarian objectives. I have always believed that democratic openness and conflict resolution is critical not only in the political sphere but in the making of architectural space.’

According to a spokesman, Libeskind and his wife Nina have pledged their support to the University’s fundraising campaign for the institute.

Professor Todd Landman, director of the IDCR, said: ‘The focus of this newly-formed institute will be unique in combining rigorous social scientific research and policy analysis with practical experience and attention to democracy, human rights and justice.

‘We are delighted that Daniel Libeskind has been chosen to design the iconic building we need to expand and develop our embryonic work. The building will evoke a powerful reaction from visitors, while conveying the seriousness and purpose of an international institute.’

The new headquarters building will house accommodation for researchers, training, lectures, seminars and consultancy activities, and will feature a central ‘moot court’, allowing students to take part in simulated court proceedings.


Libeskind has completed one other structure in the UK, the temporary Serpentine Gallery Pavilion in 2001. He also designed the controversial £150 million ‘Spiral’ extension to London’s V&A which was ditched in 2004.


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