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Last Updated: Monday, 21 June, 2004, 17:10 GMT 18:10 UK
Steel nerve on an unassuming High Street
Metropolitan University's Graduate Centre

BUILDING SITE
Five choices of Britain's best new architecture

To mark Architecture Week, each day this week The Magazine will look at one of five notable new buildings to have opened in Britain in the past 12 months and ask what the excitement is about.

Engaging Daniel Libeskind to design the new Graduate Centre for London's Metropolitan University is like booking David Bailey to take your school photograph.

Libeskind's reputation as one of the foremost architects of his generation was sealed when he won the commission to rebuild New York's World Trade Center, on the site where the Twin Towers had previously stood

Given the political and emotional ties the site has assumed since 11 September, 2001, it is unquestionably the most high-profile architectural project in the world.

Corridor

By contrast, his first London building sits on a small plot of land, fronting on to an unassuming urban High Street north of the city centre.

Yet, despite its modest 3m price tag, the Graduate Centre on Holloway Road does not shy away from making a bold impression.

Wrapped in stainless-steel panels, its jaunty angles and higgledy-piggledy form stand in contrast to everything nearby.

According to Libeskind, the three main interlocking "shards" were conceived to reach out to the nearby Underground station, the City and the university's main campus buildings. Somewhat bafflingly, he attributes his inspiration for the building to the "Orion constellation".

The Guardian's architecture critic Jonathan Glancey praised its "great presence". Like all of Libeskind's building's, "[They] appear to shatter in front of your eyes and yet miraculously hold together," he said.

Steel yourself: Daniel Libeskind's dramatic new building

Crucially though, it also seems to get the thumbs-up of those who use it daily. History professor Denis Judd describes teaching in the building as like "giving a seminar in the wonderful Guggenheim building in Bilbao, though without the art".

"The angular, silvery, fish-like scales that cover both buildings are similar, and so is the daring and imaginative use of interior space."

Inside, the centre, has "well proportioned lecture and seminar rooms".

"That aside, the overwhelming impression is of sheer style and quality."


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

"Sheer style and quality"? It looks awful if you ask me. You half expect it to blast off and start shooting laser guns.
Pat Shields, Japan

I reckon it wants knocking down. Last week I sat over the road from it, and it made me feel so queer that I couldn't finish my sandwiches. Thanks a bunch!
Tony Rougier, Bristol, England

I live 10mins up the road from the aforementioned building; it certainly is very catching and illustrates how dull the surrounding buildings are by comparison. However, you do have to wonder if it is an appropriate statement to make in light of its location and surroundings?
Steve Swords, London, UK

The Graduate Centre is a wonderful piece to the eye, with interest in every angle, but what I like to see most in architecture is the way the buildings now can react to the Earth. For example the use of glass and specially designed windows to limit light usage and air conditioning. It helps build a greener London.
Jeremy Brown, UK

I think it's fallen over.
Anon.

I live round the corner from this edifice and, whilst I'm all in favour the the wonderful Guggenheim Bilbao, I can help that this building has been done on the cheap. The detailing is shodding (in particular the tiny entrance) and it already looks grubby and decrepit. The panels are stained and ill fitting, the structure in no way complements the 60s tower block on to which it is grafted... in fact it's so ugly it fits in rather well with the rest of the frankly minging Holloway Road!! Vile.
Tristan, UK

I live just around the corner from the building and pass it every day on my way to work. I think it is a fantastic building that brightens up quite a dull area. A very brave move to build it on the Holloway Road and even more amazing is that it hasn't been fly posted or attacked with graffiti yet!
Jason Frayne, London, UK

Prue brilliance - a gift to North London
Jeremy Cole, London UK

I think Moe in the Simpsons got it right: "Its Po Mo! Post Modern! Ah, alright. Weird for the sake of weird."
Mohammad, Blackpool, UK

As a work of art, Daniel Libeskind's building is memorable, but I wonder about its effectiveness as a building. Works of art can be taken from a gallery and stored, or lent elsewhere, brought out again for a retrospective, or forgotten if they are a real embarrassment. But as a permanent part of the townscape, at least for a few decades, such fashionable constructs can pall. Much modern art is intended to shock our sensibilities into a new way of thinking, and once we think that way we can appreciate it for what it is and move on. Could Libeskind's building become an embarrassment, a blemish on the townscape, once we accept that the point has been made, and its present owners move elsewhere and the space has to find another use?
Dave Swindell, England

Anyone who's seen Berlin's Jewish Museum will realise that all of Libeskind's buildings look like this
John Duffy, London

It simply doesn't look like it's going to age very well, which is a shame.
Jason Reading, London, UK

Couldn't someone have reached agreement with BT about the placing of the telephone boxes ? It really does detract from the building.
Ali Gabriel, Switzerland

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