Inspired by Marx Brothers Film, Daniel Libeskind Designs Malls for Living

daniel libeskind.jpgOh, Daniel Libeskind, just when we think we’re done with you and your distinctive spectacles, you go and pull us back in with your multidisciplinary approach, subtle historical references, and impressive accordion skills. Today’s swoonworthy Libeskind revelation? That his newly opened $400 million Swiss mall, the Westside Shopping and Leisure Center in Bern (check out the photos and renderings), was inspired by—wait for it—the 1941 Marx Brothers‘ film The Big Store. “They actually move into a store, like a Macy’s, after the store closes,” said Libeskind, summarizing the movie plot for a story in yesterday’s WWD. “They start using the beds, the kitchen. I thought this is the right idea. That people should live there. It shouldn’t be just an abstract experience. People should own it—emotionally, intellectually. They should feel this is their home.”

bern.jpgWhile American malls install a Cinnabon concession and call it a day, Libeskind’s homey touches to the 1.5 million-square-foot Westside retail project include a layered wood exterior slashed to let light stream through, a sprawling spa/ water park, and varied storefronts that he compares to “vitrines at a grand museum.” Despite its size, Libeskind wanted to make the space both organic and intimate. “I didn’t want to make grand gestures that are sort of useless,” he told WWD. The result “forms a unified experience, a harmony. It echoes the arcades of Bern. It echoes the medieval architecture, in 21st-century techniques.”

Meanwhile, medieval architecture (domestically scaled or otherwise) doesn’t figure prominently in another of Libeskind’s giant mall projects: an entertainment and dining complex inside the MGM Mirage City Center in Las Vegas. Slated for completion next December, the MGM Mirage is a fully sustainable escape from Las Vegas casino fakery, “like in those casinos with painted blue skies and artificial sun,” notes Libeskind. “I said, ‘No, this should be real.’ I always thought, what an irony: YOu’ve got beautiful blue sky above—why would you paint blue sky?”