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Thursday, November 06, 2008

An Uncanny Resemblance

While doing a tad of research on site-specific art earlier today, I came across Michael Heizer's Rift I from 1968. Immediately I was struck by the visual similarity of the trench cut in Jean Dry Lake, Nevada with Daniel Libeskind's design for the Jewish Museum in Berlin, Germany, which opened 33 years later.

[L: Rift 1 | image source; R: Jewish Museum, Berlin | image source]

Granted that the site, circumstances, scale, and purpose of each are so different, I just can't shake the strong formal similarity. Both are (were in the case of Rift I, which has been absorbed by the now wet lake) meant to be experienced, not necessarily seen from the air as in these photos. They are meant to be moved through, and here similarities are strengthened, as the zig-zag path is shared by both, even though the spatial sense of enclosure varies. If Libeskind's "broken Star of David" was influenced by Heizer's Rift, well only the architect knows for sure, but the incision in Berlin owes something to the efforts of "land artists" from the late 20th century, who attempted to wed place and experience with art on a grand scale.


  1. Well spotted, I tend to assume when I see these similarities that there is some kind of link, even if it isn't one of direct derivation.

    Actually it makes me wonder about the influence of land art on some of the more sculptural pieces of recent architecture.

  2. Very interesting, as it inspired me to recall Smithson. While visually I see a definite relation (and certainly credit to you for considering to associate these two together ) it's more in the vincinity of a visual coincidence, at least until one looks at what governs the decisions to get to that result.

    If anything, I started to recall Smithson's work, whose poetics would be more related to the claims of Libeskind.

    And on the other hand, Libeskind's claims should now be considered against all the work he continues to design, that seems to basically rehash that one idea along different formalistic lines, as a branding.

  3. The whole thing actually makes me feel sick- don't like looking at it!

    Optima News

  4. For me it is just a play with the word ZION!


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