Ever since it made its first appearance almost 90 years ago, the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center in New York has been a symbol of hope. First officially installed in 1933, when America was in the depths of the Great Depression (an unofficial tree was set up by construction workers building the Center two years previously), it has grown bigger and glitzier in the decades since, becoming a much-loved festive icon.
In 2004, Swarovski upped the glamour by producing a crystal star to crown the tree, and this year it has gone one better, unveiling a new design by the architect Daniel Libeskindthat is surely the world’s most spectacular tree-topper. Libeskind is known primarily for designing the master plan for the redevelopment of the World Trade Center site, so one would think a Christmas star would be a simple undertaking for him. But, he says, ‘the technology at the core of the star, which radiates the light, was a creative adventure.’
He started with ‘intuition: a crazy sketch. I never start by asking what can be built, I just draw something. If you start with the impossible, you might make it possible.’ His design for the star was inspired by Leonardo da Vinci’s geometric drawings and took two years to realise in its finished, 3D form. Comprising 70 glass spikes, fitted with 200 LEDs and embedded with three million individual Swarovski crystals, it weighs in at 900lbs and measures 10 feet in diameter.
It was a beautiful thing to work on, because it’s not just the form of the star, but what it communicates with its light,’ says Libeskind. ‘We are stars: the elements of our bodies are made out of stardust. It’s a mystery and a wonder.’
The tree, which was lit last week, will be in place until 7 January. And for those without their own 72ft spruce, Swarovski has reproduced the star in miniature, laser-etched within a collection of crystal ornaments for the tree, table or mantelpiece.