Daniel Libeskind’s perfect weekend in New York

The Polish-born American architect behind New York’s World Trade Center reconstruction and Berlin’s Jewish Museum also designs for furniture companies including Moroso

Libeskind at Katz’s Delicatessen
Libeskind at Katz’s Delicatessen | Image: Nigel Parry

On a perfect Saturday, I switch on my Gaggia coffee machine around 8am – although I rarely eat breakfast, I often drink three cappuccinos while listening to music. My tastes are eclectic, so it could be Marc-André Hamelin playing Brahms or Telemann’s baroque music. Our mega-speakers make CDs sound like concert-hall performances. It’s an inspiring way to start the weekend.

We can see Ground Zero from our turn-of-the-century Tribeca apartment and electric lighting is often unnecessary as the city’s ambient light floods through 18 huge windows. In the morning we usually head out to Battery Park and stroll along the Hudson River Promenade. Often the walk takes us to a gallery; a favourite is Neue Galerie, which specialises in early-20th-century German and Austrian art. Café Fledermaus in the basement feels like 1920s Vienna, with decor inspired by the Cabaret Fledermaus, and we might have a pickled herring and some Viennese coffee. Our walk might also take us to the Guggenheim Museum – we love popping in just to breathe in the space.

If we’re near Houston Street we’ll lunch at Katz’s, the classic Jewish deli that serves New York-style pastrami. Next door is Russ & Daughters, a family-run store with groceries that are hard to find elsewhere – Jewish half-sour gherkins, herring, halva. We often visit Chelsea Market, too, to buy vegetables, fruit and wine. If we head that way we’ll pop into an art gallery like Gagosian or 303 Gallery. My daughter Rachel is an artist and keeps me up to date with recommendations. Through her I discovered experimental artist Carmen Winant, and Chris Habib, a young, conceptual artist.


We do so much travelling for work that it’s a luxury being at home on Saturday evening. Nina cooks her own imaginative fish or meat recipes and we eat late for New Yorkers – around 9pm. We watch very little television, although Nina is a sports fanatic so she’ll watch a match with the sound turned down while I listen to an oratorio and read a book – usually literature or philosophy. I seldom read about architecture. I recently enjoyed some short stories by the Russian writer Daniil Kharms. And I just bought a book of Emily Dickinson facsimile manuscripts; to me she’s the Shakespeare of America. I like to memorise the poems – it’s a good antidote to airport lounge boredom. Sometimes we watch DVDs after supper. I recently enjoyed that extraordinary documentary about power and evil General Idi Amin Dada. We usually get to bed around midnight.

The coffee ritual is repeated on Sunday morning; then I spend 30 minutes on the running machine. I generally use it daily – it’s a pleasant way to exercise as the attached television screen lets me watch the news on BBC and French channels. Then we’ll walk across Brooklyn Bridge to visit Rachel. Brooklyn Heights is now considered the hip place to be, with lots of diversity around Atlantic Avenue. Rachel makes lunch or we go to Hibino, a nearby restaurant, for Kyoto-style obanzai – Japanese tapas. It’s a very unassuming place – I almost feel as if I’m eating at home – and the tofu is fabulous.

If we don’t visit Rachel we’ll ride the subway to a randomly picked area and walk around, feeling the drumbeat of New York. Recently we went to Williamsburg and discovered music specialist Rough Trade hosting live performances on a small in-store stage. In the evening we eat close to home at Racines, an offshoot of the Paris bistro. There’s a brilliant French chef who makes the best uni – Japanese sea urchin – pasta. It tastes as if you’re in the sea. But my 7am Monday meeting means not too much wine and bed no later than midnight.    


See also